Game of Truth: A Short History of Clinical Power Relations

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27 May 2023

Time: 10:00 - 11:30

Price: General Admission: £30

Location: online


This talk looks at how power functions in the consulting room. To be a clinician is to be invested with power – a power exercised through knowledge. In the analytic setting it can be useful for a neurotic analysand to suppose that their analyst has a privileged insight into how things are for them. When handled carefully, this is a supposition of knowledge that can be productive, impelling the analysand to engage with their unconscious. However, power in institutional settings has rarely been exerted so subtly. This talk addresses some of that chequered institutional history, through psychotherapeutic revolution and counter-revolution – with ultimate focus on the ethical position of the psychoanalyst.

  • What is power?
  • What makes psychoanalysis different?
  • How does the analyst position themselves in relation to the power invested in them?

The talk explores different key moments in the history of psychiatry, institutional psychotherapy and psychoanalysis – with a focus on power and its imposition. It takes in the 19th century paradigm shift in the treatment of nervous disorders, where the biomedical model replaces ‘the treatment of the soul’; the monolithic total institutions of the mid 20th century; the radical break of post-war institutional psychotherapy, where the social aspect of mental illness was recognized once more; the clinical misadventures of anti-psychiatrist RD Laing; transference and the ethical position of the psychoanalyst.

The talk looks at psychiatry’s tendency to erase the subject behind the symptom. Psychoanalysis attempts to avoid the clinical pitfalls of bogus objectivity, socially constructed diagnoses and adherence to relative norms that render much of psychiatric practice unfit for purpose. The talk asks how a clinical practice can resist participating in the social conditioning of mental distress, and create a space where people can talk from a position of their own.

This lecture will give you:

  • A partial history of institutional psychiatry over the past 150 years, opening a conversation about how the treatment of mental distress can be made more humane (and effective)
  • An insight into some of the ideas of Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, RD Laing and other important thinkers
  • An understanding of how power functions in the consulting room


Conor McCormack is a Lacanian psychoanalyst and a member of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research. He works in Bristol in private practice and has extensive experience working as a psychotherapist in the NHS. Conor is also a director and writer known for his powerful, socially engaged filmmaking, including the BIFA nominated documentary Christmas with Dad and the acclaimed voice-hearing documentary In the Real.

Target Audience:

This event should be interesting and accessible for anyone interested in the topic, including qualified counsellors and psychotherapists and the general public. This event is open to all.

Comments from previous participants:
“Conor McCormack is one one the best speakers I would love to listen to again. “
“Conor McCormack makes difficult material accessible and able to be related to clinical experience.”

Refund Policy:

We will only issue you a refund if you cancel in writing via email 14 days before the date of the event. Please note that request a refund on Eventbrite will not be accepted.

Please note that by booking a ticket for this event, you are agreeing to our Terms and Conditions for CPD events, so please read through them carefully before making your purchase.

How to contact the Organiser?
If you experience any problems please  e-mail us.

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