Making Sense of Dementia: Psychoanalytic Perspectives

This conference is a bid to answer the question “What can psychoanalysis offer in the understanding and treatment of Dementia?”

Themes include:

  • Psychoanalytic theories of memory, emotion and mental fragmentation
  • Self-awareness? The nature of the unconscious processes in dementia
  • Safety blankets and containers? Carers’ emotional roller-coaster
  • Psychoanalytically-informed therapeutic interventions and programmes
  • Delusions, confabulations, persecutory anxiety, projective identification, etc.
  • Psychosomatic defences against pain and despair
  • The stigma surrounding dementia – collective repression?

We hope that the audience will be inspired by the experience of psychoanalysts who spend hours every day listening attentively to other people – immersed in thoughts and emotions, and attuned to the intra- and inter-psychic dynamics that they manage to interpret and work through. We believe that psychoanalytically informed ideas can offer an important framework for understanding the experience of dementia, and that the progressive character of the condition means that making sense of the unconscious processes, powerful emotions and interpersonal dynamics becomes the most important aspect of coping with it.

Penny Garner- Making a present of the past

Penny Garner is Founder and Clinical Director at Contented Dementia Trust. Penny’s work began as a direct result of her earlier experience gained whilst caring for her mother Dorothy, who was suffering from dementia. She then launched SPECAL as an independent charity based in the old community hospital in 2002, with the aim of promoting lifelong well-being for people with dementia. Penny has developed and refined a dedicated method of managing dementia called SPECAL, underpinned by the Photograph Album – an accessible tool to explain how memory works, the impact of ageing and a significant change introduced by dementia. It is described in detail in Contented Dementia, the best-selling book by Oliver James. Penny now lectures both at home and abroad and is currently developing a full Practitioner Training Programme to ensure her knowledge, skills and experience are passed onto others for the future.

Oliver Turnbull- Preservation of emotional-based learning despite profound amnesia

Oliver Turnbull is a neuropsychologist and a clinical psychologist, Professor at the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, and Pro Vice-Chancellor at Bangor University. He is the immediate past Editor of the Journal Neuropsychoanalysis, as well as Secretary of the International Neuropsychoanalysis Society, founded with the aim of reconciling psychoanalytic and neuroscientific perspectives on the mind. He was the recipient of the Clifford Yorke Prize in 2004. With Mark Solms, he wrote a book The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of Subjective Experience (2002) published by Karnac and was a contributing editor to From the Couch to the Lab: Trends in Psychodynamic Neuroscience (2012) published by Oxford University Press.

His wide-ranging research interests revolve around emotion and its many consequences for mental life, in particular the role of emotion in shaping cognition; emotion-based learning, and emotional aspects of memory and false beliefs. Among other things, he wrote about preserved emotion-based learning in Alzheimer’s disease.

Leave a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *