My Background

About annie sweetnam

Originally from the UK, I have a PH.D in clinical psychology and have worked as a psychoanalytic therapist, teacher, writer, and consultant for over 30 years. After receiving my bachelor’s degree in the UK, I worked as a social worker in a shelter for abused women. At that time, the focus of my work was helping abused women access safe housing and economic support, as well as fighting for their rights. Over the years, as I watched some women voluntarily return to abusive situations, I realized that social support was not always enough; complex psychological issues were involved in these women’s decisions. From there, and through my own experience in psychotherapy, I developed a growing interest in the interaction between socio-cultural and psychological issues and in working with people towards their own psychological understanding.

I was drawn to psychoanalysis because it is a clinical practice that is also dedicated to understanding and addressing complex unconscious processes. For me, it is a school of thought that encourages practitioners and patients to grapple with profound questions about the complexities of the human psyche while remaining in awe of its mysteries. Trying to fix a problem or offer support is not the final goal; rather, psychoanalysis emphasizes understanding and respecting the nature and depth of psychic life.  

Throughout my career as a psychoanalytic therapist, my interest in the complexity of the human psyche led me to continue my engagement in the learning process through teaching. I have taught classes, courses, and workshops in most of the psychology graduate schools and organizations in the Bay Area. Over time, writing has also become a major interest of mine. In the course of writing and publishing numerous professional papers, I realized that fictional styles of writing often convey clinical experience more realistically than scientific or academic styles. I became interested in writing fiction for its own sake and now write short fiction and some poetry, as well as dabble in other forms of art. I would say that my interest in psychoanalysis, and in life in general, is an artistic one. Whether I am working with you, pursuing my outside interests or going about my daily life, I bring my enthusiasm, joy, and humor to helping, learning, and discovering.

I am faculty at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California and past faculty at the Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and have taught at most graduate psychology programs in the Bay Area. I am a former editor of the psychoanalytic journal fort da.

For over 10 years, my articles have covered major psychoanalytic subjects including:

  • An award winning paper on the rewards of integrating masculine and feminine parts of ourselves.

The Changing Contexts of Gender: Between Fixed and Fluid Experience.
Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 1994.  Winner 1993 Student Paper Award, Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology.  Winner: Outstanding paper by a Student of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 1994

  • Several papers that have used an experimental writing style to evoke emotional clinical experiences. 

"When I was a fish" An experiment in different ways of reading. 2007. fort da
People are not cabbages: Reflections on Patient and Analyst Change. 2010. Psychoanalytic Quarterly.

  • A paper exploring dissociation and the over-use of work, substances, and electronic devices to escape feeling lonely or bored.

Dusk Confuses Me : On Dissociation.  2006. Contemporary Psychoanalysis

  • I have also published internationally, on the emotional importance of expanding the capacity to experience beauty in our lives.

Are you a Woman or a Flower: The Capacity to Experience Beauty. 2007. International Journal of Psychoanalysis.

Writing has helped me to think more deeply about my clinical work. It enables me to see things I cannot always see when I am paying close attention to the person in the room with me. The very act of writing gives access to different parts of the mind, allowing connections to feelings and thoughts that may not be present when you are speaking. I have found that many of the new insights or “ways of being” I have discovered while writing have been usefully integrated into my clinical work.

If you would like to learn more about psychoanalytic work and how I can help you, please call (510) 531-5212 or email to schedule an appointment. I am happy to offer a free—no obligation—phone consultation to answer your questions or concerns about working with a psychoanalytic therapist in Oakland, California.