An interview with Saybrook Alumnus Maurice Apprey

Dr. Maurice Apprey
Dr. Maurice Apprey

In addition to studying under Amedeo Giorgi at Saybrook, Maurice Apprey studied under Anna Freud.  Today he has a full Professorship of psychiatry at the University of Virginia where he is a member of the Academy of Distinguished Educators at the School of Medicine. He also serves as a training and supervising psychoanalyst at the Contemporary Freudian Society in Washington, DC, a component of the International Psychoanalytic Association. We asked Dr. Apprey how his studies evolved over the years.

Tell us of your experience as a student of Anna Freud and Amedeo Giorgi and what motivated you to study at Saybrook?

Dr. Apprey: Three memories of Anna Freud; that is, two statements and her words accompanying a decisive intervention at a diagnostic meeting over which she presided continue to ring in my ears some thirty five years after training at the Anna Freud Centre for the Psychoanalytic Study and Treatment of Children in London. The first is: “When the thought is clear, the words will be clear.” The second is: “A theory is nothing but something to stand on. Therefore, if there is psychic harmony, there is no need for a theory of conflict.” Thirdly, at a diagnostic meeting attended by both students and faculty, an eight year old boy was being assessed with a view to treatment. After a series of “brilliant” diagnostic and metapsychological observations by faculty and students, Anna Freud asked the clinicians to pause with the following question: “Has anyone noticed that this eight year old child cannot read?” In other words how can one unpack the multifaceted meanings of symptom formation when a symptom is driven by proto-symbolic ways of thinking, etc.? After a pregnant pause, she asked if there were child psychoanalysts with a background in special education in the room. A faculty member and a student raised their hands. She asked the student to take six months to teach the child to read and under the supervision of the faculty member. After that, we would return to study the conscious and unconscious meanings of pathological formation.  I want to use these statements and the story above to demonstrate two things: a philosophical pragmatism that guided her thinking and a tendency to go from context to interpretation, invariably allowing description to precede interpretation.

If description must precede interpretation, what tradition gives the best accounts of pure description of phenomena that give themselves to perception? Further studies of the subject’s intersubjective constitution of phenomena drove my search for Amedeo Giorgi who was then teaching in Montreal. He planned to move to San Francisco the following year and therefore asked me to wait until he joined the faculty at Saybrook. From then on, I would come to study the French reception of German phenomenology; going from Husserl to Merleau-Ponty, Bachelard, and others. I would come to translate Georges Politzer from 1928 French into English in order to grasp what Politzer called “concrete psychology.”

How has your goal changed from when you began your studies to the present time?

Dr. Apprey: My studies with Andy Giorgi led me to study the performative philosophy,  that is philosophy that does things, of additional French phenomenologists like Badiou, Marion, Nancy and Romano who extend the work of phenomenology into the hermeneutic sphere without departing radically from Husserl.

My studies with Denis Jaffe led me to pursue a second doctorate, a doctor of management (DM) degree from the Wetherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio where I focused on social change management.

There were other influential faculty members. Nevertheless, Andy Giorgi, Denis Jaffe, and Marcia Salner stand out as champions of psychology as a human science in the program of studies I pursued at Saybrook.

The result of my integrated studies between psychoanalysis, phenomenology and social change management is that I accommodate two pivotal perspectives. First, human beings are too complex to be understood from one lens and therefore I must be ready, when necessary, to approach the study of human beings with nuance and from at least three dimensions. Secondly, I must approach the study of the human subject from internal fields of experience to external fields of experience; and, in reverse from the external to the internal.

Posted at 02:55 PM

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