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Xavier Magazine | September 26, 2017

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The Office: Karl Stukenberg

The Office: Karl Stukenberg
By Michael Shaw

A psychoanalyst and his couch.

Perhaps, next to a barber and his chair, no other object is more connected to a profession.

In the case of Karl Stukenberg, chair and associate professor for the Department of Psychology—and practicing psychoanalyst—the couch in his Elet Hall office may also be the hardest working piece of furniture on campus.

“It’s the couch on which we also meet when I’m talking to faculty, or to students in my role as head of the department.” In other words, the chair sees a lot people on his couch.

“The pillow is pretty worn out. In fact, I probably should replace the entire couch, which is getting a little threadbare.” But, in truth, the professor confesses to being rather attached to his faithful leather companion.

For the size of the office, the couch is surprisingly large. The furniture arrangement also follows classic Freudian guidelines—the analyst (the person preforming analysis) should be able to sit at the head, and out of the vision range, of the analysand (the person undergoing analysis).

True aficionados will also recognize that the embroidered throw pillow and blanket are standard issues based on Sigmund Freud’s original couch, now on display in a London museum.

As far as how many hours the couch has clocked psychoanalytical sessions? “Probably a couple of thousand hours. One hour at a time, four days a week, for a few years.”

And still going strong, as is its pilot. “I’m the department chair and a faculty member—that’s my job. I also need to keep my chops up in order to teach what we do. This is an art as well as a science.”

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