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Despite the lockdown our Year 12 A Level Psychology students had an 'online' trip to the Freud Museum in London.

Year 12 Psychology students had an amazing opportunity to take part in an online webinar, offered by the Freud Museum, to a free talk by renowned psychoanalyst Haya Oakley. 

Psychology teacher, Alison Yates said: "It was a rare insight into the psychoanalytic approach to schizophrenia and an opportunity to quiz Haya about her work. Haya Oakley has been practising psychoanalysis in London since 1968. She was a member of the Philadelphia Association, where she worked for many years with antipsychiatry legend R. D. Laing to train psychotherapists and run therapeutic communities. She is a founding member of the Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis, a founding member of the College of Psychoanalysts-UK, a member of the Guild of Psychotherapists and Honorary Fellow of the UKCP."

Below, our students share their experiences:

Erin Harte said: "It opened my eyes a lot to schizophrenia as it is a subject I knew very little about before this afternoon. I think one of the things I found most interesting is the way that in psychoanalysis, schizophrenia is viewed more as a different reality for the patient and I loved the idea that for most people, they are putting on a play on a stage as their lives and they have the main role, however for a schizophrenic, they are the stage."

Maia Wates added: "The webinar was really interesting. This was a topic that particularly sparked my interest, and the speaker raised a few points about how people suffering from Schizophrenia are in a ‘different world’ to us, and it made me really curious on how their ‘world’ and perception of reality actually differs from ‘us’. It made me think because I wouldn't like thinking or perceiving things differently from the majority of people around me and I really wonder what this is like for them, whether it is just normal or if they feel really isolated in the sense that they have a different mindset to us.

Haya told a story where a man was sitting at the breakfast table and staff were walking past asking him how he was or if he was cold (as he was wearing all of his shirts) and he did not even notice the people talking to him, so their minds must be incredibly strong to keep them from even hearing noise around them and I’d like to find out more about how they get into that state as it seems to take over their awareness which is really strange to me! I also personally think this webinar experience was a really good new opportunity for me, learning about things I know nothing about from a professional, live on my screen, it was eye opening to what else I can learn outside of my school work.

My only criticism was, from the perspective of a student who has not heard of the speaker before, that she spoke a lot about herself and her career rather than actual psychology which I didn’t expect, never the less she was still obviously really knowledgeable about schizophrenia and was passionate about her subject which made her a good speaker.  She was also clear with what she was saying, so it was simple to understand and keep up with what she was saying. Lastly, I liked how she spent a lot of time answering people’s questions, and when she did she went into a lot of detail and made sure she did it properly which was really good as learning from other people’s questions is a good way to help you think about the topic in your own mind. She left me wanting to learn more about the mystery of the minds of schizophrenics, which hopefully was her aim anyway!"

Olive Amin said: "The speaker, Haya Oakley, explained psychoanalysis and Schizophrenia through her own stories of real life cases; I found this very useful as it made it seem more relatable. I found it very interesting when she was talking about the 2 categories in the DSM about paranoid people. The first was that they were incapable of accepting that other people may have a different opinions on a subject. The second was that people who are not paranoid have a private world, the one in our head, and are also aware of the public world. Whereas people who are paranoid the private world is also the public. This made me think about what makes the paranoid person unable to distinguish between the two.

I also found it incredibly thought-provoking when Haya Oakley started commenting on how she takes each case differently, she does not just assume based on other people’s comments. She also questions whether just because the DSM states they are abnormal who really decides that that it is wrong or “abnormal” to be different. The 4 paradoxes of paranoid people are that the paranoid is logical. Usually the person who is paranoid perceives well, they don’t look or seem any different to anyone else. The fundamental assumption is no different to society at large, for example every mental hospital in the world will have someone who claims to be Jesus Christ. This I found incredibly interesting because so many people believe in different religions around the world and yet these ideas are not seen to be ‘abnormal behaviour’, they have just been integrated into society. Overall I found the webinar very interesting and thought-provoking."

Nia Burkinshaw added: "One of the areas of the talk that I found particularly interesting is how Haya talked about what the role of a psychodynamic psychologist is, as arbiters of reality, with the schizophrenic patient. What she meant by this was, that her role was to learn and understand the patient’s individual perception of reality; as she put it, build a dictionary of their ‘language.’ This really stuck with me, as I, like many others, when we discussed it after, felt that this was distinctly different to other treatments for mental health, particularly biological treatment using drugs, which lacks the individual approach, and avoids understanding the patient personally. As with all mental health disorders, everybody experiences them slightly differently.

The other interesting point that she addresses is how a schizophrenic differs from a person with beliefs that may be considered extreme. She explained that it common amongst schizophrenic patients to believe they are Jesus, which we see as a mental condition, however there are a huge number of religious people who do believe in Jesus’s reincarnation. She pointed out that we don’t label them as any mentally different, consequently the lines are blurred as to what is a schizophrenic belief and what is not. One of the key ways that Haya distinguishes between the two, is how well the person can consider other beliefs, as a characteristic of schizophrenia is an incapability to be aware and recognise that others do have different beliefs, and perceptions, and accept the fact that they are different. Nevertheless, it brings us back to the important topic of how we define abnormal in mental health."

Vlada Gherciu commented: "Some factual info regarding characteristics of people with SCZ and paranoia:

Paranoia traits:

  • Paradox : patients are highly logical & perceptive
  • Incapable of doubt (difference to racist /fanatic who are 100% certain of own ideas but understand that other people may not think the same) – no evidence can change views.
  • Treat private world as if public – assumes everyone aware of inner knowledge.
  • Much of psychiatric diagnosis relies on the perception of reality. A notion of SCZ – out of touch with reality. Diagnosis relies on the psychologist’s perception of reality.

SCZ

  • Problem with embodiment – don’t experience a binding agent (“More there is of clothing the less there is of the man”)
  • A lack of sense of self – knowing we are somebody :
  • Art not pronounced, writing free flowing – no punctuation … no associations
  • Treatment: drugs + some psychotherapy"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of the Freud Museum

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