Today, I speak with Aileen Schloerb, a psychotherapist at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis’ Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy and a Clinical Coordinator of the Englewood Project in Chicago, which provides psychoanalytically informed services to underserved children and adolescents. She is currently undergoing psychoanalytic formation at the Ecole Freudienne du Quebec and is the President of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Circle. She did her personal psychoanalysis with a Lacanian psychoanalyst in France and brings us her international and bi-lingual experiences.
- Why Psychoanalysis? What draws you to psychoanalysis?“Psychoanalysis offers a frame of reference as well as an approach to engaging with the challenges of being human. It provides indispensable tools with which to map out what is at stake in the construction of our lives in ethical and creative ways. Psychoanalysis articulates a useful perspective on the parts of us that are difficult to know something about and yet which constitute what is most precious within us and which has a determining impact on the way our lives unfold.”
- How would you describe the difference between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy?
“There are many different versions of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy but at it’s root psychoanalysis focuses primarily on the parts of ourselves that are puzzling and difficult to understand and in elaborating the conditions under which unspoken experience can be best elicited, recognized, and given a place within a treatment. Psychoanalysis is committed to opening a space for this ‘unthought known’ which will communicate itself in various ways if it is heard.”
- What is it about psychoanalysis that you find most helpful in treating patients?
“What I find most helpful is the capacity of psychoanalysis to ally itself with the part of the individual or group that seeks to communicate something for which it has not yet found words. It is the best way I have encountered to support true agency and self-determination in the human subject.”
- In your opinion, who can benefit from psychoanalysis?
“Anyone with a deep sense of curiosity and interest in coming to better understand what has determined the course of one’s life up to the present, with the courage to explore what remains unknown about one’s self and situation, and with a commitment to engage with what comes up in the process, can benefit from the experience of this kind of work.”
- How do you explain psychoanalysis and what you do to your patients?
“This is a very singular experience – what a psychoanalytic experience can become depends on what a patient is seeking and is able to bring to it.”
- How would you advise a person, who is seeking professional help, decide on wanting psychoanalysis versus other forms of therapy?
“I ask people to consider what it is they are looking for. Often people want to get rid of inconvenient feelings or behaviors. There are forms of therapy that focus primarily on the removal of a symptom but without attention to its underlying source. If we take the perspective that a symptom such as a particular behavior or feeling is an attempt to communicate something that has not been able to express itself in any other form, we will approach with it a spirit of inquiry rather than repression. If we focus on eliminating such an expression without attention to its root cause then it will simply reappear later in a different form.”
- What else would you like to say to our readers about your psychoanalytic work?
“The human condition is fascinating but paradoxical and challenging even in the best of circumstances. It is helpful to find reliable roadmaps within ourselves with which to pursue the very worthwhile project of constructing a life that matters. Psychoanalysis is an experience and a form through which we can find the tools we need to do this. My experience of psychoanalysis personally and professionally serves as a foundation to my belief in its potential to open up and sustain human possibilities and to offer critical reference points for moving forward with the creation of our singular and precious lives.”
The most important takeaway from this interview for me is that psychoanalysis aims at giving a space, shape or form to something within us that was never spoken about before. It is up to us what we will make out of the experience and how far we are willing to go with it, and a psychoanalyst must respect that decision.
Aileen Schloerb, PhD, LCSW serves as the Clinical Consultant of the City Project which is mandated to work with communities that have been exposed to trauma and violence in urban neighborhoods. She also works as a therapist with children, adolescents, parents, and families at the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis as well as with adults in her private practice. She completed academic degrees at the University of Chicago and University of Paris VII and Graduated Fellowships at Northwestern University and the University of Michigan. She has received psychoanalytic training in Paris and from the Freudian School of Quebec and currently serves on the Board of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Circle. Her work aims to bring psychoanalytic principles to bear on work with under-resourced communities in the United States as well as with non-governmental humanitarian organizations in France and the Middle East. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org