Psychoanalysts from Brazil expand their work
with Universidade de Brasília medical students
by Helena Daltro Pontual
A group of psychoanalysts linked to the Psychoanalysis Society of Brasília (SPBsb), in the capital of Brazil, has been working for eight years with medical students from Universidade de Brasília (UnB), a free, public university listed in the 2018 edition of "The Times Higher Education Latin America University Rankings”.
At the beginning of this project, 90 minutes long meetings were held weekly at the university with final year undergraduates. In addition to psychoanalysts, the group sessions also had the participation of a teacher of the medical course and a volunteer - a doctor in training who presented a case that has impacted him or her psychically.
Due to the success of this initiative, members of UnB proposed that the activity was expanded to other students. Since the expansion, the psychoanalysts have been working with undergraduates from the moment they begin frequent clinical practice, rather than when they reach the final year of medical school. As a result, the number of psychoanalysts taking part in this project increased from three to eight.
Coordinating this group are the psychoanalysts Maria de Fátima Silveira dos Santos (an associate member of SPBsb) and Eliana Cunha (a member of the Virginia Leone Bicudo Institute of SPBsb). Ms. Dos Santos reports that a former student, who is now a professor at UnB, has proposed that the work with the undergraduates becomes part of his department's activities. Another sign of the beneficial impact of this work on the student community, is the positive monthly feedback coming from the undergraduates and from their evaluation of the medical course as a whole.
Dos Santos explains that the psychoanalytic method used in these meetings is the same method that Michael Balint employed in the United Kingdom's health care system. The psychoanalysts focus particularly on what Balint called "the unconscious field concerning a group's common activity" - or "public transference", according to the author's terminology. Dos Santos adds that the dialogic matrix is composed of the so-called internal setting of psychoanalysts - in other words, their ability to listen (through floating attention and "in reserve") to the open communication of the group. As described by AndrénGreen, this approach concerns the analyst's internal space, which can be developed over the years of both formation and practice in psychoanalysis.
The unveiling of the unconscious components of the participants, such as anxiety and conflicts, is followed by the interpretation of the "public transference". “This opens the possibility of new decisions regarding the students' unconscious conflicts”, says Dos Santos. Using the psychoanalytic method, she concludes, helps one realize the usefulness of psychoanalysis outside the psychoanalytic office and that the methods employed for “internal setting” and public transference” may actually be the basis of all other activities classified as extramural psychoanalysis.
Helena Daltro Pontual is a member of the Brasília Psychoanalysis Society (SPBsb), the Brazilian Psychoanalysis Society of São Paulo (SBPSP) and the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA). She has an office in São Paulo, where she is also a member of the SBPSP Group of Studies and Investigation of Body Expressions of Psychic Pain: Chronic and Psychoanalytic Psychosomatic Pain. She is a member of SPBsb Scientific and Dissemination and Press Committees. Has a postgraduate degree in Psychoanalytic Theory and Mental Health, and has a degree in Letters and Journalism. She has a chapter published in the book: Psychic Pain, body pain - a multidisciplinary approach (São Paulo: Blucher, 2017).