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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Friday, June 14, 2019

From the talking cure to a disease of silence: Effects of ethical violations in a psychoanalytic institute

Jane Burka, Angela Sowa, Barbara A. Baer, & others
The International Journal of Psychoanalysis (2019) 100:2, 247-271,


This article presents an in-depth study of one institute’s efforts to recover from effects of ethical violations by two senior members. Qualitative data analysis from voluntary member interviews details the damage that spread throughout the institute, demonstrating that a violation of one is a violation of many. Members at all levels reported feeling disturbed in ways that affected their emotional equilibrium, their thinking processes, and their social and professional relationships. The aggregated interview data were reported to the institute community in large and small group meetings designed to reverse the “disease of silence” and to allow members to talk with each other. Outside consultation helped with this emotionally arduous process. The authors offer hypotheses concerning the nature of group anxieties during ethics crises. We assert that both sexual and non-sexual boundary violations break the incest taboo, as they breach the generational protection required of professional interactions. Ethical violations attack the group’s foundational ethos of care, unleashing primitive anxieties and defences that interfere with capacities for thinking, containment, collaboration, and integration. Since the full reality of what happened is unknowable, hybrid truths emerge, causing conflict and disturbances that inhibit thoughtful group discourse.

The article can be downloaded here.