Study Groups

The members of the Psychoanalytic Center of the Carolinas represent a variety of interests and ideas on theory and practice. Study Groups bring a psychoanalytic perspective to a topic of each group’s own choosing (e.g., eating disorders, bereavement, fatherhood, inter-ethnic conflict, etc.).

PCC Study Groups are open to all PCC members and generally run from September to June. If you are interested in participating in a Study Group but are not currently a member, please join now!

Study Groups fill up quickly, so we encourage new groups and topics. We welcome interested participants from all fields. If you would like to propose a topic for a Study Group, please contact us by phone at 919-490-3212 or email Kayla Schilke.

Description: This Study Group will explore the inextricably linked concepts of Attachment and Mentalization. We will explore the principles, historical and scientific development of these theories while focusing on their contemporary clinical application.

Attachment theory describes the quality and nature of the bond between infant and parent, which creates an internal working model for the child’s understanding of and relationship with self and others. Attachment issues might impair a client’s ability for mentalization. Mentalization can be characterized as the ability of “holding a mind in mind.” The group will explore various attachment styles, how they might be recognized in a client, how these might impact a client’s ability to mentalize, and ways to apply these concepts in the treatment room. Treatment problems and stalemates might arise if traditional approaches to “interpretation” are used in working with patients whose capacity for mentalization is impaired or limited. It is helpful for clinicians to recognize and understand the signs of such impairments and to be able to use this understanding in shaping their interactions with their patients.

Contact: Peter Buonaccorsi, MD


“What is a mind?” This is perhaps the central question to which Wilfred Bion returned many times, and for us, it will be the focus of our Study Group on some of Bion’s writings. Over several decades, Bion expressed doubts about an ego-centered conception of the mind. For him, the question of mind was grounded in a psychic progression from sense impressions to feelings in the absence of concrete objectification. For him dreaming, too, was an activity of preconceptual thinking that the patient and analyst had to hold in suspension in terms of what Bion, after the poet Keats, called “negative capability.”

Relevant is Bion’s notion of the “psychoanalytical fact,” something that can be “felt” but not really “known.” Such facts are mental phenomena to which Bion’s applied the important psychic tool of “intuition” relating to the drives, the “unthinkable,” and “dream states or dream work.” Intuition is to be juxtaposed to interpretation. But what did Bion mean by interpretation, and how did he practice it in analysis? How is interpretation considered in terms of what is thinkable as opposed to the unthinkable? Is interpretation the same as “knowing”? Of much importance to the late Bion is the difference between “knowing” and “being in O.” O is the ultimate psychoanalytic experience in the consulting room, an “at-one-ness” that has to be “manufactured” with the patient and which Bion associated with an “artistic process.” Foundational to what we will be studying is Bion’s conviction that the problem with ego psychology is that the Ego always assimilates to the Known…and defends against the emotional experience of self and the other. Of interest to Bion is the difference between the “evolving” and “knowing mind,” but also the chaotic phenomena of mind that precede “thinking,” as in the case of what Bion identified as “attacks on linking.” Bion’s anti-egological conceptions of mental phenomena are less a theory of mind than an inquiry into what mind is in the context of psychoanalysis. His work opens psychoanalysis to an expanded field of studying the mind useful for analysts.

Contacts: Angelika Rapaport, PhD, and Herman Rapaport, PhD

Description: This Study Group will discuss contemporary psychoanalytic writing including those of Lombardi, Lachmann, Fonagy, Lichtenberg, Fosshage, and Bion. This topic was chosen after the leader and participants were polled and reported a need for improved competence and understanding of these authors and other object relations teachers in treating couples and individuals in their practices. The articles by the above authors and other object relations theorists will be discussed by the leader and participants in this seminar with participants also bringing clinical material into the seminars for discussions related to the writings. In this way, the participants will gain a greater understanding and competence in the application of these object relations theorists to their patients’ difficulties.

Contact: Scott Warren, PhD, LCMHC

Description: This Study Group was formed to address the need for participants to understand and develop competence in current and emerging issues in the psychoanalytic literature. This is accomplished through identification, review and group discussion of current emerging issues and developments in this area. The group was convened after the Study Group participants discussed a common desire to learn more about the emerging issues in psychoanalysis.

For this specific Study Group, the facilitator polls the participants on a weekly to monthly basis about areas in current psychoanalytic literature that the participants identify as being areas they wish to explore to increase their competence after reading recently published development in psychoanalytic literature. The group discusses the area(s) identified and votes on the clinical relevance and the need for further education to reach competence in the proposed topic. The topic(s) of most interest are then reviewed and discussed in greater depth. This year, our focus will primarily be on describing, explaining, critiquing, and applying emerging ideas and technical developments surrounding the concept and role of reconstruction in analysis and how these are best presented when writing about or supervising an analytic case.

Contact: Jim Weiss, MD

Description: This Study Group will focus on various Experiential Dynamic Therapy (EDT) models, including Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) and Affect Phobia Therapy (APT), as discussed, the work of Allan Abbass, Jon Frederickson, Habib Davanloo, Leigh McCullough Vaillant, and Patricia Coughlin. This topic was selected by the facilitators to address a need for increased competence and understanding of these models in the psychoanalytic community. The articles by the above authors and other similar theorists will be discussed in this seminar with participants also bringing clinical material into the seminars for discussions related to the writings. In this way, the participants will gain greater understanding and competence in the application of both theory and technique to their patients’ difficulties.

