Fielding Graduate University News

Psychotherapist Ruthellen Josselson, PhD, and Justin Frank, MD, author of Obama on the Couch Examine Obama’s Life History

Posted by Hilary Edwards on Thu, Jul 11, 2013

Obama and the Search for Racial Identity

obama on the couch cover resized 600We live in a time of turmoil about racial identity and its meaning. Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father, implicitly describes the intersections of psychological experience and the social discourses in which identity is created and performed. 

Fielding Graduate University is pleased to present a free and open to the public educational seminar titled Obama and the Search for Racial Identity with presenters Ruthellen Josselson, PHD and Justin Frank, MD, author of Obama on the Couch as a part of the Fielding Educational Series. In this semiar, the presenters will examine Obama’s life history for its insights about the adoption of racial identity in circumstances which reveal its complexities.  There will be ample time for audience questions and discussion.

This seminar will be held Friday, July 19th from 7:30 – 9:30 pm at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, 500 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA 22331.  The Fielding Educational Series features select presentations that are timely and relevant to current social issues from the scholarly fields of human and organizational development, psychology, and educational leadership and change. 

RJ photo  HF07 resized 600Ruthellen Josselson, PhD, is professor of clinical psychology at Fielding Graduate University and a psychotherapist in practice. She recently published a new book titled, Interviewing for Qualitative Inquiry: A Relational Approach, and was also named editor of a new APA journal, Qualitative Psychology. She was formerly a professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Visiting Professor at Harvard University and a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University. She received both the Henry A. Murray Award and the Theodore R. Sarbin Award from the American Psychological Association as well as a Fulbright Fellowship. She is co-director of the Irvin D. Yalom Institute of Psychotherapy.

Justin A. Frank, MD, practices and teaches psychoanalysis in Washington, DC where heJustin A Frank author photo resized 600 is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center. A clinician with more than thirty years’ experience, Frank has been a former columnist for,, and continues to be a frequent contributor to on topics as diverse as politics, film, and theater.

Obama and the Search for Racial Identity is sponsored by the Alonso Center for Psychodynamic Studies in the School of Psychology at Fielding Graduate University. The focus of the Alonso Center is to bring together psychologists and psychiatrists, educators, writers and artists, organizational development experts, and the general public to strengthen the understanding of and support for adaptive, resilient human relationships. These efforts are directed at educating the public and professional communities about the value of dynamic psychotherapy and the centrality of the psychotherapist-client relationship in the provision of effective mental health care. They encourage and support the application of psychodynamic and relational principles in everyday life, including education, business, journalism, and the arts.

Director of the Alonso Center and School of Psychology doctoral faculty member Samuel Osherson, PhD, stated, “We chose this particular topic because the Alonso Center has a long time interest in the psychological challenges and opportunities involved in a time of changing ethnic and racial identities. We think the US is in a time of major transition involving ethnic and racial identity. Ruthellen offers a distinctive approach to the question of identity, with her focus on Barack Obama. Her talk is important not only because she analyzes the life history of a major political figure, and even more importantly, she uses that analysis to highlight some important pathways for us all in this time of change and transition.”

The Fielding Educational Series featuring Obama and the Search for Racial Identity is free and open to the public.

Friday July 19th from 7:30pm – 9:30 pm, Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, 500 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA 22331, Room: MAGNOLIA C

For more information and to RSVP:

Tags: psychology, higher education, fielding graduate university