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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Jan 10, 2021

Every individual reaction was specific and idiosyncratic – it was absolutely related to the previous experience. Even the symptoms that were formed could be understood as the reaction to adult trauma but shaped according to a childhood experience.”


Description: Dr. Harvey Schwartz welcomes Dr. Vladimir Jovic to today’s episode. Dr. Jovic is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Belgrade, Serbia, and since the early 90’s he has been working with refugees, war veterans, and victims of torture in former Yugoslavia.

In 1997, together with other colleagues, he established the Center for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (CRTV) in Belgrade, where they employed a variety of psychosocial programs that were developed in a framework of rehabilitation of torture victims.

Dr. Jovic was active in the development of independent mechanisms for the prevention of torture in places of detention such as prisons and psychiatric hospitals for the National Preventive Mechanism. Today he works as a consultant for the CRTV and has been newly appointed member of the board of trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.


In today’s conversation, Drs. Schwartz and Jovic discuss how an analyst can engage with those who have been involved in torture, the importance of psychosocial outreach and the importance of making sure the basic needs of these individuals are met. Dr. Jovic describes visiting the countryside, making contact with people who have been traumatized all of which embodies the work of psychoanalysts off the couch.


Today you will also hear about the role of political cultures facilitating the acting out of individual aggression, the usefulness and limitations of the label of PTSD, and the subject of current trauma and how it relates to childhood vulnerabilities.


Key takeaways:

[7:12] What it takes for someone to make it to a psychoanalyst’s office?

[8:27] How did Dr. Jovic learn to work with those involved in torture?

[12:10] Dr. Jovic shares the interventions he uses to engage with these traumatized patients.

[15:04] Dr. Jovic affirms that the reaction to war trauma is directly shaped by childhood experiences.

[17:30] Dr. Jovic shares an example to describe the importance of paying attention to the current trauma.

[18:55] The clinical value of PTSD.

[21:49] The event has to become traumatic in our psyche in order to notice PTSD symptoms.

[23:05] Dr. Jovic talks about how certain political cultures allow for the acting out of impulses.

[28:45] Dr. Jovic talks about the consequences of torture.

[33:45] Dr. Jovics dives deep into the need to rehumanize the lives of the victims of torture and war survivors.

[35:27] What the narratives of the victims unveil.

[37:05] The question that can help an analyst engage with veterans: “What did you do in war that you wished you hadn’t?”

[39:59] Dr. Jovic talks about the thin line between victims and perpetrators.

[40:35] Dr. Jovic shares how at the beginning veterans use to resist treatment since the analyst was not in war and did not have what takes to understand.

[41:35] Dr. Jovic talks about the circumstances that led him to his field of expertise.


Mentioned in this episode:

IPA Off the Couch


Recommended Readings:

Špirić, Ž., Knežević, G., Jović, V., & Opačić, G. (2004). Torture in War, Consequences and Rehabilitation of Victims: Yugoslav experience. Belgrade: IAN-International Aid Network.


Opačić, G., Jović, V., Radović, B., & Knežević, G. (2006). Redress in action: Consequences of forcible mobilization of refugees in 1995. Belgrade: International Aid Network.


Jović, V. (2017). Kriegstrauma, Migration und ihre Konsequenzen. In M. Leuzinger-Bohleber, U. Bahrke, S. Hau, T. Fischmann, & S. Arnold (Eds.), Flucht, Migration und Trauma: Die Folgen für die nächste Generation (pp. 175–198). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht GmbH & Co.


Jovic, V., Varvin, S., Rosenbaum, B., Fischmann, T., Leuzinger-Bohleber, M., & Hau, S. (2018). Sleep Studies in Serbian Victims of Torture: analysis of traumatic dreams. In E. Vermetten, T.

C. Neylan, M. Kramer, & S. R. Pandi-Perumal (Eds.), Sleep and Combat-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. Springer Science.


Jović, V. (2018). Working with Traumatized Refugees on the Balkan Route. Int J Appl Psychoanal Studies, 187 – 201.


Varvin, S., Fischmann, T., Jovic, V., Rosenbaum, B., & Hau, S. (2012). Traumatic dreams: symbolization gone astray. In P. Fonagy, H. Kächele, M. Leuzinger-Bohleber, & D. Taylor (Eds.), The significance of dreams. Bridging Clinical and Extraclinical Research in Psychoanalysis (pp.

182–211). London: Karnac Books.


Jović, V. (in press). Refugees, Torture, and Dehumanization. In D. Bughra (Ed.), Oxford Textbook of Migrant Psychiatry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.