Sverre Varvin, MD, 2004

Sverre Varvin has undertaken many missions for the International Psychoanalytical Association and has worked on numerous humanitarian causes. He recently edited an important work on terrorism from the psychoanalytical perspective. Dr. Varvin’s work with institutions and his humanitarian dedication to extremely traumatized cases deserve international recognition. His work on human rights and his publications on ethnic cleansing and the psychology of refugees and torture victims can be seen as an extraordinary example of applied analysis to social issues.

Dr. Varvin is an excellent clinician and productive contributor to psychoanalytic organization nationally and internationally. Especially notable has been his ongoing work ro foster international cooperation in addressing the human rights violations in countries plagued by war, terrorism and dictatorial regimes and in promoting rehabilitation in war torn populations. He has accomplished this mission through his inspirational and dedicated leadership. He not only plans but also implements recruitment, education and support for the medical communities that work with victims of abuse, torture and oppression. He has worked with prison medical teams and doctors who themselves are victims of such governments. His educational programs emphasize both the clinical and ethical dimensions of work with victims.

Being a practising psychoanalyst I have always seen psychoanalysis as a way of understanding and relating to problems outside the clinical field. This has led me to involvement in work with human rights, the treatment and rehabilitation of refugees and torture victims and also into research in different areas. I have more than once felt that my training as psychoanalysts was useful, for example in human rights work in conflict zones.

I must, though, admit that I often was not sure this was quite acceptable as part of a psychoanalyst’s work field. Receiving the Mary S. Sigourney award in 2004 represented for me an immense support for this part of my work. It was not only an acceptance of the value of using psychoanalytic clinical knowledge to help the ones in our society that has lost most but also a solid confirmation for that one could, and maybe should, use this knowledge in the fields of conflict management and human rights.<

I did not expect this award. I see it as a helping hand to those who have been deprived of their home, their loved ones and their dignity. The Mary S. Sigourney award gave me strength to go on. – Sverre Varvin