Vamık D. Volkan, M.D., DLFAPA, FACPsa.

Dr Volkan was the founder and the director of the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction (CSMHI) from 1988 to 2002.
CSMHI, which reported to an Advisory Board under the Chairmanship of the Dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine,
provided a catalyst within the University community for interdisciplinary scholarship aimed at understanding the psychology of
large groups, conflict between nations and ethnic groups, racism, national identity, terrorism, societal trauma,
leader-follower relationships, and other aspects of national and international conflict.


CSMHI’s interdisciplinary faculty worked in many troubled spots of the world with a mission
to understand the psychology of international relationships and find peaceful solutions to their conflicts.
 In 1987 the Soviet Duma signed a contract with the CSMHI to examine existing difficulties 
between the Soviet Union and United States. Later CSMHI worked in the Baltic Republics, Kuwait,
Albania, former Yugoslavia, Georgia, South Ossetia, Turkey, Greece, and elsewhere. 
Purpose :
The Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction (CSMHI) is a unique interdisciplinary unit of the University of Virginia on the forefront of studies in large-group dynamics. CSMHI applies a growing theoretical and field-proven base of knowledge to issues such as ethnic tension, racism, national identity, terrorism, societal trauma, leader-follower relationships, and other aspects of national and international conflict. Because no single discipline can fully illuminate such deep-seated and complex issues, CSMHI's faculty and board include experts in psychoanalysis, psychiatry, diplomacy, history, political science, and environmental policy. Their combined perspectives and experience provide in-depth analysis of political, historical, and social issues and the psychological processes that invariably exist beneath their surface.
Activities :
CSMHI's activities are three-pronged. The Center's purpose is to :
        Develop theories through fielwork, research, and interdisciplinary conferences. 
    Apply these theories and formulate methodologies in diagnosis, these theories and formulate methodologies in diagnosis, mediation, facilitation
     and consultation projects relating to real-world situations.
        Disseminate these its finding through publications, teaching, consulting, and the media.
CSMHI develops and applies its research both in the USA and internationally.
Activities include :
       Evaluation of current large group conflicts at home and abroad, including the illumination of hidden and shared resistances to change.
       Long-term dialogue processes and adaptive negotiations between opposing ethnic or national groups.
       Conceptualization and implementation of models of action to reduce large group tensions and evolve open democratic relationships.
       Interdisciplinary conferences on vital contemporary issues affecting states, groups, and individuals.
       Lecture series held at the University of Virginia featuring guest speakers from around the world.
       Publication of Mind and Human Interaction, a quarterly journal.
       Consultations and presentations by CSMHI faculty at national and international conferences.
       Sponsored research and programs.
How It Began :
Diplomacy and psychoanalysis are traditionally perceived as mutually exclusive disciplines. The former focuses on the interaction of nations, and the latter on the interaction of the internal and external worlds of the individual. Some statesmen, scholars, and clinicians, however, have become increasingly aware of the inextricable link between these human processes, as noted by Anwar Sadat in regard to the chronic conflict between Arabs and Israelis (see at below). Between 1980 and 1986, under the auspices of the American Psychiatric Association, a small group of psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, and former diplomats convened numerous unofficial meetings between high-ranking Arabs and Israelis in order to explore this link. During this process, new theories about the psychology of large groups and leader-follower relationships evolved, and the interdisciplinary team gradually developed into a working entity ready to apply its knowledge and practical experience to other situations. The nucleus of CSMHI was later formed by several of these facilitators, including founder Vamık D. Volkan (psychoanalyst), Harold Saunders (former Assistant Secretary of State), Demetrios Julius (psychiatrist), Joseph Montville (former diplomat), and Rita Rogers (psychiatrist and political scientist.)
Objectives :
One of the goals of the Center's international activities is to provide a kind of vaccination for potentially antagonistic groups to reduce the likelihood that ethnic tensions will lead to violent conflict. It is clear that historical events affect the behavior of large groups. The losses, humiliations, and sometimes even the glories of the past, with their associated emotions, are reactivated at the time of contemporary conflict and societal stress. Economic decline, political turbulence, or pervasive uncertainty about the future can cause long-buried sentiments and ideologies to resurface. In the conflict in Bosnia, for example, a battle between Christian Serbs and Muslim Ottomans 600 years ago at Kosovo continues to be felt by many as if it were a recent event. Despite decades of co-existence, tension between Christians and Muslims quickly ignited and close neighbors were soon transformed into bitter enemies.
