Presentation at National Institute for the Psychotherapies in NYC, October 11/2018

I will be presenting at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in NYC on October 11, 2018. This presentation will consider dehumanization in everyday life. The manifestations of non-conscious dehumanizing perceptions of others are evidenced in findings from studies in neuro-science using brain imaging techniques, and are also reflected in disparities in clinical decisions in healthcare. The presentation will discuss the psycho-evolutionary origins of such unintentional emotional biases and the possible solutions to reverse and counter such automatic processes.

 More information, including registration instructions, can be found from this link.

Irit Felsen

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Webinar for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, September 13/2018

On Thursday, September 13, 2018,  I will be giving a Webinar for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The webinar will be entitled “Prior Trauma, Aging and the Experience of Care Recipients”.

This presentation will articulate the impact of extreme trauma, its immediate effects and in particular, its long-term effects on aging survivors and their families. There is a large body of empirical and clinical literature that shows that trauma during earlier times in life influences the way one ages, physically and mentally, and they way one experiences the process of aging and the losses that are often associated with it. The presentation aims at increasing participants’ familiarity with the symptoms and signs of trauma (especially distal trauma) in elderly individuals, as these signs and symptoms are often different in older adults than in younger individuals. The presentation will sharpen sensitivity to the unique vulnerabilities and needs of aging trauma survivors, which are often missed due to a multitude of other complicating factors when dealing with aging patients. Trauma in the clients/patients as well as in staff members is prevalent, and can lead to difficult interactions between them. The presentation will discuss the risk for dehumanization in modern medical settings such as hospitals and especially in long-term facilities. Insights from modern studies in social cognitions and recent findings from neuro-science will be presented, which have identified processes involved in dehumanizing perceptions of others. Perceptions of others as “less human” have been shown to be especially likely to occur when these others are perceived to have cognitively impaired minds and when they appear to be different from the provider. Such findings suggest that elderly individuals, and elderly trauma survivors in particular, might be at an elevated risk for unintentional dehumanizing perceptions by healthcare providers, even by well-intentioned professionals who are consciously focused on helping others. The presentation will briefly discuss the origin of such emotional biases in evolutionary psychology. Emotional bias cannot be changed by intellectual training alone. The presentation will offer ways to counter and reverse automatic, non-conscious processes involved in such biases, which increase self-regulation and empathy in caring for elderly patients to avoid re-traumatization in their most vulnerable days.

More information, as well as registration instructions, can be found by following this link.

Irit Felsen

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New semester of teaching starting at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University

       I am pleased to be starting the new semester at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University in the Bronx.  I will again be teaching a graduate course on “Couples and Family Counseling” (Course #6440).

      In other Yeshiva University-related news, a blog about my recently published paper was posted by the media department on the Yeshiva University faculty blog, and can be found at this link.

         Irit Felsen

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“The Leisure Seeker” – Movies about old age. Finally.

Finally, Old Age, Dementia, Terminal Illness and Love at the Autumn of life are being portrayed in the movies. Movies are important agents of social change influencing public perceptions. Seeing our movie stars portray the trials and tribulations, but also love, romance, adventure and camaraderie, and yes, even sex in the late years of life is a relatively new and important development in our culture.

“My John is charming, educated! You stole him from me and I want him back, give him back!” says the character played by Helen Mirren to her husband who suffers from memory loss in the movie “The Leisure Seeker”.  “Whoever stole him from you stole him from me, too” responds the aging handsome Donald Sutherland, who plays the husband.

Sure, the portrayal of the aging couple, she who is dying of cancer and he, who suffers from progressive memory loss, is much beautified and softened in this movie in comparison  with the reality known to anyone who has had to deal with the truly grueling experience of caring for a parent or husband who is gradually disappearing into dementia, and to anyone who has had to endure or observe the ordeal of  cancer patients. The movie can be criticized (and it was) for multiple instances which would have ended much more tragically in real life than they do in the script. For example, when the wife collapses during a visit to Ernest Hemingway’s home, while her husband is in a different part of the place, he and no other is the one who happens upon her purse which was forgotten by the EMT’s and so, with presence of mind, he finds out where his wife was taken.  We gather from a conversation between the grown son and his sister that nothing his father said made sense to him during entire afternoons spent together, and we get a glimpse of the differences between the siblings in the way they cope with a parent’s decline. And, of course, Donald Sutherland, even as an old man suffering from dementia, never becomes just simply ornery, and Helen Mirren, suffering from terminal cancer in its late phase, is only momentarily sick while generally maintaining her cheerfulness throughout the final adventurous journey the couple embarked upon. Yet criticizing the unrealistic aspects of the movie, while somewhat justified, does not take away from the fact that finally, the reality of the later phases of life are beginning to be represented in cinematography. The individual challenges of illness and dementia, of couple-hood and of late love at the edge of the life cycle are finally finding some expression in such movies as “Still Alice”, “Requiem”, and the European “Amore”.

Both “Amore” and “The Leisure Seeker”  address the desperation that accompanies the inevitable diminishing of one of the spouses and the prospect of staying alone or leaving the other alone at the most vulnerable time in life. I am just happy these issues have become part of the discourse and part of the social awareness to the issues faced by the elderly in our society.

                    Irit Felsen

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Hecht Museum’s “Arrivals, Departures” Provides Glimpse into the Lives and Work of 18 Persecuted Jewish Artists

Over the course of a recent visit in Israel this summer, I had the opportunity to briefly tour the Hecht Museum’s art exhibit, “Arrivals, Departures: The Oscar Ghez Collection.” The exhibit, which will run at the museum, found within the University of Haifa, through November 1, features the salvaged works of 18 Jewish French artists who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust.


The artwork was donated to the University in 1978 and stored since then. The individual artists were recently researched by students in the University of Haifa’s Weiss-Livnat International Graduate Program in Holocaust Studies.  The exhibition begins with the peak of the artists’ promising careers in early-20th century Paris, a hub of culture and art in which many artists and intellectuals found refuge. It ends, of course, with the forced “departures” of the artists during Nazi occupation. The two-part nature of the exhibit means that it spans a range of styles and themes, of freedom and of captivity, and most emotionally of the artists’ resilience as they continued to create work within the confines of concentration camps during their last days.


I would strongly urge anyone in the area to visit the exhibit (link provided here), which tactfully and poignantly provides the ability to view our own history through the eyes of these talented artists whose lives and careers were cut so tragically short.

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Paper Published in Psychoanalytic Psychology Journal!

My Paper Published Today in the Psychology Journal Online

I am happy to share that my Paper entitled “Parental Trauma and Adult Sibling Relationships in Holocaust-Survivor Families” was published online today and the print issue will be scheduled for a later time.

The paper discusses the impact of parental trauma on the types of relationships that various children in Holocaust-survivor families developed with their parents. In addition to the naturally occurring differences among children in temperament,  aptitudes and preferences, there are also normative processes of differentiation and de-identification among siblings in any family, whereby each child tries to carve their own unique place in the relationships with parents and in the family as a system.  This paper discusses observations suggesting that the processes of differentiation among siblings are accentuated by the dynamics associated with parental trauma. The polarized differences between the life choices and personality traits of adult siblings often lead to negative feelings about each other and to a strained sibling bond.

The full paper can be accessed on my blog at the following link:



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Event Tomorrow: Mental Health Services in Low Resource Settings

For those in the tristate area, I wanted to share that the American Psychological Association at the UN has organized a forum tomorrow, July 16, that will be discussing the implementation of mental health services in low resource settings. For any who might be interested, I am attaching some information below!

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