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Ian Gold & Eric Lewis – Improvising Intersubjectivity: Trust, Paranoia, and Theory of Mind (ASI 2015)

Improvising Intersubjectivity: Trust, Paranoia, and Theory of Mind
Ian Gold & Eric Lewis, McGill University

The new field of Improvisation Studies theorizes the improvisative, particularly collective improvisation, as a potent site for identity formation, community building, intersubjective dialogue, and the real-time negotiation of self and other. Improvising ensembles form bonds of trust, and mediate sonically aspects of their selfhood to others, while receiving such information in return. The powerful social underpinnings of improvisation have led theorists to talk of the curative powers of improvisation, but a systematic investigation of its therapeutic potential has not yet been undertaken. In this paper we explore the capacities of improvisation to build social bonds and argue for its therapeutic potential.

Jaswant Guzder – Art and the Person of the Therapist (ASI 2015)

Art and the Person of the Therapist
Jaswant Guzder, McGill University

The presentation will include my paintings and drawings in multiple media, including canvas, paper and handmade books done in parallel to a career as a therapist. These works come from a personal healing space or a temenos that allows unfettered access to inner worlds that emerge to be reworked or to be expressed in ways that remain ‘unprocessed’. The process of art making is as temporary or “in the moment” as the process of deep listening in my role as a therapist. This world of art making is for me an inner healing essential to my capacity as a therapist. My psychoanalyst colleague from India, Sudhir Kakar has said that creativity “offers a haven from the storms of emotional life and the swirling of subterranean passions”. My identity is formed of many dissonant experiences, cultural worlds and incompatible ideas that never seem achieve any resolution but rather coexist in a disarray of balances and imbalances, melancholic periods and productive integrations, which are reflected in my art making
as an experience. The energy or compulsion to make drawings has always been with me and pervades my being. Perhaps, the bicultural realities of my life have generated this drive, reflected as much in my note taking during lectures as in the times where I am immersed only in the art making. The making of art is also a struggle to experience moments of lucidity, a way to find some center of gravity within myself. The clinical experience of therapy leaves so much that is felt yet remains unthought, including deeply shared traumatic “noise”. My life as a painter has helped me to shift from that felt unthought into a creative transitional space that contains contradictions without resolution in thinking.

Gilah Yelin Hirsch – Reflections on Art as a Healing Process (ASI 2015)

Reflections on Art as a Healing Process
Gilah Yelin Hirsch, California State University Dominguez Hills

This presentation will focus on imagery as a vehicle for physical and emotional healing. I will describe the way my work has evolved over an extended period of time, blending science and art to reveal relationships between form in nature, form in human physiology and behavior, as well as the forms that are present universally in all alphabets. Drawing from years of solitary wilderness sojourns, as well as experience in diverse world cultures, including Tibetan Tantric visualization and Kabbalah, I will address the ways that the work seems to give access to the hardwired wisdom of the body as the repository of intuition and intrinsic knowledge – leading toward health and behavior benefiting the greater good.

Gilah Yelin Hirsch, BA, MFA, is a painter, writer, theorist, filmmaker, lecturer and Professor of Art at California State University, Dominguez Hills (Los Angeles). She works in a multidisciplinary manner including art, design, anthropology, architecture, theology, philosophy, psychology, psychoneuroimmunology and world culture. An internationally exhibiting artist in over 200 exhibitions since 1968, Hirsch’s paintings have been acquired by many major public and private collections, including the Skirball Museum, Los Angeles; Alexander Braun Collection, Budapest; Bank of America National Banks; and the University of California Medical Arts Collection, Los Angeles. Hirsch’s work has been reviewed extensively worldwide, has appeared on covers and within dozens of international
publications, including articles on her work, Hirsch’s own articles and theoretical papers have been published in scholarly journals including Leonardo (MIT press). She recently authored the book Demonic to Divine: The Double Life of Shulamis Yelin (Vehicule Press). Her film Cosmography: The Writing of the Universe is an investigation into the relation between origin of alphabet, pattern in nature and the neurology of perception and cognition. Her current film, Reading the Landscape, brings these concepts to children of all ages in sixteen languages and cultures. Hirsch’s more than 150 awards, honors, grants, fellowships and residencies include the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine’s (ISSSEEM) Alyce and Elmer Green Award for her “innovative
blending of science and art” and an award from US National Endowment for the Arts. Hirsch’s awards and residencies include the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine’s (ISSSEEM) Alyce and Elmer Green Award for her “innovative blending of science and art”; US National Endowment for the Arts; CLASS Foundation, CO; Banff Center for the Arts, Canada; MacDowell Colony, NH; Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio, Italy; Tyrone Guthrie Center for the Arts, Ireland; St. Martin’s School of Art, London, England; Rim Institute, AZ., Morris Graves Foundation; Songambele Arts Festival, Kenya.

