#240 – Unconscious Mental Factors in HIV Infection with Peter B. Todd

photo of Peter B. Todd

Peter B. Todd B.A. (Honors, Psychology), MAPS graduated from Sydney University in 1968, becoming a member of the Australian Psychological Society in 1975. He started to work as a post graduate research psychologist at the School of Surgery, St. George Hospital (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) after his undergraduate degree in 1973. This research was essentially a psychoanalytic study of quantified unconscious ego-defenses and affect as predictors of behaviour and outcome in women with symptoms of breast cancer, conducted within a medical faculty, rather than in an academic psychology department. This work represented one of the first successful attempts to operationally define and measure unconscious mental processes and was published in the British Journal of Medical Psychology, 1978, 51(2), pp 177-189.

Subsequently, Peter held a position as research psychologist at the Neuropsychiatric Institute, Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney, became a member of the Biopsychosocial AIDS Project at the University of California at San Francisco, consultant at the department of Immunology at St. Vincent’s Hospital, and research coordinator at the Albion Street AIDS Clinic at Sydney. Currently he works as a registered psychologist and psychotherapist in private practice. His primary fields of interest have been psychosomatic research, psychoneuroimmunology and psychoanalysis applied to the scientific understanding and treatment of such diseases as cancer and HIV/AIDS. Peter’s published, psychoanalytically oriented breast cancer work led to his involvement in research into HIV/AIDS, as another immunologically mediated or resisted disease being conceptualized within a biopsychosocial model of disease, particularly in the field of psychoneuroimmunology. He has published papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals and a book “AIDS: A Pilgrimage to Healing-A Guide for Health Professionals, The Clergy, Educators and Carers” in 1992 distributed in universities in Australia and the United States with another as a work in progress elaborating themes from his paper, “Unconscious Mental Factors in HIV Infection” published in the interdisciplinary journal “Mind and Matter”, 2009 6(2), 193-206 (Imprint Academic). He was previously a competitive weight lifter in the 1980’s and his current interests include music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

If you would like to receive a copy of Peter B. Todd’s paper from the Mind and Matter journal that we discuss here, you should write him for a .pdf at pto49976@bigpond.net.au.

A Psychology Podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. Robin Datta
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Dan Ariely on our buggy moral code


    Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our own decisions?


  2. Robin Dart
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    As a long term listener, thank you Dr Dave, for the wealth of material on both Shrinkrap and Wise Counsel. These are wonderful resources, greatly appreciated.

    Specifically, from the Land where CBT rules, (Australia) many thanks for the fascinating and illuminating interview with Peter B. Todd – validating, for those of us who don’t subscribe to the current reductionist paradigm, to have this wider perspective given voice, especially by one who has clearly made such a substantial contribution to the field.

  3. Dr. Alan Byron Berma
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    Peter Todd’s comments reflect an extraordinary understanding of the mutliple factors (both conscious and unconscious) affecting the progression of HIV infection. His exemplary background both in the United States and Australia makes him a leading expert in the area and I commend anyone (whether a layperson or a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or researcher) to read his most recent article and to purchase a copy of his book. The guy is brilliant.

  4. Josh Peter
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    I\’ve listened to many of the wonderful podcasts on Dr. Dave\’s site, and this stands out as one of my favorites. Humbling to have heard Dr. Todd so eloquently describe his research, findings and personal journey. And inspiring for someone who believes unconscious emotion — embracing it, and accepting is — has the power to heal. Here\’s hoping for more from Dr. Todd. Podcast sequel, anyone?

  5. Peter B. Todd
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Josh, many thanks for your generous posting. As for the role of unconscious mental factors as determinants of behavior and outcome in serious diseases such as cancer and HIV/AIDS psychoanalytic research has been difficult to carry out in Australia.

    The dominance of the CBT paradigm has meant that doctrine has often precluded observation and funding for research has rarely been available. Doctoral level research testing hypotheses derived from psychoanalytic theory has historically been almost impossible in academic psychology. Research has therefore been conducted largely within departments of medicine, sociology and anthropology. As my own bio suggests.

    Jonathan Shedler says more in episode 236 of this podcast series about evaluating the efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapies.

  6. John Knight
    Posted July 4, 2010 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    My goodness, this interview has brought together so many issues I’ve been pondering that my head’s been spinning with ideas the entire podcast! I’ll have to run through this podcast again and chase up the references and most importantly, email this fellow Australian! 😉 The quantum ideas in particular are something I’ve been grappling with lately, and may shed some further light in regards to a theory I’ve been toying with for a several years…


  7. Gilles Lo Cascio
    Posted August 19, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Thankyou Peter for bravely speaking out against the pervading CBT dominated paradigm (Its a battle to have these kinds of ideas heard in Australia at present) .
    I particularly liked your championing of the importance of unconscious processes and the need to recognise and work with these in effective therapy. This is backed up beautifully by Jonathon shedlers recent article showing the efficacy of psychodynamic techniques in Meta-Analyses of the research literature. (Check out interview #236)
    For those of us who don’t subscribe to the increasingly formulaic, manualised treatments being offered that seem to create a revolving door health system, this wonderful interview with Peter Todd is stimulating food for the soul. The existence of Elders with the wealth of knowledge and experience that Peter does who are willing to speakup gives me hope for the future direction and richness of the therapeutic paradigm

  8. Miko?aj Czy?
    Posted August 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for bringing this issue to the Shrinkrap Radio listeners.

    I enjoyed the podcast and subsequently your article very much.

    Investigating non-mechanical processes in mind-matter relationship in general and medicine in particular is so much needed.


  9. iamhbc
    Posted November 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Peter for your work.
    Your research is fascinating & I look forward to reading the Mind & Matter paper you refer to.
    It seems to me that for those of us engaged in the process of psychodynamic psychotherapy we know it works & we just get on & do it. Though I suspect therapists who commit to doing this work with patients are few & far between. It is heartening to find clinicians publishing the research to back up what we know.
    Thanks again.

  10. Nick Millard
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Todd, i was overjoyed to recently discover you have written The Individuation of God……partly because i ,please give me the benefit of doubt here, am the ‘New Messiah’….had voices in 2000 until present telling me i am,was blinded 4th may 2001 then correctly predicted multitude if shooting stars the same night. obviously,its a vast subject,too vast for this comment…but i am a fan of jung’s,i appear to have a similar ‘thigh injury which wouldnt heal’ as jung’s research on king arhur and the holy grail nights…..but,i need help.i cannot afford jungian therapy,and i was diagniosed mere schizophrenic in 2002,still on medication,but desperately unhappy with my life.
    your book is on my ‘to buy’ list,but thank you so much for arguing against dawkins’ ‘god delusion’!!!

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