Dostoevsky for Clinicians: Murder, Madness, and the Conflicted Human Heart

Ended Jul 5, 2024

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Full course description

October 30, 2023 - June 24, 2024 | 7:00-8:30pm (ET) - Fully Online Learning Group


In Freud's 1928 article “Dostoevsky and Parricide” – in which Freud calls the celebrated novelist “not far behind Shakespeare” and declares The Brothers Karamazov “the most magnificent novel ever written” – the founder of psychoanalysis draws out the deeply psychological underpinnings of Dostoevsky’s work. Honing in on the conflicted psyches put on display the novels (and the neurotic tendencies of their author), Freud unpacks the interior crises they reveal. Like Freud before them, participants in this 9-month Psychological Humanities and Ethics workshop will explore the works of one of literature’s greatest figures in order to delve into the spiritual and psychological questions that arise from his books. Meeting from 7:00 to 8:30 pm EST on the last Monday of each month from October to June, participants will examine the insights and ideas of one of history’s keenest literary psychologists.

Please note that in December and May, meetings have been moved to second to last Monday to accommodate holidays.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of this learning series, the participant will be able to:

October 30 – The Double

  1. Compare Freud’s notion of the uncanny to the image of the double presented in Dostoevsky.
  2. Identify psychological insights in a work of literature.
  3. Explain the psychological symptoms from which Goliadkin, the protagonist, suffers.

November 27 – Notes From Underground

  1. Describe psychological maladies plaguing the underground man.
  2. Explain the underground man’s critiques of socialization and human development.
  3. Explain the underground man’s reason for viewing consciousness as a sickness.

December 18 – Demons Part I

  1. Identify the major philosophical and psychological themes at the start of this work.
  2. Explain social/psychological dynamics impacting Stepan Trofimovich.
  3. Describe the notion of perversion Dostoevsky is employing in this text.

January 29 – Demons Part II

  1. Describe the events that precipitate the neuroses depicted in Part II of this work.
  2. Contrast the psychological insights from this work with the two previous texts we have read.
  3. Assess from a clinical perspective the various characters and their presenting problems.

February 26 – Demons Part III

  1. Describe the philosophical and psychological import of this text.
  2. Explain the relation between Dostoevsky’s understanding of perversion and suicide.
  3. Explain the role that suicide plays in the lives and character development of persons in this text.

March 25 – The Brothers Karamazov Part I

  1. Compare the characters presented in the opening pages of The Brothers Karamazov with those we’ve explored in previous texts.
  2. Identify the oedipal insights gleaned from the opening pages of this text.
  3. Explain the anxiety produced in the various Karamazov sons by the existence of their oedipal father.

April 29 – The Brothers Karamazov Part II

  1. Assess the psychological import of the death of the father.
  2. Identify the neuroses on display in the text.
  3. Explain the relation between the psychical and the spiritual in Dostoevsky.

May 20 – The Brothers Karamazov Part III

  1. Assess the clinical implications of Ivan’s descent into madness.
  2. Identify the impact of Mitya’s psychosis on those around him.
  3. Explain how the spiritual wisdom of Fr. Zosima is offered as a remedy for some of the psychological maladies affecting the Karamazovs.

June 24 – The Brothers Karamazov Part IV

  1. Compare Freud’s reading of the patricidal instinct in The Brothers Karamazov with the image of spiritual fatherhood offered at the end of this text.
  2. Contrast the understandings of suicide put for here and in Demons.
  3. Explain philosophical, psychological, and psychoanalytic import of Dostoevsky’s great masterpiece.

Timeline and Requirements:

The learning group will take place from October 30, 2023 - June 24, 2024. This series is presenter-led and is a fully online experience. Sessions will be conducted synchronously online via Zoom from 7:00 pm-8:30 pm (ET) the last Monday of each month. (Note: Learning group will meet on the second to last Monday in December and May to accommodate holidays).

CE Sponsorship: 

University Counseling Services of Boston College is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. As a co-sponsor of this program, University Counseling Services of Boston College maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Participants will be eligible to receive 13.5 CE units from University Counseling Services of Boston College.

This program has been approved for 13.5 Social Work Continuing Education hours for relicensure, in accordance with 258 CMR. NASW-MA Chapter CE Approving Program, Authorization Number D92152-1.

The Lynch School of Education and Human Development is providing sponsorship for CEUs for Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC). Participants will be eligible to receive 13.5 CE units. These credits are accepted by the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Licensed Mental Health Counselors (Category I contact hours in Content Area I).

Participants must attend the workshop in full and complete the post event survey to be eligible to receive CEs. This workshop does not offer CEs for other clinicians not listed above, and we can only grant CEs for synchronous attendance of events. 

Fees & Policies:

Payment is due by credit card at registration. Refunds will be granted only up until registration closes at 5pm on October 30th. No refunds will be granted for registration or technical errors on the participant's part (such as incorrect name/email, login failure, etc.).

This lecture is made possible through the support of Grant 62632 from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed by these presenters do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals to engage fully. If you need to request an accommodation or ask a question about accessibility, please contact

Additional offerings from the Lynch School Professional & Continuing Education Office can be found on our website