Frances Sommer Anderson, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in New York State, holds a Certificate of Specialization in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis from New York University. She has been fascinated by the "mindbody problem" since her first undergraduate course in psychology. While doing an APA-approved clinical psychology internship at Rusk Institute--New York University Langone Medical Center in 1974, she learned about the impact of congenital, traumatic, and progressive physically-disabling conditions on children's emotional development. Staying on at Rusk as a member of the Psychology Department until 1987, she developed expertise in treating children and adults with degenerative neuromuscular diseases. Her groundbreaking research on sexuality and neuromuscular disease was published during this period.
In 1979, at the invitation of her psychologist colleague, Arlene Feinblatt, Ph.D. and attending physiatrist, John E. Sarno, M.D., Dr. Anderson joined Dr. Sarno's rehabilitation team to treat people with musculoskeletal back pain, then referred to as Tension Myositis Syndrome, or TMS. Dr. Sarno has redefined TMS to refer to Tension Myoneural Syndrome. Treating patients with mindbody pain disorders became a life-long professional and personal passion, which Anderson depicts in "At a Loss for Words and Feelings," a chapter in her edited book, Bodies in Treatment: The Unspoken Dimension (The Analytic Press/Taylor & Francis Group, 2007). In this account, Dr. Anderson describes how she herself developed a TMS-pain symptom and elaborates on the processes by which she discovered that it was related to emotional trauma in her childhood. In an earlier publication co-edited with Lewis Aron, Relational Perspectives on the Body (The Analytic Press, 1998), she described her treatment of a patient with TMS-pain, referred by Dr. Sarno. In that chapter, "Psychic Elaboration of Musculoskeletal Pain: Ellen's Story," Dr. Anderson elucidates the connections between Ellen's long history of pain and the emotions from which it had distracted her, illustrating the collaboration between patient and therapist that resulted in relief from the TMS-pain.
In addition to treating adults in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, Dr. Anderson teaches mental health clinicians, physicians, physical therapists, massage therapists, yoga teachers and other body-focused practitioners about the relationship between pain and trauma. Committed to integrating contemporary psychoanalytic theory and the latest developments in the neuroscience of attachment, trauma, and pain, she has developed two teaching techniques, Experiencing the Pain Matrix and Sensing the Other, aimed at helping clinicians and body therapists learn about the complexity of the mindbody relationship.
Dr. Anderson is known internationally for her psychoanalytic explorations of the mindbody relationship and the use of bodily experience in the psychotherapy process. In her relationships with animals, particularly cats, she has learned essentials about nonverbal, emotional communication, which she considers to be fundamental to the process of change in the psychotherapeutic process. Her interest in nonverbal processes reaches beyond the consulting room to her photography, where she feels compelled to capture the "essence" of experience in color and texture.
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