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Psychoanalytic Play: Improvising in the Emerging Dramatic Narrative of Treatment (Philip Ringstrom, Ph.D., Psy.D., Los Angeles)

  • 19 Mar 2023
  • 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
  • Virtual


Registration is closed


This presentation provides a model of psychoanalytic play in which unintended and spontaneous moments of play unfold, giving rise to unique forms of  preconscious communication between patient and therapist. These unpredictable moments of play bridge primary and secondary processes of both the analytic  participants’ minds, communicating unique and heretofore unimagined possibilities in the therapy. They therefore bypass the more typically constrained modes of communication that occur in the therapeutic field—ones that

often reflect the dominating and constraining influence of therapeutic theory on practice in the treatment. There are many ways in which theory, as well as other factors, unwittingly exert a kind of influence that prejudicially dictates what will likely be attended to or not. This model of play will be described and illustrated through case material, as well as through mini-demonstrations of clinical material that audience members may wish to provide.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this presentation, participants will be able to…

1. Differentiate play from more constrained forms of therapeutic communication and discuss the advantages of play.

2. Distinguish between first and second-order change in the therapy process and discuss the role of play in second-order change.

3. Describe how cultivating play in the therapeutic field leads to greater experiences of personal and relational freedom.


Philip Ringstrom, Ph.D., Psy.D. is a Senior Training and Supervising Analyst and Faculty Member at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, California. He is a founding member of the Board of Directors of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, as well as a member of the International Council of Self-Psychologists. He is on the editorial boards of Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Psychoanalytic Perspectives, and Psychoanalysis: Self and Context. He has published over 60 articles, chapters,

and reviews and has presented at conferences all over the world. His book A Relational Psychoanalytic Approach to Conjoint Therapy won the 2014 Goethe Award in psychoanalysis. He is currently writing a new book titled Psychoanalytic Play: Dramatization, Narration, and Improvisation in Field Theory and Metapsychology. Phil and his wife Marcia Steinberg, Psy.D. have their psychoanalytic private practices in their home in Encino, CA.


Mitchell, S. A. (1997). Influence and autonomy in psychoanalysis. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press.

Ringstrom, P.A. (2022). The transitional medium of the not yet spoken [Conference presentation]. International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherap18 th Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA, United States.

Ringstrom, P.A. (in press). Drama and narration: The architecture of psychoanalytic play. Psychoanalytic Inquiry.

Ringstrom, P.A. (in press). Psychedelics and psychoanalysis: A conversation long overdue. Psychoanalytic Dialogues.

Winnicott, D. W. (1971). Playing and reality. Tavistock.

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