Beyond our Southern Border

I see a tremendous value for North American psychoanalytic societies to reach out past US borders. In the Gulf States our proximity to the Caribbean and South America offers a great opportunity to increase our visibility and the possibility of getting referrals from Latin Americans.  This is a connection that has largely been overlooked here in the States. Analysts in the US can benefit from learning about psychoanalytic work done by Latin American analysts. There are North American cities that are natural gateways to the US.

Miami, for example, is a city that holds great interest for Latin Americans because of its large Hispanic population. People come to the States for medical check ups and extended care. While here, they often request consultations for various mental health problems.

Let me give a couple of examples of the interest in psychoanalysis in the Caribbean basin. ILAP (the Latin American Institute of Psychoanalysis) is funded 50% by the IPA and 50% by FEPAL (Latin American Federation of Psychoanalysis). When ILAP went to Puerto Rico they found that many psychiatric residents were interested in psychoanalytic training. But ILAP was reluctant to invest their resources because, since with Puerto Rico being American territory, the graduates would upon graduation belong to North America. When I was Secretary-General (a role now called Vice President) of the IPA I helped attempt to form a joint enterprise, which unfortunately got bogged down.

In Europe the PIEE (Psychoanalytic Institute of Eastern Europe) began analytic training in the early nineties in the countries that had been behind the iron curtain. Because of the geographic distances they started doing concentrated analyses in tranches. That means that the analyst would see the analysand for two sessions (not consecutive) a day for 4 days every two weeks. In this way they gradually began to form a cadre of mental health professionals who were then ready to begin analytic training.

Following the PIEE example, ILAP was created in 2006. Before ILAP was formed, an Argentine analyst started going to Paraguay every other Thursday and seeing analysands until Sunday. Paraguay started out as an Allied Center. This means simply that a group of people who showed interest in psychoanalysis got together. The Allied Center was the nucleus of the eventual IPA Study Group. An IPA Study Group is the predecessor to a full-fledged psychoanalytic society in the IPA system.

In Panama, ILAP   provided the analysts for the candidates to have concentrated analyses and the seminars.   There are now other opportunities in the Caribbean basin.  When ILAP lectured in Honduras  they had 500 people signed up for the seminars. There is an interest in Guatemala but the unavailability of trained analyst has stymied their development. In Cuba, ILAP has made contact with Havana professionals and is considering started some seminars.

Reaching out to these countries, possibly with the exception of Cuba, could be an excellent source of referrals. In the past before, Miami and Houston became destination cities, affluent people from the Caribbean basin frequently visited New Orleans because of its connection with the United Fruit Company. Becoming known as someone who could communicate with these visitors turned out to be a steady source of psychotherapy patients and even an occasional analytic patient.

Let me address the language issue.  Obviously if an analyst in the Gulf states is fluent in Spanish he or she has a natural advantage in working with patients or candidates from the Caribbean basin.  But many educated and/or wealthy people in these countries who might be interested in treatment or training opportunities are fully fluent in English.

Psychoanalysis is held in high esteem in Latin America. The last FEPAL congress had 1140 participants. It took place this year in September, in Cartagena, Colombia. This gives an indication of the interest in psychoanalysis in the region. There were simultaneous translations but very few North Americans attended.

What I want to stress is that there exist many international opportunities for North American analysts to be enriched by reaching out to neighboring countries and opening their vistas to other cultures. The cultural exchanges are intellectually stimulating and as an added bonus can be good sources of referrals.

Image credit:  Kmusser – Own work, all data from Vector Map., CC BY-SA 3.0,

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