Howard Bacal is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis and at the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, and Supervising Analyst at the Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity in New York. Howard is in private practice – of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy – in Los Angeles.
Howard obtained his medical degree at McGill University, and psychiatric training at the University of Cincinnati, and at the Tavistock Clinic in London, where he undertook adult and child psychoanalytic training at The British Psychoanalytic Institute. The 1960’s was an exciting time to be in London, in many ways. One of these ways was to be a student of psychoanalysis, as a number of unusually creative figures in this field were then producing their most brilliant and innovative work. Howard had the rare opportunity to study with several of them. His teachers and supervisors included Michael Balint, Anna Freud, Donald Winnicott, Marion Milner, Wilfred Bion, Betty Joseph, Charles Rycroft, and J.D. Sutherland, with whom he studied the work of W.R.D. Fairbairn and Harry Guntrip.
Shortly after his return to North America, Howard studied Self Psychology in Chicago with Heinz Kohut (he commuted from Toronto to Chicago every other week for 6 1/2 years!), and introduced this treatment approach to psychoanalysts and psychotherapists in Canada, prior to relocating to Los Angeles in 1995.
Howard has written extensively on therapeutic process, training, and research in psychotherapy. His first, co-authored book, Theories of Object Relations: Bridges to Self Psychology, focused on the interface between self psychology and relational theory.
In his edited volume, Optimal Responsiveness: How Therapists Heal their Patients, 18 psychoanalysts describe their way of working from this perspective. This book elaborates the concept, “optimal responsiveness”, which Howard Bacal introduced in his groundbreaking paper in 1985, “Optimal Responsiveness and the Therapeutic Process”. The term, optimal responsiveness, denotes each patient’s unique need for responsiveness from his therapist that may be healing for her or him.
Howard’s new book, The Power of Specificity in Psychotherapy: When Therapy Works – And When It Doesn’t, is a clinically rich presentation of the specificity of psychoanalytic process, which he regards as central to contemporary psychoanalytic practice and supervision: that is, that regardless of the possible relevance in either situation of any particular theory, optimal therapeutic and pedagogic potential is pre-eminently a function of the unique and specific capacities, and limitations, of that particular dyad in their emergent process, in the moment and over time.