Aaron Stern, MD, PhD Program in Psychodynamic Psychiatry

The mission of the Aaron Stern, MD, PhD Program in Psychodynamic Psychiatry is to advance training and education of psychodynamic approaches to treat personality disorders. Made possible by a generous gift by Aaron Stern, MD, PhD and Betty Lee Stern, the Stern Program builds on Weill Cornell Psychiatry’s excellence in the tradition of psychodynamic psychiatry, an approach that has proven to be one of the most effective treatments for personality disorders.

Mission and Goals of the Program

The Mission of the Aaron Stern, MD, PhD Program in Psychodynamic Psychiatry is to improve clinical care through the education of future generations of health care professionals, generate awareness of personality disorders and their treatment, and, conduct innovative research.

The Goals of the Institute are to:

  1. Educate the next generation of health care providers in psychodynamic approaches to treat personality disorders including narcissistic personal disorder.
  2. Disseminate knowledge about psychodynamic approaches for the treatment of personality disorders including narcissistic personality disorder to healthcare professionals through distance learning, peer-reviewed publications, events, and colloquia.
  3. Initiate research that explores interdisciplinary approaches to understanding psychological approaches into psychodynamic processes

The Rationale for establishing the program

Personal pathology, including narcissistic personality, causes significant distress and burden on sufferers, their families, and the communities in which they live and work.  While the psychodynamic approach has proven to be highly effective in the treatment of narcissism and other personality traits, there has been a general retreat from this approach in the field of psychiatry across the United States.  Weill Cornell Psychiatry is committed to preserving, improving, and disseminating the psychodynamic point of view.


Weill Cornell Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry has a strong tradition in psychodynamic psychiatry.  However, in the last thirty years, while we have seen an explosion in the development of psychiatry as a biomedical subspecialty, we have also seen a marginalization of the psychodynamic point of view in the rest of the field of mental health. Ironically, this marginalization has occurred even as developments in both basic science, and in the world of health delivery point to the increasing importance of the psychodynamic point of view.

A few examples:

a.) In many fields of basic mind science, there is new potential for an integration of brain science and psychodynamic psychology. Developments in cognitive neuroscience support basic psychodynamic concepts such as the unconscious, the embodiment of mind, the importance of the self-other matrix for the development of mind and brain, and the basic narrative structure of the mind. Indeed, research linking cognitive neuroscience with the psychodynamic point of view was predicted and called for by Nobel laureate Eric Kandel in the American Journal of Psychiatry (1999).

b.) In the clinical world, outcome studies require that we look not only at somatic treatments but at psychological treatments. Clinical care that ignores psychological factors does not last. In fact, there are multiple empirical studies showing that the therapeutic alliance as the most powerful factor influencing outcome in all treatments.

c.) Health care delivery in all of medicine is beginning to focus on mental health, with a new emphasis on integrated care.

All of these developments suggest that the need to preserve the psychodynamic approach to psychiatry as an important treatment approach.


Susan C. Vaughan, M.D.Susan C. Vaughan, M.D., has joined the full-time faculty of Weill Cornell Medicine as the next Aaron Stern, MD, PhD Professor of Psychodynamic Psychiatry and the Director of the Aaron Stern, MD, PhD Program in Psychodynamic Psychiatry.  Dr. Vaughan is distinguished psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, educator, and scholar.  She has written three best-selling books: The Talking Cure: The Science Behind Psychotherapy about how psychotherapy changes the brain, Half Empty Half Full about optimism and Viagra: A Guide to the Phenomenal Potency-promoting Drug


Components of the Program

Aaron Stern, MD, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Psychodynamic Psychiatry

The Aaron Stern, MD, PhD Symposium on Psychodynamic or Visiting Professorship in Psychodynamic Psychiatry

The Program in Psychodynamic Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine has strong presence in the residency program with courses in: Interviewing; Introduction to Psychotherapy, the Therapeutic Alliance, the Psychoanalytic Model of the Mind, How to Start a Case; Continuous Case Seminar, Kernberg Case Conference, Transference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP), Trauma and Loss, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Group Psychotherapy, Psychotherapy Outcome, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Symptom-Focused Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Human Development, Differential Therapeutics; TFP elective, psychotherapy electives, and many other psychodynamic psychiatry electives.

The educational Program in Psychodynamic Psychiatry includes supervisor meetings with in-service teaching. The Psychology Training program also includes a strong psychodynamic training component, as does the Medical Student Teaching Program. Many Weill Cornell students are participating in fellowships offered by Columbia and New York Psychoanalytic Institutes, many are participating in the Fellowship of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and many are serving in the editorial fellowship offered each year to our trainees by the journal. Psychodynamic Psychiatry.

We also export psychodynamic psychiatry throughout the country. This effort takes place in part through teaching efforts on the part of Dr. Auchincloss at Bergen Regional Medical Center (Paramus, New Jersey), the University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and the Good Samaritan Hospital Program in Corvallis, Oregon (through the Victor Teichner Scholar’s Program of the American Academy for Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry (AAPDP). Dr. Auchincloss has also been a featured speaker at the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the AAPDP, the American Psychoanalytic Association,  the American Association for

Directors in Psychiatric Residency  Training (AADPRT), the  Association of Directors of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry (ADMSEP), to mention a few.  She has been a Grand Rounds speaker at many programs.  She has also taught at the Korean Psychoanalytic Society, where she does supervision. She is the author of The Psychoanalytic Model of the Mind, published by the American Psychiatric Press.




Educational Videos

A series of online courses and educational videos aimed at advancing the training and education of psychodynamic approaches to treat personality disorders. 

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