MCPP Monthly Meeting


Michigan Council for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy



Reckoning with Painful Truths in Psychotherapy and Climate Change Awareness

by David Klein, Ph.D.


The Michigan League, Henderson Room, Ann Arbor, MI

September 15, 2019

11:00 am - 1:00pm

No registration needed


Facing painful personal truths is difficult for our clients, and facing painful truths regarding the climate change crisis is difficult for the public. In this paper, I will examine the coping mechanism of disavowal of unpleasant personal and external realities, and the difficulties in moving from disavowal to a full recognition, or reckoning, with these difficult realities. Writings on this subject by Sandor Ferenczi, Heinz Hartmann, Harold Searles, and others will be reviewed. This will be followed by discussion of disavowal in which I will utilize concepts of affect intolerance, fantasy distortions, and pathological narcissism. I will then shift to examining the topic of disavowal and recognition in terms of open systems theory, which is a framework introduced into psychoanalysis by developmentalists. I will utilize concepts such as psychobiological consciousness (Ed Tronick), specificity of fittedness (Louis Sander), intersubjective moments of meeting (Daniel Stern), and consciousness raising. Clinical and personal anecdotes will be included throughout the paper to illustrate disavowal and recognition.


David B. Klein, Ph.D., is former president of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Council, and current Treasurer of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Council Foundation. He practices psychoanalysis and psychotherapy with adults, as well as children, adolescents, and their parents. He has written papers on a variety of topics, including: Revitalizing Oedipus (with Evangeline Spindler, M. D.) (Psychoanalytic Social Work, 2006); Four Modes of Listening in Psychotherapy (MPC Bulletin, 2006); The Therapist’s Patience (MPC Bulletin, 2007); The Concept of Psychological Safety in Development and Treatment (MPC Bulletin, 2010); Providing Psychological Safety in Clinical Practice: Clinical Examples (MPC Bulletin, 2011); The Developmental Partnership in Treatment (Presentation to MPC, 2013); and The Self-Analyst at Work (MPC Bulletin, 2015). 


Upon completion of this program attendees will be able to:

  1. Identify key aspects of disavowal as a psychological coping device, and understand the differences between disavowal, denial, repression, and compartmentalization.
  2. Identify disavowal during psychotherapy, and understand various methods to help clients move forward toward full recognition.
  3. Identify disavowal regarding the climate change crisis, and understand how disavowal might be altered toward a more cohesive, psychobiological recognition of the climate crisis.


1) Grubrich-Simitis, I. (2010). Reality testing in place of interpretation: A phase in psychoanalytic work with descendants of holocaust survivors. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 79, 37-69.
2) Orange, D. (2017 ). Climate crisis, psychoanalysis, and radical ethics. Routledge: NY
3) Lifton, R. (2017). The climate swerve. New Press: NY 

 Questions?  Please email David Freiband, Ph.D., V.P. for Programs, at



Michigan Council for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (MCPP) is an independent, contemporary training institute founded on feminist principles and open to diverse theoretical perspectives.  We offer a positive professional community and welcome colleagues from within and without the psychoanalytic community to join us for our free monthly programs and classes. Monthly programs include continental breakfast.

This presentation is open to all interested persons, regardless of their level of experience or knowledge of psychoanalysis. There is no registration needed for our Sunday presentations.

Two social work CEUs and psychology CE credits are available. There is a $25 fee for non-members.*  

The Michigan Council for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy is approved by the Michigan Social Work Continuing Education Collaborative to provide CE credits for social workers. The Michigan Council for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy maintains responsibility for this program and its content.  

The Michigan Council for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education credits for psychologists. The Michigan Council for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Click here for the APA certificate. 

For more information please contact V.P. for Programs, David Freiband, at Regarding CEUs for social workers, please contact Marybeth Atwell, LMSW at and CEs for psychologists, please contact Ralph Hutchison, PhD at

* None of the planners and presenters of this continuing education program have any relevant financial relationship to disclose.