When feelings about such past and present events get intertwined, they create emotional obstacles to peaceful solutions of current problems. Reinforcing the distinction between present and past conflicts, and isolating perceptions of current events from contamination by unhealed wounds of the past, helps avoid the irrationality and viciousness that often distort present-day frictions. There are patterns and rituals to the ways large groups relate to each other in peace and in war. In conflict situations, for example, a group will strive to maintain its difference from the enemy group at nearly all costs. If  third-party intervention is perceived as erasing this difference, resistance to resolution may increase. The relationships between leaders and followers in a group also affect these rituals. Only an interdisciplinary approach that takes into account these patterns and their psychological nuances can determine how they affect diplomatic, political, and legal affairs. CSMHI has evolved a methodology that enables groups to maintain their distinct identities while working through the psychological barriers that often impede negotiation of real-world issues.
Methodology :
CSMHI uses a synthesis of diplomatic and psychoanalytic techniques and insights to understand group processes and how shared emotions and motivations affect perceptions of economic, political, social, and legal issues. Central to CSMHI's methodology to reduce ethnic tension and promote democratic pluralism is a dialogue between opposing groups that "decompresses" the exchange of historical grievances and rigid positions typical of many negotiations in order to foster genuine understanding and constructive interaction. CSMHI's methodology involves bringing together influential decision-makers (i.e. legislators, ambassadors, scholars, and others-always in an unofficial capacity) in a process involving multiple meetings over a period of years. CSMHI does not view its activities as a substitute for conventional political and diplomatic processes, but rather as a complement to and catalyst for them.
Even after CSMHI's initial dialogue meetings are successful, however, difficult questions still remain: how can progress be institutionalized? How can insights from the dialogues be translated into concrete actions affecting the societies involved? What can be done to maintain peaceful coexistence after the facilitating group leaves?
CSMHI's methodology has evolved to address such questions. Integral to its meetings is the development of concrete action scenarios in which specific issues are scrutinized by members of each group to reveal potential obstacles and their sources, including the psychological resistances that often lurk beneath seemingly straight forward issues. Ways to overcome obstacles are discussed and explored, interactive steps of action to address them effectively are outlined, and methods to implement action plans within larger groups and governments are analyzed. This cycle of action and discussion to resolve problems continues throughout the process.
The methodology also encourages the development of a representative group on location to perpetuate and widen the dialogue process and to seek funding for the projects they envision.
The Baltic State Project :
This series of international dialogues has become CSMHI's largest project in recent years. It evolved from a joint study in 1990-91 with the Soviet Academy of Science's Institute of Psychology to examine USA-Soviet relations. After the Soviet Union collapsed, CSMHI turned its attention to the Baltic States as they worked toward democratization after regaining independence. This objective, however, was complicated by questions of identity associated with the large number of Russian speakers in the newly-independent region, decades of Soviet rule, and the necessity of rapidly adopting a "new way of thinking." CSMHI's efforts therefore focused on defusing detrimental nationalistic tendencies and enabling a "velvet divorce" from the former Soviet Union.
Following several years of work throughout the region, CSMHI's activities now focus on Estonia. In collaboration with The Carter Center, CSMHI convenes an ongoing series of dialogue meetings bringing together influential leaders on an unofficial basis. Participants include Ambassadors, Estonian and Russian legislators and officials, representatives from the Russian-speaking community in Estonia, scholars, and others. CSMHI faculty facilitate effective communication and encourage issue-oriented discussion. Because these meetings now occur every few months with many participants attending regularly, the impact is cumulative and significantly affects the thinking and interaction of influential members of Estonian Government and society.
In addition to these national-level dialogues, CSMHI also conducts community-level initiatives. Estonian and Estonian-Russian leaders in three communities meet for discussions to reduce inter-group tension and to promote cooperative projects for building civil society. The process is designed both to serve as a model for other conflict prevention efforts and also to build local capacity by financing joint projects that will strengthen inter-group cooperation.
