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THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF PSYCHOTHERAPY. Keynote: Ian Parker Psychoanalyst and Author

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Congress Theme

The landscape of psychotherapeutic engagement is changing, driven inter alia by developments in technology, government regulation and economics. Business and governments are alert to benefits in this transition - such as increased convenience for those seeking psychotherapy as well as increased profits from technological advances which reduce commercial rents and allow collection of personal data. The current trend of huge corporate investments and incursions into the field of personal psychotherapy reveal strategies to utilise and monetise mental health services. Psychoanalysis - antithetical to this trend - becomes more important and perhaps more vulnerable to marginalisation in this shifting landscape.“The crack in the project of digital control lies in the impossibility of taking the unconscious into account, the unconfessable, the fantasmatic, the elusive, the detournement that each one of us exercises on himself. In this sense, psychoanalysis is the green lung, the Amazon of a world crushed by marketing, stalked by populist enticements made to catch hold of electoral preferences. Psychoanalysis is today the ecology of thought and social relations.” Mario Focchi. The Social Bond in the Hyper-Connected World (Micol Martinez, Trans.). Lacanian Review Online, Feb. 29, 2020. LRO 213.

How do psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy respond to this changing landscape? How does psychoanalysis align itself with these new transitions and trends? Does psychoanalysis risk irrelevance because it has been slow to put forward evidence-based research?

This Congress seeks to open a conversation on this changing landscape:

• technology and its impact on psychoanalysis

• changes in the psychoanalytic clinic

• legislation and regulation

• psychoanalysis in corporations / organisational psychotherapy

• consumerism and its effects

• psychoanalysis and climate change

• psychoanalysis and evidence-based research


9.30 am Register – zoom

Welcome: Elin Payne, Congress Host

Opening comments: Dr. Phil Hanlon, APPI Chair


Dr. Michael Holohan

“You’re better than my therapist”: Exploring the Meaning of Transference for the Use and Design of AI-based Chatbots

Helena Texier

When the margins become ever more tight

Dr. Mou Sultana

Framework for merging the worlds of psychoanalysis evidence-based research

Dr. Leon Brenner

The Autistic Pseudo-Signifier: Working with Iconic Signs in the Clinic of Autism

Rasoul Ghorkhanechi Maralani and Parastou Yousefali

Let us not make the Earth a graveyard

Dermot Gough

Changes afoot!

12.30 pm (30 min) Lunch

1.00 pm Keynote Ian Parker, Psychoanalyst, Author, International Speaker

Regulation and Revolution: Perspectives on what ‘liberation’ is, and from what

Respondent / Q & A Dr. Nigel Mulligan

Panel discussion

Closing comments

2.30 pm Ends

Who should attend

This event is of particular importance and interest to psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, and anyone working in the broad psychotherapeutic field. It is open to anyone interested in this important topic.


Where any confidential material is discussed attendees are asked to respect that.


Five CPD points are awarded for this event.


The event will not be recorded. No recording is permitted.


Keynote Address - Ian Parker

Regulation and Revolution: Perspectives on what ‘liberation’ is, and from what

The changing landscape is global, driven by neoliberal imperatives to replace welfare provision with corporate profit, to intensify personal choice and to control and channel resistance. Regulation in this context is a seductive invitation to reconfigure what ‘liberation’ is, an invitation posing a challenge to psychoanalytic ethics and politics. We need as a profession to attend to the specific contradictions and spaces for us now to reflect and to practice.


Ian Parker is a practising psychoanalyst in Manchester, Honorary Secretary of the College of Psychoanalysts - UK. His latest book, co-authored with the Mexican theorist and activist David Pavón-Cuéllar is Psychoanalysis and Revolution: Critical Psychology for Liberation Movements (https://psychoanalysisrevolution.com/).


Dr. Nigel Mulligan

Dr. Nigel Mulligan is a psychoanalytically informed psychotherapist, addiction counsellor and group therapist working in Dublin City. He is a registered practitioner of psychotherapy (IAHIP) and is Research affiliate of APPI. His current research interests include cyber-psychosis, criminal and psy- surveillance, psychosexual and intergenerational trauma. He has internationally published articles on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, including Lacunae. Nigel teaches psychoanalysis in the School of Psychology and Psychotherapy at Dublin City University (DCU).

Dr. Michael Holohan, MSc.

