Untying the Knots of the Mind

  • Untying the Knots of the Mind
    Dr. Deborah Luepnitz / Project HOME

Dr. Deborah Luepnitz (or “Dr. L.” as she is known at Project HOME) teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and has a private psychoanalytic practice. Fifteen years ago, she began running support groups for staff and residents. In 2005, with a green light from Sister Mary Scullion, she recruited 12 colleagues to offer formerly homeless people long-term, insight-oriented treatment. She calls her group IFA (Insight For All), and they tailor therapy to the needs of the patient, working in ten Project HOME sites. Sessions have been conducted in conference rooms, the analyst’s office, during walks in the park, and even in tents during Occupy Philly. Some patients sit up; others lie down on the couch.

What sets psychoanalytic therapy apart from other treatments is the emphasis on achieving deeper and deeper levels of honesty—including the exploration of dreams and the unconscious. Patients use this treatment to understand relationships, overcome fears, or express themselves artistically.

Some people are surprised to learn that psychoanalysis is appropriate for those who have struggled with homelessness. There is a stereotype that poor people aren’t interested in insight, and that the best alternatives are medication and behavior therapy. Dr. Luepnitz finds this outrageous. “Project HOME residents are some of the most insightful people I’ve ever met!” she says. IFA volunteers invariably discover the unique satisfaction in listening to people who have never before been listened to.

Even some therapists don’t realize that the original psychoanalysts insisted that their treatment be available to rich and poor alike. There were ten free clinics in seven European countries, treating farmers, factory workers, maids, and the unemployed. Freud himself was immensely proud of these clinics, which flourished until the Nazis took them over in the 1930s.

The word “psychoanalysis” comes from two Greek words: psyche, meaning mind, and analyein meaning to loosen or untie. Psychoanalysis works to untie the knots of the mind. If this reminds some people of Pope Francis’ favorite painting, Mary, Undoer of Knots, Dr Luepnitz doesn’t mind at all!

We congratulate Insight for All and Dr. Luepnitz on their 10-year anniversary of service and healing in our Project HOME community.

For more information on IFA’s work at Project HOME, see Dr. Luepnitz’s lecture on our YouTube page.