Chengdu: A kaleidoscope of events
I had dinner last night with a friend, a psychiatrist getting his PhD, (his doctoral dissertation is on PTSD with a series of 3000 prisoners). He is back here to work in the Disaster region. He had come in in the first days after the earthquake with the Army at the request of the government. He had asked a colleague of his to join us, (himself, myself and an American analyst disaster expert, Jeff Taxman). The friend arrived and we went through the lovely Chinese custom of handing each other our cards with both hands, receiving them with both hands and reading them carefully. I looked at his. “0ooh, you are Jie”—some one I had never met but had been emailing back and forth for a couple of years. He grinned at my shock.
He had especially wanted to see me. He was starting a two-year training program at a University in the Disaster region (In China today the number of universities grows every minute. My friends here, mainly academics, have to call to find out where universities are in their own city that they have never heard of, universities with 10-20,000 students.) His training program (masters degree) will teach all modalities of psychotherapy. There will be no tuition. The students will come from the Disaster area and will sign a contract to return to their villages and towns to work for 5 years. Out comes his laptop amid all of our cell phones, Blackberries, platters of food. He showed me his curriculum and suggested we collaborate. Could CAPA teach the psychodynamic courses? One of the courses is called something like the Importance of English for learning and doing psychotherapy. He will have them read one paper in English a week. Jie has PEPWEB.
A few days ago I visited the Department of Psychiatry at the Sichuan University Medical School. I have tried for a number of years to make contact with them. They have not been interested. This invitation was arranged by a member of our local CAPA group, a woman in treatment and supervision with CAPA, not a mental health professional. She works for a corporation that has given her time off to work in the Disaster region where she goes almost every day with a team from the medical school. She has been teaching them about what to do with children. She convinced the department of psychiatry to see me. On our way there she warned me not to talk about psychoanalysis, to talk only about the Mercy Corps Children’s workbook (Gil Kliman’s) and about the Disaster trainer that CAPA had brought to town. Both psychiatrists spoke excellent English. They listened to my spiel somewhat impatiently and said, yes yes we want both the child trainings and the general disaster training, but we hear that you have a two-year training course in psychotherapy. Tell us about it. I did—“Don’t you have a brochure? No but I will send you a description of the curriculum (Linn Campbell’s and others’ work). We definitely would like if you can arrange that for us here. We know nothing about psychotherapy we want it for our younger faculty and residents. We will need it even more now after the earthquake. The tuition is high ($3000/student/year) I told them that we are trying to raise scholarship money. They grinned and said Maybe something good will come from the Earthquake. You will be able to convince people to donate scholarship money for us poor suffering people in Sichuan. We laughed and shook hands. They were my kind of people.
This last weekend there were many two and three day Disaster training sessions, I had a part in arranging three of them. One was sponsored by the Young Communist League in cooperation with EAP, a private company where I had given lectures in previous years. The other was arranged by members of the local CAPA group. A Buddhist businessman friend of one of them had paid Jeff’s fare. There were two hundred Buddhists at that one, many of them monks in their robes, from Sichuan and other provinces. Is this your picture of Chins? An American, working with a private Chinese company, invited by the Young Communist League? A Buddhis businessman, paying the airfare of an American psychoanalyst and robed Buddhist monks receiving Disaster training from him?
The Chinese government has thrown a huge amount of manpower, supplies etc into the Disaster area. Every one is now sheltered, in tents and other places, those without cooking facilities are being fed, there is clean water, there are no epidemics, and schools are reopening in tents and other temporary buildings. Every American I have met here asks-“Why couldn’t we have done that in New Orleans?” The government has, for about 4-6 years been aware of the need for more mental health professionals and has opened schools of counseling, sent psychologists abroad to study best practices, etc. In their usual way they will now probably try to open many many schools of psychotherapy. The problem as my Chinese colleagues are aware is that they do not have the clinical teachers for these schools. I believe that the Sino-German group, which has been teaching psychoanalysis in China for 15-20 years, has funding from the Volkswagen Foundation. I think that the Norwegian and Swedish analysts also receive some support from foundations or their governments. I do not know for sure. CAPA runs on the $25/year dues of its members and on all the analysts and psychotherapists who are paid the munificent fee of $4-$8/session (many of them donate their fees to CAPA), who come to China paying their own way to teach supervise, and work with their patients in person. I want to thank them for having made all this possible
As I was walking down the street with a Chinese colleague, she ran into two friends on the street She introduced us and the women thanked me “Who were they?” “Counselors at XYZ University. They had heard about you.” (China is a very very small place—at least the mental health community). She said that they ran the local hotline. The Youth Hotline was started about 25 years ago by a journalist. It now has hundreds of volunteers all over China some of whom are mental health people, others they train. I lectured there three years ago and have become friendly with one of their volunteers an English professor in Beijing sShe is Chinese) with a counseling degree. She and her graduate students have worked on the translation of Gil Kliman’s children’s’ workbook. In a few days, she is going to Boston where her parents live—(I don’t know why they are there) and she and I plan to meet midway between Boston and New York for lunch.
When the women on the street thanked me, I said, as I have learned to do in China, “It is my pleasure.” And indeed it is. My work here, both with CAPA and with the Earthquake Relief, has been an extraordinary opportunity: to become a small part of a world I did not know, to meet wonderful people, to do something very very useful here in China and, I had hoped, for psychoanalysis and psychoanalysts in America. I will light a candle to Saint Rita. Ubaldo Leli, the Vice President of CAPA tells me she is the saint of lost causes.