Is This a Cultural Thing? Personality, Race, and Culture in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (Zoom Only Registration)

There has been a tendency to separate the psyche and the social throughout the history of psychoanalysis, and tensions persist in theorizing about this issue. In this program, we will explore how personality is shaped by sociocultural context and how racial stereotypes and racism are embedded in conceptualizations of personality.

This field is required.
This field is required.

Thursday, September 21, 2023
7:00 - 9:00 PM EDT In-Person and Zoom Program & Discussion
Registration is required for this program. All registrants will receive a Zoom link.
The 2023 Fall Academic Lecture

Is a patient’s distress predominantly rooted in their personality or in the cultural milieu, or both?  

There has been a tendency to separate the psyche and the social throughout the history of psychoanalysis, and tensions persist in theorizing about this issue. In this program, we will explore how personality is shaped by sociocultural context and how racial stereotypes and racism are embedded in conceptualizations of personality. We will further examine how a person’s experiences are rooted in personality, family dynamics, and sociocultural trauma. Nuanced understandings of individual experiences of sociocultural context will be emphasized as we consider how personality, race, and culture intersect and interact in the therapeutic relationship.  



Usha Tummala-Narra, PhD, Presenter
is a clinical psychologist and the Director of Community-Based Education at the Albert and Jessie Danielsen Institute and Research Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University. Her research and scholarship focus on immigration, trauma, race, and culturally-informed psychoanalytic psychotherapy. She is also in Independent Practice, and works primarily with survivors of trauma from diverse sociocultural backgrounds. Dr. Tummala-Narra is an Associate Editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues and the Asian American Journal of Psychology. She is the author of Psychoanalytic Theory and Cultural Competence in Psychotherapy (2016) and the editor of Trauma and Racial Minority Immigrants: Turmoil, Uncertainty, and Resistance (2021), both published by the American Psychological Association Books. Dr. Tummala-Narra recently joined BPSI's Board of Trustees.
Desta Lissanu, MD, Panelist
is a second year student in BPSI’s Advanced Training Program in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (ATP) and a first year member of the Community Psychoanalysis Concentration (CPC). She is a recent graduate of the MGH/McLean psychiatry residency program. Her interests include increasing access to psychotherapy, community psychiatry, and psychotic disorders. She currently works as an attending psychiatrist on the inpatient unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. 
Lana Elhalabi, MD, Panelist
is a full-time psychiatrist in private practice in Providence RI and a full-time mom to three beloved humans and one canine. Lana grew up in Beirut where she underwent her premedical and medical school training before moving to the US for a post-doctorate fellowship at UCSF then residency training at UTSW. Lana has been a member of BPSI since 2015 when she joined the one year Fellowship and subsequently the ATP. She is currently a third year Psychoanalytic Candidate at BPSI. 

Elisa Cheng, MD, Moderator
is a fifth year Psychoanalytic Candidate at BPSI, where she is currently Chair of the Candidate and Affiliate Scholar Council and serves on the Ethics Education Committee and Joint Curriculum Committee. She is a clinical supervisor at Cambridge Health Alliance for the adult psychiatry residency training program, and has a private practice in Cambridge, MA. 


Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this program, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify how sociocultural context and trauma influence personality and relational life. 
  2. Describe how racial stereotypes and racism can be embedded in conceptualizations of personality. 
  3. Identify the interaction between context and personality in the therapeutic relationship. 
  4. Describe a culturally informed and decolonizing psychoanalytic approach to conceptualization and technique. 

7:00 Welcome and Introductions; 7:15 Lecture; 8:00 Panel Discussion; 8:30 Open Discussion 


This program is made possible by the generous support of BPSI members and friends. Your gift to BPSI supports psychoanalytic and psychotherapy education and ensures the future of our field. To make a gift, please visit

The target audience for this program is mental health clinicians at all levels of training and members of the community.
Scholarships are available for BPSI programs.
$100 Progrsm Fee
$95 Early Bird Special (available until 09/07/2023) Use Code at Checkout: EB2023FAL



Parts of this Zoom event will be recorded and shared with all registrants. The video may also be used for educational purposes or made available for purchase. If you do not wish to be recorded, please turn your camera off. By registering for this event, you grant permission to BPSI to the rights of your images, in video or still, and of the likeness and sound of your voice as recorded on audio or video.


Continuing Education

Physicians: This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint provider ship of American Psychoanalytic Association and The Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute . The American Psychoanalytic Association is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.”
The American Psychoanalytic Association designates this Live Activity for a maximum of 2 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.
IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION FOR ALL LEARNERS: None of the planners and presenters for this educational activity have relevant financial relationship(s)* to disclose with ineligible companies* whose primary business is producing, marketing, selling, re-selling, or distributing healthcare products used by or on patients.
*Financial relationships are relevant if the educational content an individual can control is related to the business lines or products of the ineligible company. -Updated July 2021-

Psychologists: The Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute maintains responsibility for this program and its content. This course offers 2 hours of CE credits for psychologists.

Social Workers: Application for social work continuing education credits has been submitted. Please contact us at or 617-266-0953 for the status of social work CE accreditation.
Please note: Per NASW requirements, social workers must attend 80% of a course in order to be eligible for continuing education credit.

Licensed Mental Health Clinicians: The Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute (BPSI) has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6913. BPSI is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs. This program offers 2 NBCC Clock Hours.

Event Cancellation Policies & Procedures
Any program participant requesting their individual program registration be canceled must submit their request in writing via email to Stephanie Cavanaugh at For fee-based events, a request for cancellation (and refund using the original form of payment) must be received no later than 48 hours in advance of the event. Requests received later than 48 hours prior to the event will not be processed or accepted. All approved refunds are subject to a $10.00 administrative fee. If BPSI cancels an event, all registrants will receive a full refund of fees paid (no administration charge) no later than two business days following the scheduled date of the event, using the original form of payment.

Grievance Policy
Please address any questions or concerns about your experience at this or any program or event you have attended at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute to the Program Chair, via the Senior Administrator/Continuing Education Administrator, BPSI,141 Herrick Road, Newton Centre, MA 02459;; 617.266.0953.

The Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, Inc.,141 Herrick Road, Newton Centre, MA 02459, does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, age, sexual orientation, national origin or handicap in the admissions, administration of its educational programs, scholarship programs or employment.