Baltic States Projects Meetings :
      Kaunas, Lithuania-April 1992.
      Riga, Latvia-April 1993.
      Tallinn, Estonia-April 1994.
     Parnu, Estonia-October 1994.
     Charlottesville, Virginia-January 1995.
     Tallinn, Tartu, Narva and Sillamae, Estonia-February 1995.
    Riga, Latvia-February 1995.
    Tallinn, Estonia-March 1995.
     Tallinn, Estonia-September 1995.
     Keila, Paldiski, Tartu, Mustvee, and Narva, Estonia-October 1995.
     Tallinn, Estonia-November 1995.
     Charlottesville, Virginia-February 1996.
     Tallinn, Estonia-April 1996.
Psychology and the Environment :
With the addition of an environmental specialist to its interdisciplinary team, CSMHI has begun to explore how environmental issues are intertwined with psychological ones. From its preliminary study of Estonia, where serious hazardous waste and pollution problems date from Soviet times, it is clear that cooperation between the groups in Estonia and throughout the region is crucial to environmental improvement. More broadly, the effects of environmental problems are psychological as well as physical, and their resolution must take into account the needs and motives of the large groups involved, whether they represent government, industry, or an ethnic heritage.
The Kuwait Project :  
Another major project of CSMHI was developed at the request of the Social Development Office of the Amiri Diwan in Kuwait. Directed by Amb. Nathaniel Howell, USA Ambassador to Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion of 1990, the project focused initially on diagnosing the societal effects of the Iraqi occupation on Kuwait so as to facilitate effective recovery from this trauma. The project's long-term goal is both preventive and prospective to identify and arrest the effects of Kuwait's societal trauma and forestall its transmission to future generations. During 1993-1994, CSMHI faculty conducted over 150 interviews with a wide cross-section of Kuwaiti people to form a picture of the aggregate consequences of the experience. The initiative and cooperation of the Kuwaiti authorities and people have contributed to significant insights relevant to other societies that have suffered man-made or natural disasters.
     Eisenhower Exchange Fellows of the Philippines Seminar, Charlottesville, Virginia-September 1987.
     Eisenhower Exchange Fellows of South Korea Seminar, Charlottesville, Virginia-October 1988.
     Northern Ireland and Group Mourning, Charlottesville, Virginia-October 1989.
     Ethnicity and Political Change, Moscow, USSR-April 1990; Charlottesville, Virginia-April 1991.
     Post Cold War Politics: Old Wine in New Bottles, Charlottesville, Virginia-April 1994.
     Strategies for Conflict Resolution in the Republic of Georgia,  Charlottesville, Virginia-October 1995 (in collaboration with The Carter Center.)
In addition, CSMHI faculty and board members have conducted extensive facilitating, training, and diagnostic projects in Slovakia, Romania, Tajikistan, Turkey, Northern Ireland, and other countries.
Violence and Racism :
CSMHI's exploration of violence and racism in the United States has included theoretical and practical applications. Conferences on immigration and ethnic pluralism have gathered experts from psychoanalysis, anthropology, theology, and other fields. Facilitation of a meeting between white business executives and African-American community leaders in a major USA city deepened CSMHI's understanding of the practical dynamics of inner city relations.
Pending availability of funding, CSMHI is poised to begin a series of dialogues combining theory and practice to address problems of violence and conflict in the inner city. CSMHI's interdisciplinary approach can help illuminate, for example, how historical experiences and attitudes transmitted from generation to generation affect present interactions in ways that are not always obvious.
Cults and Leader-Follower Relationships :
Through conferences and discussions with participants in actual events, CSMHI has examined the psychology of modern cults, apocalyptic leaders such as Jim Jones and David Koresh, and the relationships between cult leaders and their members. Issues of identity, ideology, and perceived threats are important in understanding the behavior of such groups.
In early 1996, Vamık D. Volkan chaired and faculty member Gregory Saathoff participated in a national commission to examine the role of behavioral sciences in the activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The group was formed at the request of the Justice Department to recommend ways to expand the FBI's resources for approaching incidents such as Waco and Ruby Ridge.
Meetings and Conferences : 
     Interdisciplinary Approaches to Unofficial Diplomacy I, April 1988.
