Empathy and the Embodied Therapist - 2 Mar 2016 - Austin, Texas

In this relatively informal paper presentation and interactive discussion, Dr. Donnell explores the notion of embodiment from the perspective of the therapist. As therapists, our personal tendencies may include a high attunement to the objects in our world. This attunement, in turn, can partially disembody us from our experience. As such, therapists may struggle to remain embodied in the presence of another in need. Through the lens of a fundamental aspect of our work -- empathy -- Dr. Donnell will argue that without an embodiment of one’s own psychic experience, empathy can devolve into a sado-masochistic experience. Through concepts from object relations, self psychology, and relational psychoanalytic theories, along with clinical material, he asserts that our patients need us to remain embodied as they yearn for help. Moreover, it is only through our own embodiment that we can actually make contact with them. This is an intermediate to advanced-level presentation. Dr. Donnell plans to read portions of his lecture from a paper, but also hopes to interact with the audience during other portions of the lecture.


Michael Donnell, PsyD is a psychologist in private practice in downtown Austin and an adjunct faculty member in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Texas at Austin. He works with adolescents, adults, and couples from a relational psychoanalytic perspective. His most recent publication, which explored the intersection of age and desire in gay men, was published in the June 2013 issue of Studies in Gender and Sexuality. Prior to his move to Austin, Dr. Donnell taught and supervised at various graduate schools and training programs in the San Francisco Bay Area; was a staff member at the Mills College Counseling Center, where he led didactic workshops and supervised doctoral-level practicum trainees; and was an executive board member of the Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology. He is an active member of the Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of the American Psychological Association.

02 Mar 2016

Austin Energy Building, 721 Barton Springs Road

More info here.

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