Laurence Kirmayer – Art, Identity and Community: Toward a Poetics of Illness and Healing (ASI 2015)

Art, Identity and Community: Toward a Poetics of Illness and Healing
Laurence Kirmayer, Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University

Art plays a unique role in human experience both as an individual and a social mode of expression and communal activity. All societies have traditions of fashioning objects, language, and performance in ways that serve to transmit culture, explore the world, entertain, and edify. Active engagement with the arts can transform suffering, give meaning to affliction, and support recovery. This conference will bring together artists, scholars, researchers, and professionals involved in mental health to discuss the role of the arts in cultural psychiatry. Art can be used to build and express individual and collective identity, as a creative process that yields new ways of experiencing the world, as a social and political intervention to critique or challenge existing frameworks, and as a modality for therapeutic interventions. Sessions will explore topics related to several broad themes:
1. the nature of creative artistic and aesthetic processes of invention, enactment and improvisation;
2. the role of the arts in constructing and expressing individual and collective identities—especially, public, social or political uses of art to raise awareness and challenge marginality and oppression;
3. the arts as media for articulating, understanding and coping with the experience of mental health and illness;
4. art making as a creative medium for individual therapeutic exploration, growth, and transformation and for collective conflict resolution and mental health promotion.

To view the video of Jon Henrik Fjällgren’s perfomance on Sweden’s Got Talent, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQqwiG-lLOI

Panel session – Pluralism in Mental Health Policy and Practice ASI 2014

Chair:
Laurence Kirmayer, McGill University

Participants:
Suman Fernando
Jaswant Guzder, McGill University
Sushrut Jadhav, University College London
Abdelwahed Mekki-Berrada, Université Laval
Radhika Santhanam-Martin, Victorian Transcultural Mental Health, Australia
Morton Weinfeld, McGill University

Radhika Santhanam-Martin – Othering Spaces: Uses of Alterity in Psychotherapy Training and Practice (ASI 2014)

Othering occurs in everyday human encounters and may be playful or violent, normative or transgressive. In ordinary social contexts, othering may be “invisible” yet have profound effects for identity, health and well-being. The deliberate use of othering is a feature of many forms of psychotherapy, in which people are made to feel like strangers to themselves, social marking and exclusion are made visible, and the initial alienation of the clinical encounter gives way over time to a deepening mutuality. This paper explores the Othering process using a therapeutic-philosophical lens. Building on the recognition that positive or inclusionary and negative or exclusionary practices of Othering regularly occur in therapy and training contexts, we will address the juxtaposition of the inevitability and persistence of strangeness with our need to be related to the familiar. To illustrate these issues, we use Donna Orange’s framework contrasting the hermeneutics of suspicion and hermeneutics of faith. Vignettes drawn from clinical and training settings will demonstrate how Othering processes organize and develop in a network of conversations and how they get enacted and embodied. We argue for the need to hold both these hermeneutic positions (doubt and trust), in order to ethically respond to and respect the face of the Other.

