Dramatization, Improvisation in Psychoanalytic Field Theory

Dramatization, Improvisation in Psychoanalytic Field Theory: Forty Year in Search of Relational Metapsychology

Name(s) of Instructor(s) and Credentials: Philip Ringstrom, Ph.D., Psy.D.

Date(s) & Time(s) of classes: 12:00- 2:30; 9/21/19, 11/2/19, 12/7/19, 1/25/20, 3/28/20, 5/2/20

15 CEs (6 class periods = 15 hours of instruction)

Course Description

Following the organization of central manuscript being taught in this course, Part One (Sessions One and Two), will focus on how theoretical formulations of drama, narrative, and improvisational theory heighten candidates’ skills in assessing, analyzing and engaging the interactional field of any therapeutic session. It will further demonstrate how each therapy unwittingly involves the co-creation of “dramatic themes” which become patterns of repetition to be plumbed for moments of improvisational (novel) change. Part Two (Sessions Three and Four) will focus primarily on field theory, exploring how the field of each session is accessed and made interpretable through the activities of the right and left hemispheric processes of the brain. It will also show how varieties of truth emerge within and between the therapeutic participants, further giving shape to the interactions in the field, including what is revealed as “permissible” and “impermissible” to engage. Part Three (Sessions Five and Six) will focus on Relational Metapsychology. We will examine the impact of the radical shift in psychoanalysis from an epistemology grounded in psychic energy theory to information theory along with radical implications for theory of change and how clinical evidence is codified and understood in a dramatically different manner between the latter and the former.Though this organization of the course may seem linear, it will be quite non-linear, as the key ideas of each Part of the book, overlap one another. Hence, aspects of Relational Metapsychology will be introduced from the beginning in the context of drama, narrative, and improvisation as well as the field. The field will be conceived of analogously to the repetitive “dramatic stage.” And, drama, narrative and the playful aspect of improvisation will be used illustratively throughout the book.

Course Objectives per Session:

Session One 9/21/19:

  • Participants will learn how to apply a dramaturgical framework for assessing and analyzing what is occurring in the interactional of each therapy session. In so doing, they will learn how to cultivate the “play space” for effective treatment that Winnicott challenged analysts to create, although he never described how.
  • Expanding on objective #1, participants will learn the advantages of applying the rich theoretical system which drama avails to us in considering the therapeutic “field” as the ongoing, recurring “stage” of any analysis.


Session Two 11/2/19:

  • Additionally, they will be able to recognize and work creatively with how the therapeutic “field”, is occupied by themselves and their patient as “players” on a recurring “stage”. Along with recognizing their respective “characters”, they will be able recognize of the “sub-characters” which emerge in the therapy in accordance with a “multiple self-state” theory.
  • All of this coalesces in their capacity to delineate a co-created narrative. One which takes form in dramatic repetition, laying groundwork for the novelty of improvisation. The candidate’s utilization of this framework will powerfully augment their imaginative and creative engagement in the field. 

Session Three 12/7/19:

  • Candidates will be able to elucidate the bi-hemispherical distinctions of the brain in how it accesses what is going on in the therapeutic field. This pertain to information about the right hemisphere’s (RH) processing of the raw, experiential, largely non-verbal relationality of the field, in relationship to how the left hemisphere (LH) breaks down the RH’s experience into “measurable” parts which lend to prediction as well as making meaning of the field. The functions of the LH enable a greater sense of prediction and manipulation of one’s world.
  • Further, the participants will experience how in employing this framework, it will lends to a diminishment in their vulnerability to becoming judgmental. This will be especially useful in facilitating greater creativity in their use of “play” in the treatment.

Session Four 1/25/20:

  • Candidates will be better able to discern informational patterns of “constriction versus possibility” through their enhanced recognition of what is “permissible” versus “impermissible” to explore and analyze in any contemporaneous field. This capacity will be further enhanced through exposure to varieties of human communication theory that are especially germane to clinical process.
  • Augmenting #7 will be an analysis of how “rules of engagement” sometimes called the “frame” de facto play a role in determining patterns of constraint versus possibility. This will arise through candidates discernment of clinical “prescriptions” and “proscriptions” which emerge from clinical theories. Finally, we will investigate how processes like “enactments” serve a key function in revealing the heretofore concealed.

Session Five 3/28/20:

  • We will discuss key differences between Freud’s metapsychology based on psychic energy theory versus information processing theory, the basis for Relational Metapsychology. This discussionwill explore the radical shift in epistemology this brought to contemporary psychoanalysis, including its basic “theory of change”. Candidates will be able to discern 1st versus 2nd Order Change, as well as being more adept at effecting the latter from the former.
  • The radical shift in epistemology mentioned in #9 also exposes candidates two more key principles instantiated in information theory. The first, is that all the information needed to access change in the treatment is in the field of every therapeutic session. The second, pertains to how “nothing” (as a form of communication) can be just as powerful a source of causality as “something”. This might include, for example: the power of abstinence (for better and worse in clinical technique) as well as a way of making sense of informational “spaces” between “multiple self-states”.

Session Six 5/2/20:

  • We will discuss the basic information processing architecture of human beings pertaining to “modularity” in the human personality, including its understanding of multiple-self-states. These ideas will be instrumental in enabling the candidates discernment and interpretation of organizing principles, transference, and schemas as well as fleshing out features of the emerging therapeutic drama, its narrative.
  • Participants will be able to utilize the tenets of the Relational Metapsychology as a metatheoretical basis foremploying all theories of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, deciding which are better relative to their utility in a given therapeutic context.

Credibility of Program:

There are many, many psychotherapy paradigms, and most have technical features of treatment, largely borne out of the theory of mind upon which a therapy is founded. The purpose of this course, is to pose a meta-theoretical framework, founded on Relational Metapsychology which stipulates an information processing theory as its epistemological basis. This version of metapsychology represents the “bones” of the meta-theory as it is applied to my model of field theory. The ”flesh and blood” of this meta framework involves dramatology and narratology, both of which capture, in an enlivened way, how the therapy gradually takes on a meaningful form, based on repetitive themes, which then become subject to the novel change an improvisational method can promote. This framework can be applied to all theories and models of psychotherapy, and is especially efficacious to those that reside under the Big Tent of Relational Psychoanalysis. This is because it adheres to the therapeutic idea of the co-creativity of the dramatic characters of both therapist and client, their ineffably emergent relationship, as well as their recurrent themes. Ones which can be animated, explored, played with, and which ultimately lend to change in ways extremely consonant with what theory of drama has been offering culture for thousands of years.