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Clinical Seminar II: “Approaching the Symbolic, Real and Imaginary in Clinical Practices”

To sustain a clinical practice, analysts and psychotherapists rely on a theoretical framework that defines their assumptions about human nature. Such theory informs the logic that guides their interventions and therefore impacts the results of such treatment.

From a Lacanian perspective, human subjectivity is understood through three registers: the Symbolic, the Real and the Imaginary. Roughly speaking, within the Symbolic realm we locate language, culture, discourse and desire. The register of the Real brings about that which is beyond language, the unsayable, the traumatic nature of the sexual/death drive and its compulsion to repeat. And within the Imaginary register we find the Ego, conformed by the image a given subject has of himself, his ideals, and the specular relation with others.These simultaneous and necessarily intertwined levels of human experience evidence themselves in the analytic experience primarily through language. Lacan emphasizes this through his central aphorism: “The unconscious is structured like a language”. If the unconscious speaks, a practitioner needs to be able to identify manifestations of the orders of the Real and the Imaginary to guide her responses in such a way that allows a movement in the therapeutic process.

In this Seminar, following the work of the two previous terms, we will address ethical and practical questions related to the ways in which the three registers interweave in the different “clinics” that a psychoanalyst/psychotherapist faces in their practice (trauma, addictions, psychosis). The central question will gravitate around the limits of what is analyzable and the ethics that sustain such limits. Some specific situations that will guide our approach are:

If the imaginary aspect is of a radical predominance in individual narratives and in the Lacanian tradition it occupies an undesirable place of misrecognition due to its concealment of the subject’s unconscious truth, how do we guide our intervention when the image is by itself precarious, such as in the cases of so called psychoses or borderline personality disorders?

If a person seems to be confronting the violent insistence of the Real, unable to find a limit and therefore putting themselves at risk of subjective destitution through acting out/passage à l’acte, or a psychotic breakdown, how does an analyst intervene? (Clinical cases akin to addictions, suicide or psychosis)

We aim to target these questions by interrogating the positionality of the analyst, her way of intervening according to the logical time faced, and her relation to other practices that might involve both private and institutional work.

We will work on the following primary texts, as well as some secondary readings that would be available beforehand. Most of the sessions will have a case discussion presented by the seminar participants.

Hilda Fernandez

Primary Texts:

Jacques Lacan


Beyond the “reality principle” (1936)

The mirror stage as formative of the I function as revealed in psychoanalytic experience (1939)

Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis (1948)

The function and the field of speech and language in psychoanalysis (1953)

The signification of the phallus (1958)

The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in the Freudian unconscious (1960)

On the subject who is finally in question (1966)

Excerpts from Seminar IX “Identification” (1961-62)

Discourse to Catholics (1960)

My teachings (1967)

Excerpts from Seminar 23 “The Sinthome” (1975-76)

Sigmund Freud

Excerpts of the following extensive texts:

Interpretation of dreams (1900) 

Psychopathology of the everyday life (1901)

Jokes and its relations to the unconscious (1905)

Introduction to narcissism (1914)

Beyond pleasure principle (1920)

Directed to: 

Clinical Counsellors, Psychotherapists, Psychoanalysts.

People interested in the clinical field within a social practice (social workers, outreach workers, health therapists, social research, education, etc.)

Times and Dates:

The theme of this Seminar will continue until the Summer of 2017

The first 6 sessions run from April 16 – June 25, 2016

The next 10 sessions run from January 14 to June 17, 2017

Fortnight Saturdays 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

SFU Woodwards 149 West Hastings St. in Vancouver

Room 2205

Meeting Dates / Second Part

January 14 & 28

February 11 & 25

March 11 & 25

April 22

May 20

June 3 & 17

The Facilitator:

Hilda Fernandez has extensive clinical experience in the field of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. Throughout her clinical trajectory, she has worked in the medical and mental health fields alongside a private practice. Currently she has a private practice in downtown Vancouver, and has worked for the past ten years as a psychotherapist at SAFER, part of Vancouver Coastal Health. In Mexico City she worked for eight years in the National Rehabilitation Program within the Central Hospital of the Mexican Red Cross.

She has an MA in Clinical Psychology (UNAM), an MA in Spanish Literature (UBC) and more than 15 years of Lacanian training. She co-founded the Lacan Salon in 2007 and currently serves as its president.  She is an academic associate with the SFU Institute for the Humanitoes and is enrolled in a PhD program at SFU Department of Geography where she is conducting research on discursive spaces of trauma and the mental health institution. To know more check her website www.hildafernandez.com


Lacan Salon acknowledges that this Seminar will take place on unceded territories of the Musqueam and Coast Salish peoples.

Lacan Salon thanks SFU Vancity Office of Community Engagement

*Image: Men Shall Know Nothing of This (1923) by Max Ernst