Local psychoanalytic center to host program on gender

Illustration by Ash Cheshire

The Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia (PCOP) will host the event Gender Fixed and Fluid: Mournful, Melancholic and Enigmatic on Friday, March 6.  Dr. Adrienne Harris, Ph.D., will give a presentation geared toward clinicians, outlining gender development using a psychodynamic theoretical structure to chart the progression of gender theory and practice throughout the last 40 years. 

Within this domain, Harris will discuss “a complex model of gender development integrating interactions, psychological structuring, biological models of complexity and nonlinearity and social and cultural theories,” according to the event description. 

Harris serves on the faculty and acts as a supervisor in the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalyst and Clinical Psychologist Ann Eichen, Ph.D., and Psychiatrist Ruth Fischer, M.D., collaborated to plan the event and will facilitate the discussion that follows Harris’s presentation. 

“[PCOP has] a strong interest in female development, from a psychoanalytic perspective,” Eichen said in an email. “There is much academic interest in revising past theories that do not fit women, the ones that Freud created originally, so the field over the past 50 years has been developing new theories to help understand female development.” 

Harris plans to employ clinical and developmental examples of both conscious and unconscious gendered experience to demonstrate how “powerful forces of gender conformity co-exist, sometimes conflicting, and sometimes comfortably and creatively in different familial and social 


At the end of the presentation, participating therapists will also be able to single out sources of conflict and trauma in the progression of gender development in familial and social spheres and talk about the interaction of gendered experience as related to sexual experience. 

PCOP is a nonprofit organization situated in East Fairmount Park’s Rockland Mansion. The center is dedicated to furthering the study and practice of psychoanalysis, and administers training programs to professionals in mental health and related fields. These programs encompass child and adult psychoanalytic training sessions in both classical and modern contexts, and all have units that cover gender and female development, Eichen pointed out. 

“[Gender] is a growing issue in the therapeutic arena,” said Madelaine Sayko, managing director of PCOP. “As more and more people are recognizing that this is an area of focus for families [and] individuals — issues for them to resolve personally — there’s a greater need to help people understand and identify, feel comfortable with what their feelings are and learn more about this.”

While all PCOP members are therapists of varying specialties, only a small number focuses specifically on LGBTQ issues in psychology. As such, PCOP staff intend this program to familiarize a range of therapists with issues surrounding the gender spectrum and gendered experience. 

“There are several members in our community who are actively involved with the LGBTQ community,” Eichen said. “While that is not my life’s work, I support the work they do and am committed to human freedom and equality.”
Gender Fixed and Fluid will take place from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Discovery Center located at 3401 Reservoir Dr., Philadelphia, PA, around the corner from PCOP’s main site. Interested participants can register for the event here: https://pcph.memberclicks.net/index.php?option=com_mcform&view=ngforms&id=2041356#/