“You’re better than my therapist”: Exploring the Meaning of Transference for the Use and Design of AI-based Chatbots

During the recent pandemic, we all experienced an enormous and sudden shift to the small screen. As everyone had to stay home and socially distance, our laptops and phones became more than lifelines, they were often the only way it seemed possible to continue to conduct our lives, our businesses – and even our therapies. While the lockdown was, for many therapists and clients, the first time they had done therapy via the small screen, these technologies were already becoming more prevalent prior to the pandemic. And the promise of remote, computer-mediated psychotherapy goes even further than connecting patients with live therapists via Zoom. Many companies have begun to develop AI-enabled virtual therapy apps designed to be integrated into psychotherapeutic practice, supporting a host of emotional, cognitive, and social processes in the therapeutic encounter. In particular, AI-driven chat-based interfaces (or “chatbots”) with names like Woebot, Tess and Wysa are being designed to diagnose and treat mental disorders in partnership with – but also independently from – human therapists. This new technology represents a novel fusion of the therapeutic space with technology in ways that are both mediated (in terms of a text- and screen-based interface) and unmediated (in terms of its always-on availability).

Given the speed of research and development trajectories of AI-enabled applications in psychotherapy and the practice of mental healthcare, it is likely that therapeutic chatbots, avatars, and socially assistive devices will soon translate into clinical applications much more broadly. While AI-driven applications such as chatbots offer potential opportunities for psychotherapy, they also raise important ethical, social and clinical questions that have not yet been adequately considered for clinical practice. In this paper I begin to address one of these considerations: the role of transference in the psychotherapeutic relationship. I show that the concept of transference is necessarily re-configured within AI-human therapeutic encounters. This has implications for understanding how AI-driven technologies introduce changes in the field of traditional psychotherapy and other forms of mental healthcare and how this may change clinical psychotherapeutic practice and AI development alike. As more AI-enabled apps and platforms for psychotherapy are developed, it becomes necessary to re-think AI-human interaction as more nuanced and richer than a simple exchange of information between human and nonhuman actors alone.


Michael Holohan has an interdisciplinary background in psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, literary theory, and philosophy. He holds a PhD in the History of Consciousness from the University of California Santa Cruz, and an MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy from the School of Psychotherapy, University College Dublin.

Michael is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of History and Ethics in Medicine at the School of Medicine of the Technical University of Munich, where he explores the relationship between different conceptions of the mind in psychoanalysis and biomedicine and the relevance of psychoanalytic thought for contemporary biomedical practice, research and ethics.

Michael is also a psychoanalyst in private practice in Munich. He is a member of the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland and the Irish Council for Psychotherapy.

Helena Texier

When the margins become ever more tight

The future of psychotherapy is being shaped by demands, regulatory and cultural, for accountability and efficacy. Whatever one might think of this development, it remains that a capacity to engage in dialogue about it culturally with a degree of sophistication will be essential. Psychoanalysis culturally has had difficulty promoting research methods, or even simply knowledge about research, in its institutions and affiliated trainings. Divisions exists in the published literature between those who are supportive of psychoanalysis establishing a dialogue with science, and those strongly opposed to that. Latterly, there has been a wealth of new scientific findings relating to mental life, and this has provoked a resurgence of debate about whether psychoanalysis should consider scientific findings having a bearing on psychoanalytic treatment and theory. Within the literature the clash of views on this topic can be quite ferocious, signalling that the stakes may be particularly high for those writing articles. Meanwhile, independent researchers are showing the efficacy of long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy and finding supportive evidence for psychoanalytic formulations. It may prove pivotal to the survival of psychoanalysis that it be able to engage with and understand this sort of research. Otherwise, it may become ever more marginalised.

I would like to present a few examples of such research, and to bring a question to the participants of this congress. What do we do now? Do we cede the field to the others?


Helena Texier has been working as a psychoanalytic practitioner for almost thirty years. She has served as chair of APPI and on its executive board, has been a board member of the Psychoanalytic Section of ICP, and was for a decade editor of THE LETTER – lacanian perspectives on psychoanalysis. She has been published in English, French and German, and contributed to the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia of Psychoanalysis. She is a director of the Freud Lacan Institute (FLi). She is currently a doctoral student at UCLan, working towards a Professional Doctorate in Psychotherapy Research.

Dr. Mou Sultana

Framework for merging the worlds of psychoanalysis evidence-based research

The talk will first define the concept of ‘evidence’ using the concepts of ‘Translational research’ and ‘Levels of evidence’. Next, some existing research methodologies that are in line with psychoanalytic epistemology and ontology will be highlighted. The overall aims are to highlight and propose some research frameworks that have the potentials to blend the world of research methodologies and psychoanalytic studies (theoretical and clinical).

