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Ferkauf Professor Awarded Grant for Psychoanalytic Research

Katie Aafjes-van Doorn’s Research Explores the Role of Affect Attunement in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy 

Dr. Katie Aafjes-van Doorn, assistant professor at Yeshiva University's Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, has been awarded the Beginning Scholar Pilot Grant by the American Psychoanalytic Association’s Fund for Psychoanalytic Research. The $5,000, one-year grant is given to researchers in the initial stages of their work so that they can conduct a pilot study and preliminary analyses to prepare for the submission of a larger grant. Aafjes-van Doorn received this grant for her proposed project, “Affect Attunement as Potential Mechanism of Change in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for Panic.”

Assistant Professor Katie Aafjes-van Doorn Assistant Professor Katie Aafjes-van Doorn

Aafjes-van Doorn’s research interest is in psychodynamic psychotherapy, which explores the client’s unconscious emotional processes through his or her relationship with the therapist, rather than on interpreting conscious behavior, as in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Affect attunement, when the client and therapist unconsciously share emotional states, is a psychodynamic technique that helps to build that client-therapist relationship, Aafjes-van Doorn explained. “To date there have not been any studies in the discipline that examine this unconscious emotional interaction between clients and therapists during treatment sessions for panic disorders,” said Aafjes-van Doorn.

Aafjes-van Doorn hopes she can contribute to a better understanding of how attunement works and show that psychodynamic psychotherapy is effective for helping people suffering from panic disorders, by analyzing the speech patterns of the clients and therapists during sessions. Her research may help resolve the controversy among psychology scholars about this approach, as clinicians, agencies, insurance companies and policy makers outside of the psychodynamic community tend to struggle with its abstract, intuitive aspects.

Aafjes-van Doorn received her master’s degree in clinical psychology and psychological research and completed her doctoral training at the University of Oxford. She received clinical psychoanalytic training at the Access Institute in San Francisco, California, and completed a one-year postdoctoral research fellowship at the Derner Institute for Psychological Services at Adelphi University. She is teaching Evidence-Based Psychodynamic Therapy and Psychodynamic Process at Ferkauf this semester.