     Interdisciplinary Approaches to Unofficial Diplomacy II, April 1989.
    Journalists, Diplomats and Psychoanalysts: The Search for Answers, November 1990.
     Immigrants, Refugees, and Others: An Interdisciplinary Conference on the Experience of Immigration, March 1992.
    Ethnic Pluralism, Racism, and Prejudice in the United States, March 1994
    Between Fragmentation and Conflict, May 1994.
   Religious Fundamentalism and Cults in the USA and Abroad, October 1995.


History, Culture, and Psychoanalysis Series :
CSMHI hosts this series of lectures by USA and international speakers on a wide range of topics open to the University and Charlottesville communities.
Over 30 lectures have been sponsored between 1989 and 1996.
 Topics have included :
  Glasnost and the Political Climate of Eastern Europe.
    Images of Self and Other in Egyptian-Israeli Peacemaking.
•  Cuba Without Castro : A Nation's Past and Future.
•  Wiping the Tears of Seven Generations : USA History Through the Lakota Sioux Perspective.
•  lee Harvey Oswald: The Mind and Motive of JFK's Assassin.
•  Lessons in Culture, History, and Medicine : The Oklahoma City Bombing.
Mind and Human Interaction :
CSMHI distributes its unique quarterly journal, Mind and Human Interaction, to over 1,700 scholars, diplomats, and practitioners involved in the study of inter-group relationships throughout the world. Its editorial board includes representatives from psychoanalysis, anthropology, literature, political science, and other fields. The interdisciplinary publication serves as a forum for timely research in ethnicity, national identity, acculturation, racism, group dynamics, psychohistory, methodologies of conflict resolution, and related subjects. Authors from over fifteen countries, from Russia to Argentina, and throughout the USA, have contributed their insights and offered perspectives on a wide variety of issues.
Books :
Books by CSMHI faculty, staff, and board members include :
    Cyprus - War and Adaptation  (1979.) Vamık D. Volkan.
    The Immortal Atatürk : A Psychobiography  (1984.) Vamık D. Volkan, and Norman Itzkowitz.
    The Other Walls: The Politics of the Arab-Israeli Peace Process in a Global Perspective  (1985, revised 1991.) Harold Saunders.
    Ethnicity, Medicine, and Psychoanalysis Series, Vols. I-III  (1985-90.) Howard Stein, and Maurice Apprey.
    The Need to Have Enemies and Allies: From Clinical Practice to International Relationships (1988.) Vamık D. Volkan.
    Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies (1989.) Joseph Montville.
    The Psychodynamics of International Relationships, Vol. I: Concepts and Theories (1990.) Vamık D. Volkan, Demetrios Julius, and Joseph Montville, (Eds.)
    The Psychodynamics of International Relationships, Vol. II: Unofficial Diplomacy at Work (1991.) Vamık D. Volkan, Joseph Montville, and Demetrios Julius, (Eds.)
     Intersubjectivity, Projective Identification, and Otherness  (1994.) Maurice Apprey, and Howard Stein.
    Turks and Greeks: Neighbours in Conflict  (1994.) Vamık D. Volkan, and Norman Itzkowitz.
    Shame and Humiliation: Presidential Decision-Making on Vietnam  (1996.) Blema Steinberg.
   Blood Lines: From Ethnic Pride to Ethnic Cleansing  (1996.) Vamık D. Volkan.
Monographs :  
•   Shaking the Tent: The Psychodynamics of Ethnic Terrorism  (1993.) Vamık D. Volkan and Max Harris.
•   The Psychology of Western European Neo-Racism  (1994.) J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., Max Harris, and Vamık D. Volkan.
Advisory Board :  
Chair: Robert M. Carey, M.D.: Dean of the Medical School and James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science, University of Virginia.
R.J. Canterbury, M.D.: Chair of the Department of Psychiatric Medicine, University of Virginia.
Margie S. Howell, M.S.N., R.N.: Clinical Specialist in Adult Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing; formerly on the Faculty of George Mason University,
the American University of Beirut, and the University of Virginia; Certified Mediator.
Norman Itzkowitz, Ph.D.: Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University.
Rita R. Rogers, M.D.: Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California School of Medicine; Political Scientist.
