Emory Report
September 24, 2007
Volume 60, Number 5

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September 24, 2007
Psychoanalysis data fuels research

By Carol Clark

Emory, already a top destination for psychoanalytic studies and clinical psychoanalytic training, has received a one-of-a-kind database from a groundbreaking study on the effects of psychoanalysis on creativity.

Collected by the Lucy Daniels Foundation in Cary, N.C., the data follows eight writers over the course of one to 10 years of psychoanalysis, and provides a rare window into the inner workings of the creative process, as well as the impact of analytic treatment on life and work.

“This data is extremely unique and important — I don’t think there is another database like it in existence,” said Steve Levy, director of Emory’s Psychoanalytic Institute and editor of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, the premier journal of the field.

Only a handful of research institutes in the world have access to archived analytic data due to the tremendous expense involved in collecting it and privacy issues, Levy said. The Lucy Daniels Foundation data is even more unusual since it is focused on creativity.

The foundation is also providing Emory with a five-year annual stipend for research projects that draw on material in the database.

“For Emory to receive such a gift is an important recognition of the resources and talent we have been building here over the past decade,” Levy says.

Emory’s Psychoanalytic Institute combines clinical practice with training, and is associated with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the School of Medicine. In addition, Emory offers a Psychoanalytic Studies Program within its Institute of Liberal Arts, which fosters interdisciplinary research into the theories, application and history of psychoanalytic thought and practice.

“Our Psychoanalytic Studies Program is the most ambitious and well-known in the United States and, without question, the best, because of the constellation of the faculty who are here,” said Bobby Paul, dean of Emory College and a practicing psychoanalyst.

A few of the prominent names involved in Emory’s interdisciplinary psychoanalytic studies include Drew Westen, professor of psychology and psychiatry and author of “The Political Brain”; Sander Gilman, Distinguished Professor, Liberal Arts and Sciences and director of the Psychoanalytic Studies Program; Shoshana Felman, Woodruff Professor of Comparative Literature and an expert in psychoanalysis, trauma and testimony; Claire Nouvet, associate professor of French and Italian and a graduate of the Emory Psychoanalytic Institute; and Cathy Caruth, Winship Distinguished Research Professor and chair of the department of comparative literature.

“The Lucy Daniels database represents the beginning of an exciting new endeavor here at Emory,” said Beth Seelig, professor of psychiatry and co-director of Emory’s Center for Psychoanalytic Research and Education. “Psychoanalytic theory has tremendously rich explanatory power and this database will serve as a unique resource to scholars from a wide range of disciplines.”

Lucy Daniels, director of the Lucy Daniels Foundation, wrote a critically acclaimed novel while confined to a mental institution in her late teens and early 20s. Then, after the publication of her second novel, Daniels encountered seve re writer’s block. This lasted for decades and Daniels credits psychoanalysis with her victory over it.

Daniels said she is entrusting Emory’s Psychoanalytic Institute with the study data because of the University’s breadth of resources and cross-disciplinary approach.

“Psychology and the unconscious are related to everything we do,” Daniels said. “Emory has the resources to not only train people to become analysts, but to research psychological issues related to music, French, literature, law, politics, business or whatever discipline you’re studying. I’m confident that the database on writers will fuel some interesting dissertations, as well as important new knowledge about the creative process, its hardships and its breakthroughs.”