Bion’s Discovery of Alpha Function: Changes in Psychoanalytic Theory and Technique

Lawrence Brown will discuss Bion’s formulation of the concept of alpha function, which the author views as a function of the unconscious ego responsible for the transformation of raw emotional experience into symbolic thinking. Bion’s traumatic experiences in World War I gave him painful insights into the factors that impede rational thought, and his psychoanalytic work with psychotic patients in the 1950s helped him to understand the nature of disordered thought. He expanded on Freud’s theory of dreaming and posited the notion of unconscious waking thought that proposes we are constantly engaged in a process of dreaming while awake and asleep. The clinical implications of this model are discussed, and clinical material from the analysis of an adolescent female is offered to illustrate these issues.


Friday, October 17, 2014 - 7:30pm to 9:30pm
7:00 PM - Registration/Wine & Cheese



4455 Morena Boulevard, Suite 202
San Diego, CA 92117
United States
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Free for SDPSI Members
Non-members $25, Students $15

Educational Objective(s)

  • Describe the important clinical benefits of promoting alpha function in patients.
  • Employ clinical techniques designed to facilitate alpha functioning.
  • Recognize the absence of alpha functioning and differentiate it from phenomena involving primarily intra psychic conflict.
  • Show how an understanding of Bion’s alpha function theory can help to make clinical distinctions between patients of different cultural/language backgrounds who are suffering the effects of trauma.

Presenter Information

Lawrence Brown is a graduate of the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute (BPSI) in both child and adult psychoanalysis and is a supervising child analyst there. He is on the faculty of BPSI as well as the Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis. He is also a Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has been on the North American Editorial Board of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis and is currently on the Editorial Board of Psychoanalytic Inquiry. He was also Co-chair of the Bion in Boston 2009 international conference. His book, Intersubjective Processes and the Unconscious: An Integration of Freudian, Kleinian and Bionian Perspectives, was published in the New Library of Psychoanalysis series by Routledge Press in early 2011and another book, co-edited with Dr. Howard Levine, Growth and Turbulence in the Container/Contained, was recently published by Routledge. Dr. Brown has published papers on the Oedipus complex, trauma, countertransference dreams, and other topics.