Before writing this article, “Why seek Psychoanalysis with a Training Analyst“? I polled laypeople, and mental health professionals, to find out what questions they’d like to have answered.
The laypeople to whom I reached out to were leaders in their fields, including, medicine, education, law, career consultation and others. Nearly to a person each of them said, “I barely know the difference between the array of mental health professionals. I’m not even sure what a psychoanalyst is, let alone a Training Analyst. You should explain the differences between psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors”.
My non-psychoanalyst, mental health colleagues echoed the same sentiments.
Still virtually all of them said what they would want to know how was their psychoanalyst trained, what was the extent of their experience? Did experts in their field vet their psychoanalytic work?
So, in this FAQ I will answer these questions and more.
A Supervising and Training Analyst has been especially vetted, and appointed, to provide supervision and training analyses to psychoanalysts-in-training. All psychoanalysts-in-training are required to undergo a personal psychoanalysis. In most institutes, individuals pursuing psychoanalytic training are required to seek out an approved, Training Analyst for their Training Analyses.
Psychoanalysis, and psychodynamic psychotherapy, makes three major assumptions:
1) Factors outside of our awareness drive our behavior. This is called the, “dynamic unconscious”. Here are some examples:
2) People are capable of growth throughout their life spans. People are always learning, maturing and changing. Therefore, psychoanalysts believe that change is always possible.
3) Psychoanalysts recognize and prize the uniqueness of each individual. As a group, psychoanalysts take a wholistic approach. We are not interested in categorizing or classifying people. Rather, we are concerned with knowing each patient as fully as we can.
Read more about these three major psychoanalytic assumptions.
Since psychoanalysts believe in a “dynamic unconscious”, our goal is to help the people who we see to become more self-aware. To achieve this goal, we use many methods. We ask our patients to:
Also, we take steps to create a safe, confidential environment and to foster openness, including,
Learn more how psychoanalysts work and the methods we use.
Nearly all psychoanalysts enter psychoanalytic training with an advanced degree in mental health. A psychoanalytic cohort typically includes, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors. Most are licensed within their professional discipline. In fact, those entering training often have considerable prior experience within their discipline.
In addition to, often, very experienced psychotherapists, the cohort often includes what are called, “scholar” or “academic” or “research” candidates. For example, over the years the institute where I trained had research candidates in the disciplines of English Professor, Philosophy Professor, Attorney, Education and an array of other disciplines. These academic candidates do not engage in clinical work. Rather, they sought psychoanalytic training so that they could apply this knowledge to their area of scholarly inquiry. In my experience, they are valued members of the group because they contribute greatly to the academic rigor of the learning experience.
So, with the exception of academic candidates, psychoanalysts-in-training, typically have an advanced degree in mental health as well as considerable experience providing psychotherapy.
For the clinical candidates, there are three cornerstones of training: a Training Analysis with a Training and Supervising Analyst, clinical supervision with a Supervising and Training Analyst, and extensive coursework. Each will be addressed in turn.
Most psychoanalytic candidates report that their Training Analysis not only helped them to become better analysts, but also better spouses, parents and adult children.
I should note, parenthetically, that anyone who would like a psychoanalysis but who can not afford it should seriously consider seeking a psychoanalysis with a psychoanalytic candidate. Here’s a list of psychoanalytic clinics where you might inquire as to where you can find a reduced fee psychoanalysis.
What about those academic candidates?
These are the requirements for clinical candidates. Academic candidates differ in two ways. First, in many institutes, they are required to write a graduation paper in which they apply analytic theory to their academic work. Second, because they do not do clinical work, they do not undergo clinical supervision. However, they are required to complete the coursework and to undergo a training analysis.
As you can see, this training which typically follows a rigorous graduate or medical school preparation is quite demanding. In fact, psychoanalysts are among the most highly trained mental health professionals.
This varies between institutes. Until recently, those institutes that the American Psychoanalytic Association accredited required that all Supervising and Training Analysts were board certified. This is still true in many, though not all, institutes. Here in Washington DC, board certification is no longer required. However, those of us who have opted to do it found it to be an enriching path.
To be appointed as a Supervising and Training Analyst, virtually all institutes require “clinical immersion”. That is, these psychoanalysts must document that they have devoted a substantial part of their practice (usually about half) to the conduct of psychoanalysis for many years.
Similarly, in most places they must demonstrate that they have contributed to the education of psychoanalytic candidates within their institute.
The American Board of Psychoanalysis is the only board that certifies psychoanalysts from the array of mental health disciplines.
Here’s what they say about the certification process:
“Certification is a voluntary process by which a psychoanalyst demonstrates, through blind peer review, a mastery of the basic knowledge and skills necessary to practice the profession of psychoanalysis. It can be an important developmental experience. To be vetted and endorsed by a group of Certified psychoanalysts who have no personal or institutional relationship with the applicant provides a meaningful affirmation of the applicant’s analytic identity.”
A committee of very senior psychoanalysts, selected from across the nation, implement the certification exam. This process entails a written and oral examination. Applicants must demonstrate proficiency in working with men and women. Also, they must convey that they know how to end a successful psychoanalysis.
