Kat Gentry ’19 has won the American Psychoanalytic Association’s prize for the best paper written by an undergraduate. Her submission, “Healing the Healer’s Art,” originally was a final paper for Professor of Classics Marcia Dobson’s Discovering the Unconscious: Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy course, which Gentry took during the Fall of 2017.
Gentry’s paper is in part a personal reflection on her own journey into the field of psychoanalysis and what she learned from studies and interacting with numerous psychoanalysts through Colorado College’s Summer Session course, Contemporary Psychoanalysis, taught at the Institute of Psychoanalysis in Chicago for the past 12 years by Dobson and Professor of Philosophy John Riker.
This marks the third time in five years a Colorado College student has taken the top prize. As part of the first-place award, Gentry also will give a presentation at the American Psychoanalytic Association’s meeting in February in New York City. The continued recognition of CC students attests to the strength of CC’s psychoanalysis minor, one of approximately three undergraduate programs in the country and the only one to offer an undergraduate course at a psychoanalytic institute.
“In a larger sense, the paper seeks to articulate a problem I've noticed — namely, the problem of closed-mindedness and reluctance to tolerate the coexistence of contradictory truths,” writes Gentry, who is pursuing an independently designed major titled Psychoanalysis, Art, and Creativity, and minoring in philosophy. “As I delved deeper into the world of psychoanalysis, I saw not only the field’s great successes and immense potential, but also that this problem seemed to be inhibiting the field from reaching its full potential to heal and continue to discover effective methods of healing.”
In her paper, Gentry calls upon psychoanalysts and students of psychoanalysis to confront their own biases and attempt to open their minds to the possibility that all schools of psychoanalysis (i.e. Freudian, Kleinian, Kohutian, Jungian, etc.), as contradictory as their teachings and methods may seem, teach valid truths and valuable insights, the knowledge of which can only help those in the field to become better healers.
“Essentially, the more we open our minds and welcome ideas from all ‘sub-genres’ of psychoanalysis, the more tools we have in our toolbox, the better we will be able to treat our patients,” she says. “If we insist that one school of psychoanalysis is superior, and reject the validity of differing viewpoints, if we are caught up in pride and the politics of our field, we are ultimately doing ourselves, our colleagues, and our patients a disservice.”
Says Dobson of Gentry’s submission to the American Psychoanalytic Association, “It was turned in with no input from me. Pretty astounding. What I am most impressed by is how meaningful our committee of psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic teachers found it. They loved her honesty, and how she mingled the importance of healing in the therapeutic endeavor with the conflict among psychoanalysts over their own theories that could hamper such healing.”
Gentry, of Berkeley, California, enjoys many forms of art and creation, including playing guitar, writing music, performing at open mics, memoir writing, writing and performing spoken word poetry, pen and ink illustration and water color painting, theatre, and movement. “I find that I cycle through these creative outlets, and I generally let inspiration come to me rather than sitting down and forcing myself to write or draw.” She also is an avid rock climber, participating in both collegiate climbing competitions and open adult nationals climbing competitions, as well as climbing outside as much as possible during breaks and on weekends.
Previous Colorado College winners of the prize include Caroline Beaton ’13 and Will See ’15.