Harold H. Saunders, Ph.D.: Director, International Affairs, Kettering Foundation; former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs;
member of The Carter Center's International Negotiation Network.
Blema S. Steinberg, Ph.D.: Professor of Political Science, McGill University; Psychoanalyst.
Center Faculty and Staff :
Vamık D. Volkan, M.D.: Director of CSMHI, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Virginia, former President of the International Society of Political Psychology,
member of The Carter Center's International Negotiation Network.
Maurice Apprey, Ph.D.: Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Dean for Minority Affairs, Medical School, University of Virginia, Child Psychoanalyst.
Richard T. Arndt, Ph.D.: Chairman, Advisory Council of the National Peace Foundation; former President of the Fulbright Association; Cultural Diplomat for over twenty years.
Joy R. Boissevain: Program Coordinator, former Administrator of International Scholarship Programs for the USA Agency for International Development.
Bruce A. Edwards: Managing Editor of CSMHI's Quarterly journal, Mind and Human Interaction.
Kelly R. Hale: Administrative Assistant.
Amb. W. Nathaniel Howell, Ph.D.: Director, Arabian Peninsula and Gulf Studies Program at University of Virginia, CSMHI Resident Diplomat;
USA Ambassador to Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion of 1990.
Demetrios A. Julius, M.D.: Chief of Psychiatry Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Richmond, VA; Visiting Professor of Psychiatric Medicine, University of Virginia.
George J. Moein: Director, Earth 2020-Center for Environmental Policy and Hazardous Materials Management Institute, University of Virginia.
Joseph V. Montville: Senior Associate and Director, Conflict Resolution Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC.
Gregory B. Saathoff, M.D.: Assistant Professor of Psychiatric Medicine and Faculty Member, Arabian Peninsula and Gulf Studies Program, University of Virginia; FBI Consultant on Critical Incidents and Violent Crime.
Carrie E. Schaffer, Ph.D.: Clinical Psychologist, Department of Student Health; Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatric Medicine, University of Virginia.
J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., M.D.: Psychiatrist; Specialist in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Psychology of Prejudice and Racism; Clinical Faculty, University of Virginia.
Yuri V. Urbanovich, Ph.D.: International Scholar, CSMHI; formerly Associate Professor, Diplomatic Academy, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
participated in the Geneva Conference on Disarmament as expert in the Soviet Delegation (1986-1987).
Center faculty and staff between them speak fluently a dozen languages, from Fanti to French, and Turkish to Greek.
Nechama Agmon, M.D. (Israel)
Gabriele Ast, M.D. (Germany)
Abdülkadir Çevik, M.D. (Turkey)
Birsen Ceyhun, Ph.D. (Turkey)
Kutaiba Chaleby, M.D. (Saudi Arabia)
Valeriy Fadeev, Ph.D. (Russia)
Priit Jarve, Ph.D. (Estonia)
Jaan Kaplinski, Ph.D. (Estonia)
Johannes Lehtonen, M.D. (Finland)
S. Neil MacFarlane, Ph.D. (Canada)
Frederico Menezes, M.D. (Brazil)
Stanislav Roschin, Ph.D. (Russia)
Mikhail Reshetnikov, Ph.D. (Russia)
Jouni Suistola, Ph.D. (Finland)
Endel Talvik, Ph.D. (Estonia)
Kaspars Tuters, M.D. (Canada)
Peeter Vares, Ph.D. (Estonia)
Psychoanalytic Division :
Vamık D. Volkan, M.D.
Maurice Apprey, Ph.D.
D. Wilfred Abse, M.D.
Cecil Cullander, M.D.
Daniel Josephthal, M.D.
David Mika, M.D.
Seymour Rabinowitz, M.D.
Pamela Sorensen, M.A.C.P.
Rafael Triana, Ph.D.
Richard West, L.C.S.W.


Since its inception, The Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction, a nonprofit organization, has been supported by the following:
•   University of Virginia.
•   Massey Foundation.
•   The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
•   The Pew Charitable Trusts.
•   W. Alton Jones Foundation.
•   USA Institute of Peace.
   Social Development Office of the Amiri Diwan of Kuwait.
   International Research and Exchanges Board.
   Private Individual Donors. 


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Last modified on: Apr 20, 2016