About the Analyst: restorative art

My relationship to psychoanalysis goes back to the beginning of my career in public health.  Having first trained as an english teacher and having lasted shy of a few years in the static environment of a high school classroom.  I urgently became interested in character analysis which was only a short leap from the study of literary characters.  This pursuit was more of a necessity than a desire.  I was married and had two young children and the idea of having to make a living was urgently driven home.

The mid to late sixties fit my emerging personality.  Drugs were a fad, hippies provided the backdrop for experimenting with everything from sex to rock and roll.  As a result society seemed to have no idea what to do with this new generation and there appeared many opportunities to work, skilled and unskilled in social service centers.  I became a drug counselor and found myself, a young inexperienced man as an expert in meetings with mental health professionals.  It became clear to me that i was undereducated and began immediately to study  for a masters degree in counseling.

Of all the theories offered from reality, to gestalt to behavioral, I was drawn to the deeper psycho dynamic approach that allowed for a multitude of factors to be explored before any answers were provided.  My study of Literature had prepared me for the study of character and ultimately character disorder.

The normals neurotics as we referred to them at clinical intake meetings posed no interest for me.  However when a complicated, nearly psychotic, narcissistic case was being discussed I was ready to take the case.  I would nickname my cases (the charlestown cowboy) and the psychiatrist for whom I worked got the biggest kick out of the ease with which I handled the nearly crazy clients that I took on.  My becoming familiar with being with clients long before I became familiar with diagnostic criteria has served me well my entire professional life.  Many years later when my most influential mentor published an article titled, How we Aim To Be With Patients, I felt prepared to teach the course before the article was even finished.

I worked as a Professional Counselor and became one of the first people in Rhode Island to be credentialed as a Certified Licensed Mental Health Counselor.  However, I was bored.  My work felt routine and my supervisors all seemed righteous and gave off the feeling that at any cost we were better than our clients.  I worked in agencies that pretended to be staffed with the epitome mental health, we were treated like missionaries who were expected to give away our time for the good of the community and there was enough back biting competition to put on the Olympic games.

In 1986 I was introduced to modern psychoanalysis a relatively new branch of psychoanalysis that seemed to cull out the best of classical theory while placing itself at the forefront of developing a modern day technique.  I do not think I was bored one day in my life after becoming a member of that institute and that society.  My knowledge of human conditioning increased about as rapidly as did my grandiosity and my arrogance.  I took on the study of narcissism and aggression with a vengeance.  My practice grew and my self confidence as a clinician grew in exponential leaps.  There was an avid eloquence to analytic theory, and the seamless effort between the poetry of human dynamics and the science of analytic research gave me a sense that for the first time in my career, I could say that I knew the boiling point of water.

I was practicing the art of psychoanalysis while studying the science of the human condition.  I raveningly hated my individual analyst while I adored my major professor and my supervising analyst.  I was practicing, I was writing, I was supervising, I was  president of the local association for the advancement of psychoanalysis.  I lived on a farm and commuted to Providence to work and to Boston to study.  My life was full.

I am never certain who contributed most to my development, the analyst of my hate or the supervisor of my love.  Looking back it probably will always remain a mystery and perhaps can not be any more answered than whether it was the “x” chromosome or the “y” chromosome that most influence my DNA.

As a psychoanalyst I saw myself as a restorative artist.  A canvas came in to my study, torn and tattered and ripped and discolored.  It was my job not to alter the nature of the canvas, but to restore it as close as possible to its most essential self. This I needed to do while not disturbing the character of the piece of work before me.  I still find it fulfilling to tell someone that I do not do counseling or psychotherapy.  “I am a psychoanalyst,” I cry out, almost defensively.

“What’s that?” is the most frequent reply.  “It is an art and a science,” I tell them.  “It is a research method; it is a clinical method of treatment,” I say.   But, most importantly, I tell them, “it is a philosophy of life.”

Psychoanalysis alerts me to my unconscious wishes.  It informs me of the tremendously complicated dynamics involved in any and all relationships.  It has taught me that desire and vitality are the laws of attraction and it has also taught me that without the inverse of hate & aggression, we would be unable to know and experience the greatest of all joys, the ability to love.

In 1994, my major professor and mentor in chief, Dr. Phyllis Meadow, signed my dissertation, Language, Biology and Psychoanalysis:  an interface between linguistics and a modern psychoanalysis. Whenever I have an opportunity, and it does not appear too grandiose, I introduce myself as:  Dr. Albert Dussault.  The joy of achievement never leaves in those moments.

On some days I languish in that title and on some days I crawl and feel like an undeserving fraud.  But I will never have a need to regret even one moment of my analytic training.  It opened up for me all the possibilities that could not be know by a small boy who grew up in the rural country side by a babbling brook brought up by a loving mother & father and a grandmother who became the transference prototype for all of my desires which still invigorate my life with psychic creativity……………

Dr. A. L. Dussault

Charlestown, 2009

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4 comments on “About the Analyst: restorative art

  1. A philosophy of life! I love it. I believe it. I live it.

  2. Val says:

    I love learning more about you. How happy i am that you found such a deep and satisfying profession. My dream was to be a psychotherapist, never thinking to go beyond that. And I regret to this day that i never got that education, always held human service positions and often was bored out of my mind. A mind is a terrible thing to wast, and I believe I wasted mine.

    OK, where’s the Prozac?

    Hugs,
    val

  3. Marina Christina says:

    I’m glad I found you, I’ve been in this field for almost twenty years and you’re a breath of fresh air.
    You came in on the equinox. How fitting!
    I thank you.

  4. Harold G. Neuman says:

    Every story paints a picture. Looks like life has been good to you so far. I think many of us feel like frauds, from time to time—it is only if/when the feeling becomes stifling and pervasive, that we should worry. I recall what I was doing in 1986. I thought I had found the love of my life.

    But, she turned out to be a fraud, and shortly after she turned 34 (I was 37), she dumped me and married (in 1987), someone who was more like her ‘college friends.’ He was 42. Things changed for me when I turned 55. I became an armchair philosopher and amateur anthropologist. Much more satisfying than keeping up with someone’s college friends. Every story paints a picture. Yep.

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