Spring Brunch Series - You Saved My Feet: Psychotherapy with a Homeless Man

  • 29 Jan 2012
  • 11:00 AM - 3:45 PM
  • Haverford College Dining Center - Bryn Mawr Room
  • 0


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You Saved My Feet: Psychotherapy with a Homeless Man

Sunday, January 29, 2012 at Haverford College

Presenter - Dennis Debiak, Psy.D.

  • Followed by a focus group co-sponsored by Philadelphia Center for Psychoanalytic Education (PCPE) concerning our potential to undertake new community service initiatives 
  • With generous support from Haverford College Counseling and Psychological Services & Jane C. Widseth, Ph.D.

This presentation describes the supervision of a thirty-year-old advanced doctoral student, Mary, as she worked with “Gabe,” a thirty-three-year old, formerly homeless man. After frostbite necessitated the amputation of his toes and forefeet, he entered a residence where staff eventually connected him with Mary through Dr. Deborah Luepnitz’s Insight For All (IFA) project. The work presented enormous challenges as Mary felt deeply moved by Gabe, but also overwhelmed and repulsed at times.  She felt torn between her desire to push him toward more medical care and her belief in honoring the patient’s own wishes. Working with his dreams, artwork and attending closely to the transference and countertransference relationships allowed the treatment to proceed in a slow but salutary way.  This presentation illustrates how Winnicott’s (1971) idea of holding/impingement, Davies’ (1996) work on dissociation and Aron’s (1996) description of mutuality in the context of asymmetry were useful concepts that helped guide this work. 

The focus group following the presentation will gauge the level of interest and potential participation by members of our local psychoanalytic community in various community service projects (e.g., the possible development of a new clinic to provide psychoanalytic treatment and training, expanding existing efforts to facilitate access to psychoanalytic treatment in non-traditional contexts, etc.).  The event will also be a brainstorming session to solicit input from participants about potentially viable civic engagement initiatives.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of this program, participants will:

  1. Understand the psychological factors that contribute to homelessness.
  2. Be able to apply psychoanalytic concepts to understanding and working clinically with homeless and formerly homeless people.   

Dennis Debiak, Psy.D. , is a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Philadelphia and Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.  He is a founding board member and one of the first graduates of the Institute for Relational Psychoanalysis of Philadelphia (IRPP).  He teaches courses in clinical supervision and coordinates the Psychoanalytic Collective at Widener University’s Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology.  He is a proud member of Insight For All (IFA).  

11:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M.  Brunch

11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M.    Presentation and Discussion

1:45 P.M. to 3:45 P.M.     Focus Group

Haverford College Dining Center - Bryn Mawr Room

Campus map that includes buildings and parking lots.

Please note: Parking spaces reserved for faculty and staff are open on weekends.  


This program is intended for mental health professionals with an intermediate level of knowledge and experience. It is not limited to individuals practicing in a predominately psychoanalytic mode.

PSPP and Division 39 are committed to conducting all activities in strict conformity with the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles for Psychologists. If you believe that a violation of ethics has occurred during these presentations, of if you have concerns about such issues as handicapped accessibility, distress with regard to program content or other complaints, please contact Dr. Patricia Rice at (267) 259-6816 or email ricepg@gmail.com. Participants with special needs will be accommodated if possible. For any questions or other concerns regarding access, confidentiality, privacy or other issues, please contact Jay Moses, Ph.D. at (267) 254-0791 or email mjaymoses@gmail.com.  There is no commercial support for this program nor are there any relationships between the CE sponsor, presenting organization, presenter, program content, research, grants or other funding that could reasonably be construed as conflict of interest. During the program, the presenter will discuss the validity/utility of the content/approach as well as the limitations of the approach and most common risk factors, if any.

Continuing Education

PSYCHOLOGISTS: This program is offered for 2 continuing education credits (2.0 CE). Participants must attend 100% of the program, but are not required to stay for the the focus group. Upon completion of a conference evaluation form, a certificate will be issued. This serves as documentation of attendance for all participants. Psychologists will have their participation registered through Division 39. Division 39 is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for Psychologists.  Division 39 maintains responsibility for the program and its content.

SOCIAL WORKERS:  Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors in Pennsylvania can receive continuing education from continuing education providers approved by the APA.  Since PSPP is approved by APA to sponsor continuing education, licensed social workers, licensed clinical social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists, and licensed professional counselors will be able to fulfill their continuing education requirement by attending PPA continuing education programs.

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