Outline for a Psychoanalysis with Communitarian Perspective

Lic. Genaro Velarde Bernal


Thinking about psychoanalytic practice and its relationship with the wide and complex field of ‘the communitarian’ imposes a necessary and unavoidable task. Carrying out this enterprise requires us to turn our gaze to the Freudian proposal of a Psychoanalysis accessible to the popular sectors, a Psychoanalysis as an instrument of understanding and social transformation: 

If Psychoanalysis, with its scientific significance, has value as therapeutic method; if it´s in conditions to assist suffering beings in the struggle for the achievement of cultural requirements, this help must be also available to the multitude of human beings who are too poor to reward the analyst his hard work. (Freud, 1923, p. 290)

Although ‘community’ and ‘communitarian’ aren’t rooted notions in the psychoanalytic theoretical corpus (which also occurs with social concepts such as ‘social vulnerability’, ‘social exclusion’, ‘social inequality’, etc.), it can only be positive that, for a long time, we hear more frequently the expression ‘the psychoanalyst in the community’. 

In an attempt to delimit the intersection point of the psychoanalytic practice and ‘the communitarian’ field, it has been useful to me to reserve the denominations ‘Communitarian Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalysis with communitarian perspective or with a social-communitarian perspective’ to all the field of our discipline (to the practice and interventions, to the metapsychology and the technique derived from it) that has as its axis the subjects who live in poverty (or extreme poverty), who are invaded by multiple vulnerabilities, to those who are homeless and those whom their living conditions could be understood as a mental and social emergency, all of them roots of unbearable sufferings and of many of the complex psychosocial problems that afflict an important part of the population.   
But, is it necessary to speak of a ‘Psychoanalysis with communitarian perspective’? If a psychoanalyst does Psychoanalysis: why simply not call it Psychoanalysis?
The practice that takes place in territory [1] and with the population as I have described requires, on the one hand, a specific listening (as happens when we intervene with adolescents, psychotics, in the virtuality and gender perspective) and, on the other hand, for the analyst to pay attention to certain considerations that constitute an ethical-therapeutic axis (Velarde Bernal, 2020) fundamental for any intervention in this conditions and social contexts: 1) the analysis of the analyst´s preconceptions/prejudices or the analysis of the analyst as a social subject (as a potentially stigmatizing subject); 2) the necessary hypercomplex [2] understanding of human subjectivity, which includes not only biological, psychological and social dimensions, but also cultural, economic, communitarian and political [3] dimensions; 3) the flexibility of the consulting room and the analytic device: it´s possible to produce psychoanalytic experience where there is a psychoanalyst willing to psychoanalyze and a subject suffering mentally and socially willing to adventure into a treatment, which can happen within four walls, or not. 
In addition, the analyst who works with vulnerable populations, and in complex social contexts must not lose sight of (and a part of the analytical position derives form this) the fact that his intervention is part of a continuous reflection on the assistance/welfare: the analytic practice only produces offshoots in the field of assistance, not welfare. However, tension is inherent to the community approach. 
Psychoanalysis, as a communitarian practice, fully preserves its uniqueness: the work on subjectivity, unconscious processes and multiple derived sufferings; the commitment with the co-construction of a place where the question, the word, the desire and the affections circulate, always on the basis of a transferential, horizontal and a trust bond; the upkeep of full respect to the other one uniqueness and to his rights.
From our position, and with full conviction of what our instrument contributes, psychoanalysts intervene in popular sectors as agents that operate on deepest effects of poverty, social exclusion and marginality; on the suffering dimension associated to the violent denial from the Other/State and Other/Social and on the impact of all this in the constitution of subjectivities, on the construction of themselves subjective circuits (Velarde Bernal, 2019), in the modalities of bonding and enjoyment. We intervene by housing [4] the sufferings associated with the unworthiness, the hopelessness and desperation produced by those ways of intense overextended living these subjects have been thrown. ‘Housing’ is also to validate their discourses, their affections and the mental, social and corporal sufferings. 

Poverty, inequality, social exclusion and a large number of associated complex psychosocial problems, are imposed as an urgency to be resolved by States, institutions and the society in general.

Mental health professionals (specially psychoanalysts) have an important responsibility in this task. I think that our discipline loses his course if the produced knowledge can't be available to the enormous number of people without access to quality (mental) health services and with many of their rights violated.

[1 Territorial work is one of the pillars of any intervention that boasts of being communitarian; it implies to adopt an active position, approaching the device to the subjects.
[2 This multidimensionality requires networking: with institutions, professionals and with neighborhood and community references. It´s an intersectoral work:  the psychoanalyst weaving with others.
[3] ‘There is no thinkable mental health when the subject is excluded from his condition as a political man (…)’ (Viñar, 2009, p. 42).
[4] See Weigandt et al. (2017): housing in psychoanalytic terms implies, at least, to offer a feasible desire to be interrogated.

Freud, S (1988). Prólogo a un trabajo de Max Eitingon. En J. L. Etcheverry (Traduc.), Obras completas: Sigmund Freud (Vol. 19, p.  290). Buenos Aires: Amorrortu. (Original work published 1923).
Velarde Bernal, G. (2019). El ‘pibe chorro’ y su escena delictiva. Psicoanálisis, Volume 41, No. 1 y 2, 2019, pp. 191-206.
Velarde Bernal, G. (2020). ¿Psicoanálisis y comunidad o psicoanálisis comunitario? Pensando la intervención psicoanalítica en contextos de vulnerabilidad psicosocial. Psicoanálisis Volume XLII, No. 1 y 2, 2020, pp. 315-333. 
Viñar, M. (2009). Mundos Adolescentes y vértigo civilizatorio. Montevideo: Ediciones Trilce.
Weigandt, P.; Pavelka, G; La Veccia, M.  (2017). Universidad, psicoanálisis y posicionamiento comunitario. In El Hormiguero: Psicoanálisis: Infancia/s y Adolescencia/s; Volumen 21, 1, 2017. Accessed December de 2019, at  http://revele.uncoma.edu.ar/htdoc/revele/index.php/psicohormiguero/article/view/1960/58362

Translation: Genaro Velarde Bernal

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