Jaswant Guzder – Internalization of race and difference: implications for psychotherapy in a diverse society (ASI 2014)

Racialized embodiment of ethnic difference has identity implications for visible minorities and may constitute a development line that runs parallel to that of gender identity with similar progression over the life cycle. Internalization of racialized identity and racism is a complex process that involves external agendas as well as intrapsychic realities. Yet the supervision of psychotherapists and family therapist rarely addresses countertransference or transference issues related to these realities. The social and political context of collectives and groups organizes resistance and openness to a discourse that allows these dimensions of identity to be discussed. This paper will elaborate through clinical examples of how these issues may present in therapy.

Sushrut Jadhav – Caste, Stigma, and Mental Well-being: From Transition to Conversion (ASI 2014)

Caste, Stigma, and Mental Well-being: From Transition to Conversion

Sushrut Jadhav, University College London, UK; Bhargavi Davar, Bapu Trust for Research on Mind and Discourse, Pune, India; Sumeet Jain, University of Edinburgh, UK; S. Shinde, Bapu Trust for Research on Mind and Discourse, Pune, India

Dalit “untouchables” in the Indian subcontinent are largely excluded from full participation in everyday social life. They have poorer health outcomes compared to the general population, and are subject to degradation, humiliation and violent atrocities. Yet there is a striking absence of research examining the stigma of Dalit caste identity and its impact on mental well-being of Dalit “untouchables.” The paper addresses the nature of stigma associated with being an “untouchable” and how this shifts following conversion to Buddhism. This pilot ethnographic and focus group study was situated in an urban Dalit slum of Pune city, Maharashtra state, India, by a multi-caste, multi-disciplinary team of health professionals and social scientists. Results suggest that the nature of distress related to caste discrimination is both psychological and cultural, with an internalization of the “gaze” of upper castes, and spatial-temporal dimensions within which both individual and institutional discrimination operates. Whilst Dalits who have not converted tended to aspire to a sanskritised identity, Dalit converted to Buddhism appear to have carved out a political identity to contest the stigma. The strategies employed to deal with discrimination include instrumental actions and political transformation. Dalit conversion to Buddhism suggests well-being is gained through the development of a dignity that results in a more articulate and political identity that contest existing ideas of modernity in India. The authors conclude that the phenomenon of conversion is not absolute. The paper suggest further research towards an examination of cultural landscapes that
mediate the stigma of “untouchability”; ethnographic studies of innovative movements that contest and invert Dalit caste identity; and comparison of caste-related and cultural-identity stigma, with stigma associated with more formal mental or physical disorders that have been extensively researched. Furthermore, a study of castes within Indian Buddhists may identify more chronic markers of caste-related stigma. This has implications towards interventions that directly address well-being of “untouchables” in India.

Morton Weinfeld – Ethnic Match in Health and Social Services: Pros and Cons (ASI 2014)

Ethnic match is an approach to the provision of public services in various policy domains, in societies marked with significant ethnic, racial, or religious diversity. Minority recipients of services may be matched with professionals of the same background, receive services in ethnospecific agencies, or receive a type of service which is sensitive to the specific minority culture at
issue. This paper explores the evidence that deals with the issue of ethnic match in the provision of mental health care, looking mainly at literature from the fields of psychiatry and psychology, including therapists with backgrounds in social work or counseling. A review of the literature reveals no clear pattern of benefits—or harms—from these various practices for the recipients of service in this particular policy domain. Implications for education, training, and practice will be explored.

Ghayda Hassan – The Québec Charter of Values and the Future of Living Together in Québec (ASI 2014)

This two-arm mixed-method study assessed the discourse around the Quebec Charter and its impact on the future of living together in Quebec. The first study used a qualitative design to thematically and critically analyze discourses around the Charter and hate-based events/discourses targeting minorities and published in official media. Results show that positions tend to be polarised and use an ideological discourse based on overlapping of religion and gender equality with an underlying association of religion with extremism and terrorism, thus targeting mainly Muslim communities and more specifically, veiled women. The second study consisted of a web survey filled by a targeted sample of 200 university students measuring discrimination, identity, psychological wellbeing and perception of intercommunity relations. Data collection is underway and analyses will consist of multiple regression predictive models.

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