Note: New members should have some experience with EDT, Davinoo, Fosha, etc.

Contacts: Tyler Beach, MSW, and Scott Warren, PhD, LCMHC

Description: This Study Group is designed to improve the participant’s competence in observing patients’ inner critic and the role the inner critic has in psychopathology. The inner critic is of particular importance when working with clients who have been traumatized or have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Another vulnerable population of individuals who have problems of narcissism, of the insecure or deficit type, who have developed patterns of self-hatred and self-criticism common to those who have an inner critic. This Study Group will identify primary source materials during the course of the academic year to use as a basis for discussion. The group will also provide an environment for clinicians to present and discuss clinical materials.

Contact: Michael Macklin, MD

Description: This Study Group is designed to improve professional collaboration and staff communication between understanding children’s ways of dealing with and communicating about emotional problems. The seminar attempts to improve competence in communication and interacting with children in a therapeutic situation to help the child improve effective interactions with others outside of this setting.

Contact: Katie Jackson, MSW, LCSWA

Description: This group meets monthly, and the focus includes the following:

  • Reading novels, short stories, and poetry; applying analytic skills to understanding the characters and themes; and applying this to examples from patients.
  • Active discussions among the group members as they apply their analytic skills while also exploring and applying analytic concepts to the material read.
  • Readings from books and articles by Jill McCorkle, Gary Shteyngart, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, Alice Munro, William Faulkner, Celeste Ng, et al. In some cases, autobiographical material may be used in relation to the content and scope of writing.

Contact: Roger Spencer, MD

Description: In our diverse society, clinicians must be aware of issues related to gender, race, ethnicity, class, caste, sexuality, ability, etc., in psychoanalytic practice. This awareness includes a cognitive understanding of changing ideas and terminology but does not end there. We also need to prepare ourselves more deeply to be open to how these factors have shaped us and our patients, often outside of conscious awareness.

This seminar, through a series of analytic articles, book chapters, and videos will study how individual and societal differences in identity, as well as the intersection of multiple identities, impact our work. This year, we will again draw from a broad range of topics and will also focus on cultural and political ruptures and repairs in clinical work and supervision.

Contact: Terri Onstad, MA Ed, LCMHC

Description: This Study Group involves readings, discussions, and case presentations to improve basic knowledge, technique, understanding, and competence with applications of psychoanalytic theory and technique in the practice of ethical patient care. Participants are expected to integrate their improved competence and knowledge in their practices.

As practicing clinicians, participants in this Study Group self-reported a limited understanding of the basic psychoanalytic psychotherapy theory, technique, and ethics. Participants recognized that the theory, technique, and ethics of psychoanalytic psychotherapy were not given adequate attention in their graduate education and/or residencies. The Study Group was therefore designed to aid clinicians in their competence in this area of clinical treatment and understanding.

Contact: Steve Bennett, PhD

Description: This Study Group will read and discuss psychoanalytic literature related to race and othering. The group meets monthly by Zoom and is open to psychoanalytic clinicians, including those not members of the PCC. Topics of race and racism are more often than not excluded from psychoanalytic conversations, course readings, and clinical work. These omissions alienate ourselves and our clients from the depth of understanding psychoanalysis has the potential to offer.

This Study Group will have a dual focus. First, members will read, discuss, and attempt to make personal contact with psychoanalytic literature related to race, racism, and oppression (including whiteness and white identity). Second, the group will spend time in each session discussing vignettes (actual or theoretical) to engage with topics of race and othering in classroom settings, clinical, and supervisory work.

Psychoanalytic teachers and students may approach the group on a consultation basis or participate as ongoing members. Faculty and students are invited to present (anonymized) clinical, supervisory, or classroom dilemmas for consultation or to ask the group to read and discuss/”practice teach” related articles they would like to bring to their classrooms. Interested clinicians who are not students or teachers are welcome.

Contact: Elissa Baldwin Murphy, PhD

Description: This Study Group identifies emerging issues of interest in psychoanalysis. The participants were polled, revealing interest in exploring aspects of mind-body therapy as adjunctive to traditional “talk” therapy typical to psychoanalytically informed treatments. A current literature review focused on issues on treating traumatic stress and attachment disorders, which lend themselves well to an integration of mind-body awareness. This is of particular importance for the treatment of traumatic stress because most of the impairment resides in the body and presents itself in somatic or dissociative symptoms that impair traumatized individuals.

Contact: Carolyn Lee, MSW

Description: Relational approaches emphasize the ways in which early relationships shape the human mind and how the personalities of therapist and patient influence each other. Relational approaches shift our understanding and the ways we work with resistance, transference, countertransference, and therapeutic impasses. The relational literature is vast; therefore, by consensus, the group will choose from a rich list of seminal articles by major contributors on attachment, mentalization, intersubjectivity, and self-states. Phenomena including “the analytic third,” enactment, dissociation, attachment style, pathological accommodation, and the role of self-disclosure are topics that are likely to become focal topics for the group. There are currently four Study Groups on this topic. The Thursday Evening Group is OPEN.

Contact: Josie Sawyer, MSW