The Advanced Clinical Education Foundation of NYCCSCW Presents:

The Dark Side of Creativity

6-week course; weekly meetings

Susan Kavaler-Adler, PhD, ABPP, DLitt, NCPsyA
Mondays, 8:15pm-9:30 pm, on June 5, 12, 19, 26, 2017; July 10 & 17, 2017
Office of Susan Kavaler-Adler, PhD, ABPP, DLitt, NCPsyA:
115 East 9th Street (between 3rd and 4th Ave); 12P, NY, NY 10003

7.5 Contact Hours Will Be Awarded for This Program. (CEUs are approved for LMSW, LCSW and LP in NYS, but not in NJ)

This course will provide an in depth study of The Dark Side of Creativity which is a topic that addresses the compulsion to create in those who live perpetually in a haunted internal world, after suffering early pre-oedipal trauma that prevents them from mourning and healing in their work. Their self, and the creative process, which defines them, become victim to the demon lover complex, which can be explained, in object relations terms, as a pathological mourning state, in which one is addicted to eroticized bad objects due to the lack of sufficient good object internalization during the first three years of life (when the self is first forming).

The repetition of trauma (rather than the resolution of mourning) has detrimental effect, when it is contrasted with creative people who reach the oedipal stage without primal trauma. The other side of The Dark Side of Creativity is related to blocks to creativity that can also involve trauma, but where repression is a major factor, beyond the splitting and dissociation that are seen in cases of the compulsion to create.

For those who cannot attend in person we offer VIRTUAL ATTENDANCE: anyone can attend virtually, through the GoToMeeting platform. A technical person will be there to set up for online participants, and for filming the classes. All forms can be sent in online.

If someone has to miss a class, they can get the film of the class, and they can write a one page email summary of the class materials (readings and film), to have a full credit. However, they will not receive CEU credit for the missed class.

Office holds 12 people, but virtual online participation allows for up to additional 25 participants in the class. Course will benefit clinicians at all levels of experience.

Please note: Participants of this course are responsible to read each weekly reading!

Registration Fees/Cancellation: Cancellation received at least (5) days before the event will be fully refundable. On-line registration ONLY - Visa and Mastercard accepted.

NYSSCSW Member $120. Non-Members $180.

Who Should Attend: psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, licensed psychoanalysts, art therapists. Contact Hours will be awarded once the entire course is completed. Certificates will be emailed approximately ten business days after the completion of the course. For questions regarding course content, registration and disability access please Contact Kristin or Jennifer: info.acefoundation@gmail.com. In the event of any grievance please contact Dr. Susan Klett, LCSW-R, BCD, Director of Professional Development at SuzanneKlett@aol.com

Required Readings

  • Kavaler-Adler, S. (1993, 2013) The Compulsion to Create: Women Writers and Their Demon Lovers. Originally published by Routledge in 1993, this book was re-published by ORI Academic Press in 2013, with some additions, better editing, organization, and illustration. The latter book edition is required for this course, available on Amazon or by ordering from the publisher by emailing to oripresseditor@gmail.com.

  • Kavaler-Adler, S. (1996, 2014). The Creative Mystique: From Red Shoes Frenzy to Love and Creativity. Originally published by Routledge in 1996, this book was re-published by ORI Academic Press in 2014, with some additions, better editing, organization, and illustration. The latter book edition is required for this course, available on Amazon or by ordering from the publisher by emailing to oripresseditor@gmail.com.

Class #1

The first week will focus on Dr. Kavaler-Adler’s Object Relations view of compulsions versus desire, and blocks versus compulsions and desire. The developmental and psychic structure issues related to dissociation (based on splitting) will be contrasted to containing repression and neurotic repression.

Learning Objectives:: After attending this class participants will be able to contrast compulsions and blocks with healthy and integrated Creative Desire in the person who wishes to express themselves, encountered in clinical practice.

Reading: Dr. Kavaler-Adler’s conference paper (not yet published, respect copyright) on “The Dark Side of Creativity: Compulsions, Blocks, and Creations,” will be the first week’s reading. This is a 29 page paper, with insights about compulsion versus blocks, and contrasts with healthy creative desire, which also relates to healthy sexual desire, and to the capacities to love (in terms of intimacy) and to create.
This paper will be emailed. The latter part of the paper has clinical case material. It is essential that the paper is not distributed elsewhere, or emailed for download online (even though this patient has given Dr. Kavaler-Adler written permission to write about her). To quote Dr. Kavaler-Adler, please ask permission.

Class #2

The second week will include a lecture and a discussion related to Emily Dickinson (chapter two) in “The Compulsion to Create: Women Writers and Their Demon Lovers”; and (chapter 3) on Camille Claudel in “The Creative Mystique: From Red Shoes Frenzy to Love and Creativity.”

