Paul C. Holinger, M.D. ’68

profile1DEGREE: B.A. in psychology; M.Div., McCormick Theological Seminary; M.D., Chicago Medical School; M.P.H., Harvard School of Public Health

JOB TITLE: Professor of psychiatry, Rush University Medical Center; faculty and former dean, Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis; co-founder, Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy

FAVORITE TRINITY MEMORY: The last few weeks before graduation, 1968 (in the midst of tumultuous times in the country and on campus), playing softball on the lawn under the shadows of the Chapel, and finishing up my psychology thesis. Regarding the thesis, we (with Dr. Roy Heath, dean of students) compared Trinity students’ SATs with their high school GPAs to see which better predicted college academic performance. At every level of college, the GPAs were better predictors than the SATs.

What is the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, and what is your role there? The Chicago Institute was founded in 1932, the second psychoanalytic institute established in the United States. It is one of the largest, having about six major educational programs in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, more than 100 faculty members, and a variety of clinical services. Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy are the so-called talking cure, talking therapy. Psychoanalysis per se involves working with people intensively (e.g., three to five times per week), people who want to understand themselves and their internal world better, change themselves, and maximize their potential and relationships. Psychotherapy is similar but involves lesser frequency and somewhat different goals and techniques. We also treat children and adolescents with psychoanalysis and psychotherapy; if the child is young, we may use their play as the venue for the treatment. In my role as dean (2011-2014), I was responsible for all the educational programs, students, faculty, etc. Currently, I am teaching and supervising at the institute and involved in expanding our Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy.

What is your favorite aspect of the work that you do? There are probably a number of favorites. Certainly one treasures working with the patients – helping them make the changes they want to make, preventing problems, and maximizing their potential. I also very much enjoy and learn from writing, leading to work in psychiatric epidemiology and then, more recently, in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. I am especially interested in affect (feelings) theory and development; out of those emerged What Babies Say Before They Can Talk, which was an effort to convey affect theory to the lay public. I’ve also enjoyed working with our overarching organizations – the American Psychoanalytic Association and the International Psychoanalytical Association – particularly in the area of teaching and certification of our younger colleagues. Research continues to be of interest; we are currently conducting a follow-up study of children and adolescents who had been in analysis. And public health issues are a favorite; our field needs to do so much more in the public health arena.

Why did you found the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy? The center was established because of the tremendous need for psychological services for children and parents in underserved populations. We see large numbers of children and adolescents who suffer from trauma, exposure to violence, abuse, anxieties, depression, school phobias, and so on. This is a low-fee clinic; no one is turned away for financial reasons. There are a few analytic institutes around the country with such clinics, but we need more. We are beginning to form a consortium of such centers. Boston has a fine institute and excellent child analysts, and we have begun talking with them about establishing a center. There are several Trinity graduates in the Boston area who may be able to help with this.

How did your experience at Trinity prepare you for your job? Trinity had a fine Psychology Department. The College was very supportive of my interest and immersion in psychology and helpful to me. As a teenager I read Freud’s Psychopathology of Everyday Life, and I was hooked. Being able to focus on psychological studies the last year or two at Trinity was terrific.

Which professor or course had the biggest impact on your path in life? Dr. George Higgins was a wonderful influence on my trajectory and that of others. He taught courses in abnormal psychology and used a clinical approach (i.e., cases), conveying the importance of understanding the motives, conscious and unconscious, behind the symptoms. He was ahead of his time, in a sense, in that he was interested in the internal world, development, affect, and empathy. The department was strong in a variety of areas; I learned a great deal from those educators, and I am grateful for their support.