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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Mar 18, 2020

The experience that we are all feeling of ‘Are we or are we not subject to or have we been in contact with someone who might have Corona that eventually might result in our developing an infection?´ is very much the same as a cancer patient who has gone for investigation of some kind of lesion which is yet unknown and to be further diagnosed and brought to some sort of resolution.”


Description: Harvey Schwartz welcomes Dr. Norman Straker who is an analyst on the faculty of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. He is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Weill Cornell College in Medicine and is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. Straker is one of the original faculty members of the first psycho-oncology program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and he pioneered the development of the mentioned specialty. Within that field, he has created two films that illustrate the psychological issues facing doctors, patients, and family members who confront cancer. Dr. Straker chairs the discussion group at the American Psychoanalytic Association entitled Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy of Patients with Cancer.

Dr. Straker edited a book named Facing Cancer and The Fear Of Death: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Treatment and has two articles in press for the Journal of Psychodynamic Psychiatry, one about the treatment for cancer patients who survive and the other on the treatment of patients who died.

In this episode, you will hear Dr. Straker talking about his work in psycho-oncology. He will also share his perspective about the Covid -19 crises that we are all involved with. He discusses the similarity we are all facing with those patients who are nervously waiting for some clarity about their cancer diagnosis.


Key takeaways:

[5:10] Dr. Straker shares the similarities he has found between cancer patients and either potential or actual patients struggling with Covid-19.

[8:17] We are all at risk and dealing with uncertainty.

[9:44] Dr. Straker shares a case example of a patient that has recently been diagnosed with Covid-19.

[12:43] The effects of the confrontation with mortality.

[13:13] Dr. Straker talks about the crucial importance of tolerating uncertainty.

[18:36] The patient’s acknowledgment of a having a short life term, makes therapy move very quickly.

[21:40] Dr. Straker explains the usual defenses for death anxiety.

[23:08] What is death anxiety?

[24:41] Dr. Straker shares how he got involved in psycho-oncology.



Mentioned in this episode:

IPA Off the Couch


Recommended Readings:

Straker, N. Psychodynamic Psychodynamic Psychiatry for Patients with Cancer: Survivorship Journal of Psychodynamic Psychiatry 47(4)403-324 2019. The American Academy of Psychodynamic Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis.


Straker, N. Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: The Treatment of Cancer Patients Who Die, Journal of Psychodynamic Psychiatry, March 2020 in the publication The American Academy of Psychodynamic Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis.


Facing Cancer and The Fear Of Death, A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Treatment, Rowman & Littlefield