On becoming a Practitioner: Reflections on Starting Clinical Work

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSHS3038202

Semester and Year Offered: 1st semester, 1st year

Course Coordinator and Team: Honey Oberoi Vahali

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: Interest in clinical practice of psychotherapy

Aim: The primary aim of the course is to help a student approach a clinical encounter from an experiential perspective keeping in mind self-reflection/awareness, empathy and separating the above from projection and projective identification. The course will reflect on how to build a relationship in the psychotherapeutic context keeping in mind structure and ethics. Certain special considerations related to short term and long term practice in psychodynamic psychotherapy will be focused on. The aim of the course is to help students attain competence in initiating clinical work and sustaining it.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Understanding relational processes and frames of practice in psychodynamic psychotherapy.
  2. Attaining initial knowledge so as to be able to initiate psychodynamic psychotherapy.
  3. Enhancement of self-reflexivity and theoretical and ethical considerations related to clinical practice.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

The focus will be on discussing different clinical modalities and settings and broadly focusing on an introduction to psychotherapy. The student will be initiated into ways of record keeping and thinking about psychotherapeutic processes. Students would be asked to focus on their experience, expectations, excitement, fears and fantasies about clinical work. In initiating them to the world of practice, a special focus will be kept alive on the Indian socio-economic cultural context.

The following modules will be taken up across the course-

  1. What is psychotherapy? Different types of psychotherapy and the differences between them and psychoanalysis. Thinking about the process of psychotherapy and the use of the psychotherapist’s self. A reflection on the goals, aims and outcomes of psychotherapy-with a special focus on emotional processing in different forms of therapy- be it BT, CBT, Humanistic and Existential will inform the first unit.
  2. The analytic process: Differences and similarities in the analytic process and psychoanalytic therapy and psychoanalysis. An introduction to the development of the individual self and the process of mentation. Fantasy and Defense, Transference and Counter-transference.
  3. Introduction to the four major theories; basics of understanding personality organisation and character development. Four major theories used to understand symptoms, personality organisation and character development. Different motivational systems which inform transference-countertransference. Drive, Ego, Object, Self, Attachment
  4. Initial encounter with the patient. The Intake process. Intake procedure, writing up the intake, process recording. Setting up sessions, fee, making referrals etc.
  5. Introduction to psychic functioning: Levels of anxiety, nature of conflict, developmental deficits and different kinds of defence.
  6. Core values and ethics in psychotherapy: Considerations for reflective practice.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Written Assignment- 50%
  • Group presentation/ Role Play and ongoing Class Participation-50%

Reading List:

  1. McDougal, J. (2000). Plea for a measure of abnormality in Plea for a measure of abnormality, Brunner Mazel, 978 pp. 463-486
  2. McWilliams, N. (1999). Psychoanalytic Case Formulation. Introduction - Chap 3. Pp1-64
  3. McWilliams, N.(1994), Psychoanalytic Diagnosis, Guildford,. Chapter 2 pp.19-38, Chap 3 pp.40-56
  4. O. Fenichel, (1946). The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis, WW Norton and Co., New York. Part II, Sections A and B (Traumatic Neuroses, Psychoneuroses, The Neurotic Conflict: The motives of defence, The mechanisms of defence, The direct clinical symptoms of the neurotic conflict)
  5. Pine, F. (1990), Drive, Ego, Object, Self. Basic Books, pp.13-115, part I, Sections 2-6
  6. Sandler, Ann-Marie, Fred Pine etc: Developmental perspectives in Psychoanalytic Practice(panel Presentation. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, V28. Number 2, April 1992


  1. Greenacre, P. (1952): Some factors producing different types of genital and pregenital organisation, Trauma, Growth and Personality, USA: Norton.
  2. Greenspan and Cullander (1973) A systematic Metapsychological Assessment of the Personality - its application to the problem of analysability, JAPA.
  3. Hurvich, M. (1989) Traumatic moment, basic danger and annihilation anxiety. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 6,pp.309-323.
  4. Jacobs, Theodore (1980) Secret alliances and family fictions: some psychoanalytic observations. JAPA 28 21-41