Considering the complex history of Psychoanalysis and Medicine, it is essential that any talk about evidence-based research within the context of Psychoanalysis addresses and acknowledges the structure and definition of the concept of ‘evidence’ within Medicine. The aim is to highlight their relevance, scope, translational qualities and abilities within the intersection of psychoanalysis and Evidence-Based research. The objective is to provide a structural outline of ‘levels of evidence’, a heuristic for the hierarchical system of classifying evidence that is currently used in Medicine and forms the basis of research in Health, Allied Health and Social studies.

The talk will then highlight the major overlaps between Psychoanalytic and Research methodologies by outlining three major qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. The aims are to situate psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic “data collection” and “data analysis” methods within the landscape of research methodologies. The objectives are 1) highlight the intersections between certain epistemological and ontological positions from the research world and psychoanalytic theories and practice; And 2) Identify research methodologies and methods compatible with psychoanalytic methodologies and methods for the considerations of those practitioners seeking heuristics and framework.


Dr. Mou Sultana is Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist (ICP) and Counselling Psychologist (CPsychol, BPS) with Vhi. She specialises in: Trauma, Sexuality, Perinatal mental health and Domestic Violence. She is a lecturer and supervisor at the Irish College of Humanities and Applied Sciences. She holds the following qualifications: BA Hons. in Counselling Psychotherapy, MA in Sociology (UL), Psychology (RGU) and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy UCD (St. Vincent’s UH). Following her PhD in Perinatal Mental Health from UCD she is undertaking Neuroscience training from the King’s College London. She is the author of ‘What’s so natural about sexuality?’, published by Routledge in 2018.

Dr. Leon Brenner

The Autistic Pseudo-Signifier: Working with Iconic Signs in the Clinic of Autism

Abnormalities in language and speech development are a defining feature of autism. Several Lacanian scholars have hypothesized that these abnormalities originate in a unique mode of access to language that exclusively relies on signs rather than signifiers. Compared to the flexibility and dynamism of a language made of signifiers, a language made of signs is rigid, cumbersome, and poor in its capacity to encode complex concepts. This paper investigates the supplementary methods that autistic subjects adopt to compensate for this conceptual poverty, methods that enable them to encode general, ambiguous, and abstract concepts into their vocabulary using iconic signs. These methods are then developed into a psychoanalytic theory of autism that focuses on the manipulation of signs in the creation of pseudo-signifiers. This theory offers a particular psychoanalytic mode of operation in the treatment and facilitation of autism.

Further relevant reading material might be found in my book and several other publications on the subject:




Dr. Leon S. Brenner (Ph.D.) is a psychoanalytic theorist and psychological counselor from Berlin. Brenner’s work draws from the Freudian and Lacanian traditions of psychoanalysis, and his interest lies in the understanding of the relationship between culture and psychopathology. His book The Autistic Subject: On the Threshold of Language was published with the Palgrave Lacan Series in 2020. He is a founder of Lacanian Affinities Berlin and Unconscious Berlin and is currently a research fellow at the International Psychoanalytic University Berlin and the Hans Kilian und Lotte Köhler Centrum (KKC).

Rasoul Ghourkhane chi Maralani and Parastou Yousefali

Let us not make the earth a graveyard

In pre-Islamic Iran, caring for nature was considered a form of worship. After Islam the care of nature has been emphasized as well but these days we are witnessing not only severe climate change in the planet but also behavioral changes of people in the destruction of nature instead of caring for it. This is an ALARM! We do not ignore the role of governments in this problem but we are diminishing our role. By projecting on the governments we are using the common denial mechanism. In our country, people are continually polluting the environment, harassing the animals and despite scientists’ warnings, they are digging deep wells which has had domino effect. Such behaviors were against our culture. However, in the last decades we have witnessed an indifferent attitude of Iranians towards the destruction of nature and animal cruelty. The purpose of this article is to find the roots behind this indifference and destruction which, we argue, can be rooted in unconscious anger, injustice and narcissism. Freud says in response to Einstein’s letter that there can be no hope of eradicating human aggressive tendencies. So, Jouissance arises unconsciously from repressed wishes and it can turn into jealousy, greed, selfishness. Jouissance is contagious like plague and if neglected in dealing with the destruction of nature, this Jouissance will spread to the whole world. YES! Jouissance is contagious and should be analyzed.


