Review of Domenico Nesci's "Multimedia Psychotherapy: A Psychodynamic Approach for Mourning in the Technological Age".

This book by Domenico Nesci is more than a book about a “new technique” or new therapeutic tool. This is a book that synthesises much of Domenicos ideas about Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy.

The first book of Domenicos that I read was “the lessons of Jonestown” In that book I was introduced to new theoretical concepts regarding death and mourning. Both death and Mourning are natural processes. Sometimes they get stuck and mourning becomes pathological.

One of many interesting concepts is that of the Syncytial cell. This group of cells form the interface between the mothers uterus, the placenta and the baby. These cells are not regarded as foreign cells by the mothers biology or the babys biology. These cells form a transition between two separate beings at a cellular level. The cells are neither mother or baby but need to be there to fascilitate the existance of both

Death by malignant cancer might be an extremely painful experience not only for the patient, but for his/her relatives and caregivers too. It might be one of those traumatic experiences that leave scars and repressed memories whose pathogenic power is even more devastating than the mere exit from the scene of Life. A cancer patient, in fact, might experience uncanny body transformations due to both: the illness and its cure (chemo, radiotherapy, surgery, and so on…). The personal identity is physically (but, at times, also psychologically) changed in such a way that the subject becomes alienated from his/her own “true” Self. This is why oncological mourning is responsible for so many cases of complicated grief or prolonged grief disorders in relatives and caregivers. In such cases, when someone suffers from the oncological death of a beloved person, time seems to stop, vital breathe is suspended, and mourning is frozen… The mourning patient wears now the mask of a depression. It is within this uneasy scenario that a psychoanalyst and an adolescent artist (father and son) in the aftermath of the double mourning of their parents/grandparents were able to recover the eternal recuperative power of Art and invent, together, a new form of cure: Multimedia Psychotherapy (Nesci, 2013).

The psychodynamic montages by Filippo A. Nesci are, technically speaking, a sort of remix where a song or a music (chosen by the patient during his/her sessions with the therapist) is animated by the pictures of the life story of the person who died: it is a sort of slide show of a whole life harmoniously flowing in the time of a song. The editing of approximately 40 pictures allows the artist to revisit from a new perspective (and to modify in a recuperative way) the most meaningful moments of the dead person’s life and his/her relationship with the depressed patient of Multimedia Psychotherapy. The images, the music, the lyrics, are worked through by the artist’s editing in such a way as to offer to both, patient and therapist, a new interpretation of the whole story. In this way the traumatic memories are replaced by new audiovisual memories and the patient is helped to elaborate his/her own mourning process and move on.

The successful outcome of this therapy has to do not only with the dynamics of the relationship between patient and therapist but also with the natural capacity of the artist, who is able to absorb the emotions inherent in the images and music chosen by the patient and to work them through in his editing even if he never meets the patient and knows almost nothing about his/her life.

The book documents about 20 cases treated by Dr. Nesci and his Collaborators at the Consultation Liaison-Psychiatry Unit (Area of Psycho-Oncology) of the School of Medicine of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, in Rome, Italy. The clinical cases are presented in an unusual “cinematographic” (so to speak…) way.

While the first case is presented and discussed longitudinally, session after session, all other cases are introduced only with brief clinical vignettes and “cut” in a transversal way. So the Reader has the feeling of being inside the consultation room and see:

1.      why and how the therapist decides to propose Multimedia Psychotherapy (chapter 3: The Intake).

2.      What happens when patients bring the pictures of their beloved dead relative into the sessions (chapter 4: Selecting the Pictures).

3.      How to work on the music chosen by the patient as soundtrack of the “memory object” (chapter 5: Choosing the Soundtrack).

4.      The unconscious dynamics implied in working with the artist to produce the “psychodynamic montage” (chapter 6: Working with the Artist).

5.      How the therapist manages the emotional atmosphere of the screening session helps patients working through their mourning process (chapter 7: the Screening Session and the Outcome).

At the end, the Reader has the feeling of having took part “live” to the clinical work of Multimedia Psychotherapy, and having learned the theoretical and clinical basic notions on the practice of this new psychodynamic art therapy.

In my view, Psychoanalysis and Cinema, born together at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, meet again in our Technological Age in the “psychodynamic montages” invented by an Italian Colleague and his young son/artist. May be, Filippo A. Nesci has spontaneously absorbed by his psychoanalyst/father the capacity to be permeable to transference, and by his documentarian/grandfather (Michele Nesci) the capacity to edit pictures and music…

 

However, I deeply feel, after having read the case of Bianca (the old widow of a Angelo, who died for liver cancer) and seen her video on the website of a scientific online journal (Nesci and Nesci, 2013) that it is only for the young artist’s natural gift that his “psychodynamic montages” help patients to work through their own memory objects in a recuperative way in order to move on and come to terms with their own traumatic mourning experiences.

References

Nesci D.A. (2013) Multimedia Psychotherapy. A Psychodynamic Approach for Mourning in the Technological Age. Jason Aronson, Lanham, 2013.

Nesci D.A. and Nesci F.A. (2010) Un oggetto della memoria. Doppio Sogno, n. 11, http://www.doppio-sogno.it/numero11/OggettoMemoriaVideo.htm