Ghosts of Past Battles

At the June 2013 Executive Council meeting our current president of the Candidate Council, Navah Kaplan, spoke of the administrative climate of APsaA as focused on ghosts of past battles. Her tone was generous and respectful, her experience of training positive. Her message was moving: “We candidates stand at the frontier of the future of psychoanalysis and see a vast field of opportunity. But our seniors who stand beside us tell us they see an ongoing war, what seems to us must be the ghosts of past battles we do not see or understand.” I took away from this that the Association has a new generation coming along that believes in psychoanalysis, enjoys learning about it, and needs its elders to take care of business. We have work to do on the ground, in institutes, and in the world, rather than battling among ourselves over control of standards and/or the perception of the ideal profession.

After the January 2013 national meeting seven educational leaders of APsaA filed a suit against APsaA with the goal of establishing the legal right of BOPS to make educational policy without the input or influence of Executive Council.

From an historical perspective this action is understandable. Paul Mosher has detailed the history of APsaA from its founding by Dr. A.A. Brill in 1932. (Mosher, PW. 2008. Letter from the United States, IJP, 89:1109-1122.) The Association developed in an era that was short on quality control. Quacks practiced medicine and the fear that quacks would practice psychoanalysis seemed reasonable. Certification, a method of quality control, became the ticket to APsaA membership. However, quality control was not the only motive for medical control of the profession. As the Great Depression unfolded, the stability of a private practice market became a driving concern and commercial motives played a role in the establishment of a medical monopoly.

In 2013 our membership represents all mental health professions but battles related to real or perceived elitism continue. Nonetheless we share concerns about our survival in an era that has similarities to the 1930’s. The private practice market for psychoanalysis is shrinking as insurance pays for biologically driven treatments and social media propel the public toward immediate gratification. This does not mean, however, that psychoanalysis has less to contribute or that we need to aspire to a monopoly in our field. It means we need to be smart about assessing how we remain very good at what we do, communicate what we know, understand the culture in which we work, and identify the points of contact that exist where our input will be recognizable and useful. The essence of what we offer in a quick fix culture is a focus on meaning and the ability to explain the implications of individual and group actions.

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