Attività didattica: Psyche, Dreams, and the Digital World [Psiche, sogno e mondo digitale]
Tipologia: Seminario previsto nel piano didattico approvato [E] (Sem)
Ore: 12 / anno
Responsabile di Area: Stephen Aizenstat []
Docenti: Stephen Aizenstat, Alia Aizenstat
[Course held in English, with simultaneous translation from English into Italian and from Italian into English, in collaboration with Pacifica Graduate Institute and Dream Tending]

The Digital Age has brought to light emerging individual, social, and cultural changes, which effect how mental health care practitioners should approach psychotherapy. We live in a world dependent on the digital code of algorithms. Highly complex systems of cyber technology are replacing human imagination and expression, once rooted in the organicity of the Anima Mundi, the ‘soul of the world.’ Advanced machines, cyborgs, have attained high level capabilities of consciousness (e.g., intelligence, attention, autonomy, and intention). At lightning speed, the future of human experience will be located in a matrix of virtual, augmented, and mixed realities. The fate of the dream, originating in the mystery of psyche, is challenged by the take-over of the programmer’s digital code. Moreover, today’s generation of children and adolescents are growing up in a digital world where they are constantly bombarded by media and advertisements. This generation, deemed the ‘i-Gen,’ are digital natives who spend little time facing boredom or imaginative play. Newer research is bringing to light changes in brain development from screen time, especially for youth. As psychotherapists how can we help families and youth gain control around their digital use and offer a way to re-enter states of play and imagination?

1. The ‘Virtual Identities Integration Treatment’ (VIIT) 

As techno-humanistic values perpetuate society, the course firstly explores how online identities have been and can be integrated into the psychotherapeutic process through three primary stages of therapy: diagnosis, assessment, and treatment. Utilizing a hermeneutic methodology, students are invited to explore and define content spanning from the digital world: artificial intelligence; virtual, mixed, and augmented realities; what an online identity is; and how online identities develop individually and collectively. Two overarching research findings are discussed: (1) the blurring of online and of fline realities; and (2) that online identities have their own social and cultural context. Within these findings, new suggested clinical applications of how to incorporate online identities into diagnosis, assessment, and treatment modalities are proposed. The ‘Virtual Identities Integration Treatment’ (VIIT) model, in particular, is presented in the course as a methodology to work with families, individuals, and youth in psychotherapy to gain control around digital use in developmentally appropriate ways, help assist youth in identity development, and expand space for imagination. Through the use of direct clinical examples, students explore: how to set digital boundaries, important elements in creating digital boundary agreements, and how to work with virtual identities as a portal to imagination. This work is expanded by also covering how to bring digital responsibility and elements of the VIIT model into teenage group therapy settings as a means of decreasing screen time and increasing social emotional intelligence, positive body image, and overall better self-esteem.

Part 2: Methods for Managing Anxiety, Overwhelm, FOMO and FOGO in the Digital Age

The field and practice of psychotherapy has undergone a massive change given COVID-19 with the need to immediately shift to Telemedicine. Psychotherapy is now mostly  held in the container of the digital world. Within a month we have undergone one of the largest leaps in mental health, perhaps the largest and fastest the field has ever seen. Yet, the question remains: can my virtual identity heal your virtual identity? This lecture will begin with an exploration into the global and collective undercurrents of grief and how understanding grief can set the cultural, individual and familial tone to understanding thoughts, emotions, behavior and reactions. Through the lens of the speaker’s original model, The Virtual Identities Integration Treatment (VIIT) Model, the second part of this lecture, will look at how Telemedicine has shifted elements of psychotherapy. This includes elements such as: confidentially, access, psycho-social assessments, rapport building, transparency, interruptions, treatment options and referrals. The third part of this lecture will examine, through case studies and tools, a 20/20 vision of how psychotherapists and mental health workers can help individuals, couples, families, and youth manage and heal their relationship with anxiety, uncertainty, the fear of missing out (FOMO), and the fear of going out (FOGO). Clinical case studies will help bring to life how creativity, imagination and psyche-centered expression can break the trance of anxiety, uncertainty, FOMO and FOGO. In closing, participants will examine their own virtual identities, what it has been like to watch themselves online so much, and how to integrate and honer the unedited human behind the virtual world’s pervasive filters.

Part 3: Dream Tending and the Psychotherapeutic Process

Evening sessions focus on ‘Dream Tending,’ a practice developed by Dr. Stephen Aizenstat that sees the world as alive and always dreaming. Dr. Aizenstat offers his approach as a way  of attending to ‘living images’ in dreams. This methodology offers a way of working with imaginal figures in a broader psychological field. In this wider ecology, there is consideration given to both the ‘avatars’ of cyberspace and the ‘autonomous figures’ of the dream time. In addition, students may host new emerging ‘hybrid’ images generated from the confluence between the two. The emphasis is on tending to those illuminated images that offer guidance in our life and access to the deep imagination.

IPAP / Pacifica course on ‘Psyche, Dreams, and the Digital World’ is developed in cooperation with the Global Dream Initiative (GDI), which calls for recognition of the trauma in the world, and the need to participate in its healing. We assert that the world’s suffering appears in the living images of dreams and that we can creatively respond. Through the practice of Dream Tending, we are able to engage the voices of the world’s dreams, speaking on their own behalf and asking for response. The Global Dream Initiative is developing a forum to see and hear the world’s dreams and to utilize them to create new and more generative ways of responding to the trauma of the world—ways that are not trapped in the cultural, political, economic, and environmental approaches that now are failing us.

Bibliografia introduttiva