The Changing Psychoanalytic Career

The face of our profession is changing. More graduating analysts are women. Fewer graduates are M.D.’s. Many candidates are older but there are others who are in their 30′s with young families. Combining an academic career with psychoanalytic training is much harder than in the past. The financial impact of pursuing a psychoanalytic career is vastly different than 20 or 30 years ago.

With change comes both challenge and opportunity. Most psychoanalysts do not have full psychoanalytic practices. We have to help colleagues develop satisfying careers that use psychoanalytic training in ways that go beyond the traditional private practice model of one-to-one clinical care.

Candidates’ psychoanalytic education is one major challenge. In order to keep the discipline alive candidates need to become competent clinical analysts. To keep themselves and their families going they may also need to be educated in the meaningful application of psychoanalytic thinking in non-clinical fields.

Psychoanalysts who are active in the non-clinical world – negotiating for peace, testifying in court, consulting to pre-schools, advocating for changes in social policy – are successful because they have psychoanalysis “in their bones”. They speak freely and effectively about human behavior, group dynamics and development.

Some psychoanalytic educators have begun to lobby for a university model of psychoanalytic education – two years spent on basic theory and clinical concepts, followed by two years of electives that offer depth in a broad array of topics; e.g., clinical work, forensics, organizational consultation, and social advocacy of various sorts. This bare bones approach risks superficiality and partial assimilation of candidates’ knowledge of psychoanalysis. We might produce graduate analysts whose passion for psychoanalysis is intense but whose knowledge of the discipline is limited. It is possible that retaining a tripartite approach (seminars, supervised cases, personal analysis) will ensure a deep engagement with psychoanalysis. But our institutes and centers will need to evaluate attempts to modify curricula with an eye to the presence of both depth and diversity in their graduates’ psychoanalytic thinking.

Post-graduate opportunities to diversify one’s skills are plentiful. We have experts who have decades of experience and success in non-clinical applications of psychoanalytic thinking. They can be drawn upon to offer brief, intensive seminars at national meetings and longer courses through telecommunication.

I propose that APsaA pay specific attention to the career development of graduate analysts as well as candidates and prepare them for active involvement in advancing the public good as well as practicing in the clinical arena. A diversified practice will offer more financial reward as well as increased personal and professional satisfaction.

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