Descriptions, examples, and/or metaphors that seem to be particularly effective in helping students gain a general understanding of psychoanalytic theory.

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I try to meet the residents at their level of experience, and get them engaged and curious. I bring in my case material and use as many metaphors and examples from books (popular and literary), movies and television to illustrate the concepts.  But mostly, I encourage their questions, mirror them, and encourage their clinical examples.


I ask: How does Freud change understanding of mind; What is at stake in this change?  What is the relation of Freudian theory to neurobiology etc. then and today? 
I comment on: Freud in popular culture and how very bad the mental health treatment is in our society today.


Lots of case material is a big help. I pick cases that are relevant to the age of the students. I choose child or adolescent cases, and stuff that will stir and involve the student because it is close to where s/he lives.


To 'teach' psychoanalysis one must make it relevant to the student (and at a broader level to society at large).  Freud and theory comes after acquainting the students to the way that their unconscious is ALREADY FUNCTIONING. This is done through dialogue with them beginning with the reason they are taking the course in the first place. As with patients beginning a psychoanalytic exploration, students have a fantasy system about the course from the moment they sign up or get assigned to it. Students and people, in general, are most often fascinated with the mind, their own mind, at work.  Study begins there.  Approaching it through history or theory only renders the material dry and less relevant. With students, patients, and in society in general Psychoanalysis must demonstrate its utility first.   
Martin Bullard
Private Practice


Freud developed his theories empirically, by listening to his patients and trying to organize the date he obtained in the most parsimonious fashion.  He was not an ideologue, but changed his theories several times as new evidence arose.
Jerome S. Blackman, M.D.
Adjunct Professor of Psychology
Virginia Wesleyan College


I stress how much his mind changed over time and that he never developed a systematic theory of the mind. I summarize the 3 stages through which Freud's theorizing evolved (as I do in 'Psychoanalysis and Ethics,' ch 2): 1) the trauma theory, 2) the first dual instinct theory (the conscious and unconscious), and 3) the second dual instinct theory, the new theory of drives in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, the structural theory and how it differs from the topographical, etc. Each of these theories has distinct and different dominant metaphors of how the mind works.


I start by asking what students already know, believe, or understand about Freud. Then draw from this to address myths. We talk about philosophy of Determinism, Intrapsychic Dynamics, the unconscious, etc.
Matthew Westra
Psychology Coordinator


I use students' real lives and pop culture:  sitcoms, The Onion, current news, and students' own relationships are the source of my examples, so students relate easily and Freud's theories really come to life


I begin by presenting a case (usually a made up case about a college student or the parent of a college student).  Or, I have the students watch a popular movie.  Then, I discuss the patient's or the leads difficulties from each of these perspectives.   
I followup by asking students to explain the concepts and apply them to another case or movie.  Much of medicine has moved into case base learning and I feel that teachers of undergraduate psychology should head in that direction as well.  However, I do feel that we should use made up cases or public figures (there certainly are a lot of cases here in Washington!) and, that the rationale for this (e.g. protecting confidentiality and patient privacy) should be made explicit.   
I think that it is also important for students to apply these theories to themselves.  Though I do NOT do that as part of their assignments.  Rather, I talk with them about the benefits of identifying with patients as well as the dangerous inherent in over-identification, (i.e. the oft-sited, malady, medical students disease - I normalize this but I also point out that therapy can be a useful learning tool - and, if possible, I invite the folks from the counseling center in to talk with the students).
Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.
Adjunct Faculty
Carnegie Mellon/ Johns Hopkins University


I teach a course in Psychology and Religion, in which the first half focuses on the basic ideas of rather traditional psa theory.  I assign Brenner's Elementary textbook, which some studesnt read and some don't, but I present the concepts from my own point of view, apologize for his stuffiness and sexism, etc.  I keep using Brenner because my students cannot read sophisticated texts and Brenner is black and white and unambiguous.  I consider this a flaw in his thinking, but it is a virtue in teaching academically mediocre undergraduates.  My focus is on stimulating them to think about the world and their own lives in an analytic way.  Then I teach some of the main texts Freud wrote on religion, showing how his theory is applied, and also trying to show them that it does not have to work in a reductionistic way, if you understand it correctly, even though Freud himself thought that his theories showed that religious belief had an improbable referent.  I also have them read the four case studies in Ana-Maria Rizzuto's book, The Birth of the Living God.  I also teach Jung, from Frieda Fordham and an anthology of Jung.  Sometimes I also include Volney Gay's self-psychological approach to the occult.  I cannot go further, even though I give them a list of further readings.  (I would teach Winnicott, who I myself am most indebted to, but the time frame of the
course does not allow it.  I would also teach Bollas and Adam Phillips.)
Tiina Allik