Learning Objectives:: After attending this class participants will be able to explain the psychological consequences of “The Compulsion to Create,” when the artist’s healthy creative desire is captured by the pathological compulsion to live within the Internal World and the Creative Process, due to preoedipal psychic arrest and its consequent external life failings.

Class# 3

The third week will be related to the first chapter study of Anne Sexton in “The Creative Mystique: From Red Shoes Frenzy to Love and Creativity.”

Learning Objectives: After attending this class participants will be able to describe the clinical issues related to treating “The Compulsion to Create,” and its corresponding addiction to an eroticized “bad object” which appears in the work and lives of “Borderline Personalities.”

Class #4

The fourth class will involve the study of the second chapter of Anne Sexton in “The Creative Mystique: From Red Shoes Frenzy to Love and Creativity.”

Learning Objectives: After attending this class participants will be able to contrast and compare the Borderline Personality, who acts out preoedipal trauma in life, as well as in work, with the Schizoid personality, who acts out the “compulsion to create” and its demon lover complex only within the creative work (Anne Sexton contrasted with Emily Dickinson).

Class #5

This class will cover a Discussion of the “Aging Narcissist” who fails to mourn.

Learning Objectives: After attending this class participants will be able to explain the experience of the Narcissistic character who is unable to mourn due to preoedipal trauma and psychic arrest--which manifests in the repetition of the trauma, and in the failing of the manic compulsion to create as a defense.

Reading: The second chapter on Edith Sitwell in “The Compulsion to Create: Women Writers and Their Demon Lovers”

Optional reading:
Kavaler-Adler, S. (2014). Psychic structure and the capacity to mourn: Why narcissists cannot mourn. MindConsiliums, 14(1), 1-17.
Available at: MindConsiliums

Class #6

This class will focus on Charlotte Bronte, the second chapter in “The Compulsion to Create: Women Writers and Their Demon Lovers, entitled “Villette,” which is the name of Charlotte Bronte’s last (fourth) novel, which was her greatest psychological novel (after her commercial success with Jane Eyre).

Optional reading: The first chapter on Charlotte Bronte should be read after the course to have a full picture of this great literary figure, one of the brilliant women artists written about in my book.

Learning Objectives: After attending this class participants will be able to:

  1. Contrast Charlotte Bronte’s ability to mourn, and integrate herself through mourning, with those women artists who could not mourn in their work due to primal trauma, such as Emily Dickinson, Edith Sitwell, Emily Bronte, and Camille Claudel.
  2. Describe the contrast between oedipal level disillusionment in mourning and “abandonment depression” mourning in those with developmental arrest.

Instructor's Bio

Susan Kavaler-Adler, Ph.D., ABPP, D.Litt., NCPsyA is the Founder, Executive Director, Training Analyst, Senior Supervisor, as well as the advisor to the Training Committee of the Object Relations Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis (ORI).

Dr. Kavaler-Adler is a Fellow of the American Board and Academy of Psychoanalysis, and an active member of Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) of the APA as well as other psychoanalytic societies. She has 42 years’ experience in object relations psychoanalytic practice, specializing in psychotrauma, grief and mourning of losses, blocks to creativity and intimacy, erotic transference, self-sabotage, fears of success, love addiction, inhibitions, compulsions, demon lover addictions, haunting regrets, repetitive issues, betrayal in love, body awareness, and the processing of sensory experience in the countertransference, etc. She is a graduate of NIP, and of supervisory training at the Postgraduate Center for mental Health, and she served on the faculty of both these institutes in the 1980s. Her Ph.D. is in Clinical Psychology, from Adelphi University’s Gordon Derner Institute in 1974, and she has an honorary doctorate in literature (D. Litt.).

Dr. Kavaler-Adler is a prolific author, with six books (published with Routledge, Karnac, and ORI Academic Press) and over 65 peer-reviewed articles and books chapters. She has received 15 awards for her writing in the field of psychoanalysis, including the Gradiva® Award form NAAP in 2004. She won four Arlene Wohlberg Memorial Awards from Postgraduate Center for Mental Health and is on the new Postgraduate Psychoanalytic Society and Institute faculty.


Advanced Clinical Education Foundation of the NYSSCSW, Inc., SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for Licensed Social Workers #0056; Licensed Psychoanlalysts #P-0017.

Advanced Clinical Education (ACE) Foundation of NYSSCSW, provider #1413, is approved as a provider for social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), through the Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. The ACE Foundation of NYSSCSW maintains responsibility for the program. ASWB Approval Period: 7/15/2016-7/15/2017. Social workers should contact their regulatory board to determine course approval. Social workers participating in this course will receive 7.5 continuing education clock hours.