Rasoul Ghourkhane chi Maralani

Rasoul Ghourkhane holds a B.Sc. Psychology, and M.A. Clinical Psychology from Iran University of Medical Sciences.

He has worked as a psychologist and lecturer in Razi Psychiatric Hospital of Tehran for over twenty years. In addition, he has studied Freudian / Lacanian psychoanalysis for over fifteen years. Rasoul is a practicing psychoanalyst and analytic supervisor. He runs a private practice and is involved in various psychoanalytic study groups. He is also active in promoting free counseling to medical staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Previously he lectured at the Azad University of Tehran for five years. Currently he teaches psychoanalytic concepts privately and works in his private clinic. He has translated two books on psychoanalysis. Rasoul can be contacted in Persian and Turkish Email: rasoul.ghorkhanechi@gmail.com

Parastou Yousefali

Parastou Yousefali, Clinical Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Researcher in the field of femininity and culture.

Her qualifications include B.Sc. in Psychology and M.A. Clinical Psychology, University Shahid Beheshti, Iran. She is registered in the Psychology and Counselling Organisation I.R. Iran.

She has worked in mental health settings and educational settings in Iran over many years. In her work in education she increased the adolescents' interest in self-knowledge, holding and inviting various professors to education conferences. She increased the general knowledge of families about puberty. Her current work includes providing therapy to the staff of hospitals involved with Covid-19 patients.

She has also worked on Traumatic Bereavement: Lived Experiences of Grief among Spouses Surviving Traffic Collisions in Iran. Currently, she is practicing in her private clinic by phone (due to covid-19). Parastou can be contacted in Persian and English Email: parastooo.us@gmail.com

Dermot Gough

Changes afoot!

As we all know the last couple of years has seen significant changes in life both inside and outside of the clinic. Routines have been severely disrupted. People’s work situation, conditions and environment have changed dramatically. Socialising has been curtailed and restricted. All areas of our lives have been disrupted to a level we could not have imagined a few years ago.

As a result, changes in the way we as therapists work have had to change also. The tenet of what we have been doing and the very basic tools of our practice have changed considerably. Media that previously were considered impractical and alien to us for the purpose of therapy are now part and parcel and indeed extremely necessary to provide a service at this time. Venues, directions and locations, even timing, can all be a thing of the past. Not being in the country or unable to travel to an appointment is not an issue anymore!

Parallel to this process, organisations have brought about significant changes in protocols and procedures in the clinic and by extension the therapist has been impacted. How organisations expect us as clinicians to conduct our practice has become more procedural.

Recently the HSE, the largest employer of therapists in Ireland, changed its procedure on mandatory reporting in relation to childhood trauma.

This has had a huge knock-on impact for both the therapist and the client, with significant changes in what happens outside of the room after the disclosure of a childhood trauma.

Other changes include but are not limited to:

• Training in phone procedures

• Training in video sessions

• Hygiene and infection control

What do these changes mean for not only the therapist but also the client and wider society?

This presentation will not necessarily answer any of the questions posed here but hopes to create a space for discussion to take place and for like-minded professionals to discuss these changes and explore the impact on our profession.


Dermot Gough has been working in the area of addiction since 1994, his experience being quite unique in that he has worked in the Voluntary, Community and Statutory sectors. He qualified as a psychoanalyst in 2008, and also joined APPI that same year. He has worked with trauma on a very regular basis at it presents itself in the clinic.

Dermot manages an addiction centre in Darndale, Dublin 17. He works in private practice and also works as sessional therapist with the HSE two days a week. Dermot is a board member of APPI.

Dr. Phil Hanlon – APPI Chair

Phil Hanlon is a practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapist based in Dublin. She is the current chair of APPI. She has been a board member of the Psychoanalytic Section of ICP.

Phil previously worked in senior management positions in higher education and business for over fifteen years. Phil undertook her doctoral research on the role of intuition in strategic decision making in Nottingham Trent University in 2008. Her continued interest in the mental functioning of individuals led her to complete a clinical training as a Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalyst.

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About APPI 

The Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland (APPI) is a Professional Association comprised of members whose clinical work is based upon the practice of psychoanalysis and/or psychoanalytic psychotherapy from a Freudian-Lacanian perspective. Members of APPI work in various psychotherapeutic settings throughout Ireland – in the public and semi-state sector, not-for-profit organisations, universities, and in private practice. APPI is a member of the Psychoanalytic Section of the Irish Council for Psychotherapy.

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