Ideas for teaching
In literature:
A. teaching works that directly mention Freud and psychoanalysis, e.g., The Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo, Dr. Krokowski lecturing on Freud in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, also Mann's valedictorian article on Freud's 80th birthday; Irving Stone in Passions of the Mind, or the famous poem by Auden. Indirectly, Ulysses by James Joyce.

In drama courses:
B. apply the concept of unconscious to analyze such works as Ibsen's Doll's House, Hedda Gabler, Rosmersholm;  Hamlet, the Oedipus complex in Hamlet as stated by Freud and elaborated by Ernest Jones.
In classical Greek drama: the ideas of conflict.

Courses on poetics:
C. combine Jonathan Culler and Literary Criticism of Wimsatt & Brooks with the work of Meredith Skura and Freud's dream and trope psychology, also with Jakobson, Benveniste, Levi-Strauss and Lacan.

In Philosophy:
Freud's concept of the unconscious: LL Whyte: The Unconscious Before Freud
Eduard von Hartmann, The Psychology of the Unconscious, echoes in Nietzsche

All the late sociological essays of Freud: Future of an Illusion, Civilization and its Discontents, for the juxtaposition of society and instinctual drives.

Henry Lothane, M.D.
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
New York, NY

Contributors were asked to:
Describe the most effective readings, media, or film resources you use to teach your students about Sigmund Freud, the person. 
  • How do you introduce these reading/media/film resources? What questions do you ask your students?

I rely on Nancy McWilliams' primer on psychoanalytic diagnoses, and her other books as supplements. 
  • I have them read a half-chapter, answer homework questions, then I summarize the chapter for them.

I just use texts.  Other than psychoanalytic texts I mostly use poetry familiar to them from other classes to illustrate points about primary process, etc.; courtly love and fetishism; and the graveyard scene in Ham.
  • What is crucial is to always have lots of simple, basic illustrations of everything, and I find it works best if I take them from my own life & make them funny.  For example, a sibling rivalry with sister, strange invitations from younger children, etc.) I use things they aren't too frightened to go back to in their own lives and think about.  These examples give them the bridge to consider that riskier issues might be worth looking at someday or at least respecting the fact that people can fall so ill mentally if not loved well enough.  LOVE.  MIRRORING.  Mirror neurons.  All are very important.

I have often discussed 'Body Heat' as prototypical of a number of analytic concepts regarding the Oedipus complex, narcissism, influences on the superego, female psychopathy, and primal scene.  It's usually a hit.  Another favorite is 'American Beauty' which is chocked full of object relations problems, incestuous fantasies, projections of homosexuality, and the like.
  • I give a handout, and spend a few minutes telling them what to look for in the movie.
Jerome S. Blackman, M.D.
Adjunct Professor of Psychology
Virginia Wesleyan College


I have students read, in addition to Interpretation of Dreams, 'Wild Analysis' because it challenges what they think Freudian analysts do.  Also, Civilization and Its Discontents, and Future of an Illusion. I talk about the development of Freud's theories in relation to these texts.
  • Throughout I'm trying to help students understand the unique and powerful view of human nature that is introduced by Freud. This involves an appreciation for the value of affects (particularly unconscious affects) in human life lacking in most pre-Freudian theories.  I contrast views of human nature with Kant's and Marx's and, as the course develops, those of Jung, Fromm, Erikson and theologian Paul Tillich.

Gone with the Wind.
Scarlett is such a spectacular example of hysteria. The movie is, alas, too long.


I use Basic Freud by Michael Kahn for all of Freud's theories that I teach.


I have used this to teach core psa.. concepts to psychiatry residents, but it is equally suitable for other disciplines.

Meissner, W.W. (2000). Freud and Psychoanalysis.  Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000.  279 + xv pages.

For a review of this book see Gray, S.H., Freud and Psychoanalysis by W. W. Meissner. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry, 32:567-568, 2004. 

Sheila Hafter Gray, M.D.
Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences


I teach tragic drama and psa & film and psa.  I ask them to write essays about the psychology of plays and films