What is psychoanalytic training?

How are psychoanalysts trained? Washington, DC, psychologist, psychoanalyst, Dr. Lynn Friedman describes how psychoanalysts are trained.

Most psychoanalysts are highly trained psychotherapists prior to embarking on psychoanalytic training. There are, however, a few exceptions to the rule. This post examines psychoanalytic training for psychotherapists and for academic scholars.

Psychoanalytic training for psychotherapists

Psychoanalysts are among the most highly trained mental health professionals. Admission to psychoanalytic training is competitive and psychoanalysts are carefully selected. In general, applicants for psychoanalytic training have considerable psychotherapy experience prior to entering psychoanalytic training. At institutes accredited by the American Psychoanalytic Association applicants must have completed professional training and be licensed as a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, social worker or in a related discipline. Over the last several years, there has been a trend in which mental health professionals have pursued analytic training mid-career. Consequently, many psychoanalytic candidates are already highly successful psychotherapists before entering training.

Applicants submit to several clinical interviews in which their background, experience and personal maturity is assessed. Those psychotherapists with the requisite training, experience and maturity, are admitted to psychoanalytic training.

Typically, training spans 5-12 years, though this varies widely across psychoanalytic institutes. It entails three primary components:

  • a training psychoanalysis
  • the psychoanalysis of three patients under close supervision of senior psychoanalysts
  • extensive course work on theory and technique

A training psychoanalysis is completely confidential.  Psychoanalytic candidates meet with their psychoanalyst, four or five times a week. The psychoanalysis typically takes place over a period of many years – generally 5-12 years.  The second component, the treatment of patients under close supervision entails psychoanalyzing a minimum of three patients. These treatments span several years, and meet four or five times each week; taking place under regular (typically, weekly) supervision of a specially approved, Supervisory Analyst.

The third component, coursework, typically spans the duration of the candidates training – during the first four or five years, coursework is intensive (generally about 5 hours a week); it focuses on theory, technique, human development, character formation and therapeutic mechanisms of action.

Psychoanalytic Training for Academicians and Scholars

Many psychoanalytic institutes also accept scholars into psychoanalytic training. These scholars typically undergo a psychoanalysis – just like their psychotherapist counterparts. Beyond this, they take classes along side of clinicians. However, they do not see patients.  Often they are called, “scholars” or “research candidates”. Scholars may derive real benefit from this experience. Similarly, it can be very stimulating for psychoanalytic candidates to have a scholar in their cohort.

These scholars are generally academicians in disciplines that overlap with psychoanalytic inquiry including, educators, philosophers, art historians, English professors and others.

I’m not in Washington DC, where can I find psychoanalytic training in my locale?

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