Patient confidentiality is of paramount concern to the certification committee. Therefore, all patient material is carefully, de-identified. Beyond this, the applicant attends the interview incognito; the interviewers know neither the name nor the institutional affiliation of the applicant. In this way, not only does the applicant receive and objective evaluation (free from biases about ones institute), but also patient confidentiality is fully protected.
A board certified, psychoanalyst has demonstrated their competency to senior members of the profession; they have been carefully vetted. Although this level of certification is available to all psychoanalyst members of the American Psychoanalytic Association only a tiny fraction pursue it.
The American Board of Psychoanalysis provides oversight; they certify that psychoanalysts are competent to provide very high quality psychoanalysis. Those designated Fellows (FABP) by the American Board of Psychoanalysis have successfully completed the education and experience requirements of the board. They have undergone additional evaluations and tests designed to assess their competencies, including, rigorous write-ups and oral examinations. Certification addresses their competency as a psychoanalyst.
If you seek out a board certified, psychoanalyst, you can be confident that their work has been rigorously evaluated by their peers.
I found the process of certification to be incredibly enriching. The preparation process entailed a considerable amount of reading, thinking about the conduct of psychoanalysis and consulting with colleagues. I felt that this, substantially, improved my clinical work. As for the interview process, I was fortunate to have a panel of extremely talented psychoanalysts who provided a valuable perspective on the work. Also, I appreciated the opportunity to have my clinical work independently, vetted.
Finally, while I greatly valued my training here in Washington DC, I found it helpful to hear what very senior analysts elsewhere had to say about my work.
At many psychoanalytic institutes, but not all, board certification is a requirement for becoming a Training and Supervising Analyst. As noted, previously, here in Washington DC it is not.
Many mental health professionals seek out psychoanalysis because of the robust benefits that it offers to any psychotherapist. Not only is psychoanalysis helpful in deepening one’s understanding of oneself, it offers to opportunity to deepen one’s understands of one’s patients. For these reasons, many psychotherapists seek their own psychoanalysis.
Often, they find the psychoanalytic experience so enriching that they decide to embark on the journey of psychoanalytic training. Once they are admitted to a psychoanalytic institute, in most places, they are required to seek psychoanalysis with a Supervising and Training Analyst. For this reason, it is optimal to start psychoanalysis with someone who has ALREADY earned this designation.
A Supervising and Training Analyst has demonstrated a high level of expertise, for this reason, you might consider working with them. However, there are many talented people who do not have this designation.
Absolutely. Many excellent clinicians do not pursue this designation.
Of course. Many capable psychoanalysts do not pursue this goal.
Definitely. In addition to supervising psychoanalytic candidates, I supervise mental health professionals. Many are very talented. One advantage to working with a psychoanalyst is that if, at some juncture, you and your psychoanalyst feel that psychoanalysis would benefit you could deepen the work without switching psychotherapists.
In selecting someone who is not a psychoanalyst for training, it is important to seek out someone who has had postgraduate training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy OR who has attended a psychoanalytically-oriented, doctoral program such as George Washington University, Adelphi, NYU, City College and others. That said, personally, I’ve supervised some very gifted psychodynamic psychotherapists who did not have this sort of training.
I’ve written about this for the Washington Post. Here are a few articles:
I have published, and presented, within psychoanalysis, psychology, career counseling and organizational consultation to independent schools. Also, I’ve written, extensively, in the lay literature. My Washington Business Journal column, Corporations on the Couch, was devoted to a psychoanalytic approach to organizational and corporate dysfunction. (Read more columns on organizational dysfunction, here.) I’ve published numerous columns in the Washington Post.
The gist of it is this: when people “fail” at career counseling underlying conflicts may be hampering their best efforts. If this is the case, their career concerns might be more effectively addressed with psychotherapy or psychoanalysis or, possibly, a hybrid model.
I’ve taught Career Counseling at Johns Hopkins in both the School of Education and in the Business School. Also, I’ve written and presented on this topic. I am a certified master career counselor (MCC). In 1996, I completed an intensive, full-time, 2 week course, in Bend Oregon, with Richard Bolles, the author of, “What Color is Your Parachute“. His techniques, and others are very effective, IF, the person doesn’t have an internal conflict that expresses itself in the career undertaking. My focus, What if your Parachute doesn’t Open? That is, how can we understand and help people who are having difficulty understanding and identifying their work-life goals?
Here are a few articles that I’ve written on this topic:
Yes. I’ve been using a psychoanalytic and a family systems framework help Heads of School, Independent School Leaders, Board Chairs and Trustees to understand, navigate and improve independent school dynamics since the late eighties. I’ve written and presented, extensively, on this topic. You can read more here.
As a Supervising and Training Analyst and a board certified, psychoanalyst; I am certified to provide psychoanalysis and supervision for psychoanalysts-in-training. Also, I teach and supervise mental health professionals both within the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute and at Johns Hopkins University.
Beyond seeing psychoanalysts and mental health professionals, my clinical practice is extremely diverse. People seek me out for help with relationships, anxiety, depression, workplace challenges and dissatisfaction as well as other concerns.
I work best with people who want to deepen their understanding of themselves. Learn more about my practice, here.
The best way to reach me is to call: 301.656.9650. Calls are welcome. Please leave your day and evening phone numbers and the time that it’s best to reach you.
5480 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, Maryland, 20815 (Just steps away from the Friendship Heights metro, one block from Washington)