Today we spoke with Dr. Helena Vissing about her new book Somatic Maternal Healing Psychodynamic and Somatic Trauma Treatment for Perinatal Mental Health (Routledge, 2023). What does the research of neuro science, immunology and biology tell us about the complex links between trauma, stress, inflammatory responses, and postpartum depression? What are the somatic counter transferences specific to the perinatal transition? What is the difference between empowered mothering and feminist mothering? What are the five tenets of empowered mothering? These are some of the questions we discuss with Dr. Vissing. All of them aimed at answering the larger clinical question, “What do you do with a new mother who walks into your office - how do we sit with new mothers and parents who are shaking to their core?”
Initially a school psychologist specializing in Developmental Psychology Play Therapy, Dr. Vissing was already interested in psychoanalytic or psychodynamic perspectives. When beginning her training in somatic approaches she was really excited to “learn a new modality to deepen my work in the maternal mental health specialization and specifically the transition to motherhood.” However, working in a “pretty big” community of somatic training practitioners Vissing was “a bit surprised and also a bit disappointed” to discover that there was not really a subgroup specifically dedicated to maternal mental health adaptations and that a “particular focus on the mother's perspective was missing.” Struck by this this lack Vissing became motivated and determined to “create a bridge between the two.”
For Vissing the bridge is a biopsychosocial approach which is both a “clinical attitude” and a “guiding principle” that addresses the frustrations she encountered when studying maternal mental health felt like “jumping from one paradigm to the other where the paradigms were not connecting…were not communicating and I was frustrated by that because we know all of this interacts … we know that the enormous intensity of the hormonal shifts of the perinatal transitions will impact emotional health and mental health.”
Dr. Vissing’s hope is that by reading this book, “as a clinician you will feel less apprehension about the tender work of trauma healing in the perinatal period.”
As hosts we both noted that Somatic Maternal Healing is a rigorously researched and clinically informed book. The majority of the citations reflect current findings, including research into pandemic stress and resonances in telehealth.
Golzar Selbe Naghshineh, is a training and supervising licensed Psychoanalyst with special expertise in reproductive and maternal mental health. She created and built the Network For The Advancement of Perinatal Support – an integrative mental health program for OBGYN offices and fertility clinics that she launched in 2014 at the renowned Downtown Women OBGYN practice in New York City. Naghshineh is also teaching faculty at the New York Graduate School of Psychoanalysis and the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies in New York.
Christopher Russell, LP is a psychoanalyst in Chelsea, Manhattan. He is a member of the faculty and supervising analyst at The Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies and The New York Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. His primary theorists are Sándor Ferenczi and Hyman Spotnitz.
Christopher Russell, LP is a psychoanalyst in Chelsea, Manhattan.