Report from the January 2019 IPA Board Meeting

January 23, 2019

I have just returned from the IPA Board meeting in Lisbon Jan 19-21 and I would like to tell you what the IPA is doing these days.

The main thrust of the present administration is to encourage its members to engage more actively in the community, to engage in social issues and to inform people what help the IPA can provide to the world’s communities.

To many analysts in North America, the IPA is terra incognita. Many feel it is irrelevant to their professional lives and have expressed little interest in its activities. This is borne out by the low percentage of members who bother to vote in IPA elections. I hope some of this sense of irrelevance will diminish when you hear about some exciting IPA initiatives.

In keeping with the IPA policy in expanding to Asia, we now have an observer on the Board from the Asia-Pacific region, Julie Meadows from Australia. She gave us detailed figures regarding the number of analysts and candidates in the different countries of that region. It was impressive: 180 analysts and over a hundred candidates.

Our meeting included discussion of various community initiatives the IPA has sponsored. We had two invited participants. Harvey Schwartz from Philadelphia spoke about the IPA in Health initiative. This IPA committee has built a Facebook site that is a meeting place for all IPA psychoanalysts who are involved with and interested in the interface between the dynamic understanding of the mind and the physical health of individuals. It is a networking center for those clinicians who are immersed in this interface and to share with others a description of their activities. It hopes to publicize this important work and thereby encourage others to learn what many analysts have been quietly doing for years.  Harvey presented examples of the exchanges on the site. He gave the example of a Canadian analyst (Dr.Hercz) who is both a nephrologist and an analyst whose work concentrates in the emotional responses and conflicts of patients in dialysis. Dr. Zerbe from Portland wrote about the management of eating disorders. To join the group, follow this link: www.facebook-IPAin Health

The other invited participant was Gertraud Schlesinger from Germany who spoke about the efforts of German analysts assisting refugees both in terms of practical interventions helping the refugees get resettled and providing therapy to help the refugees cope with the trauma.

Some of the IPA in the Community Committees are planning to edit books.  Routledge will be publishing “Psychoanalysis, the Law and Society” edited by Adrienne Harris and Plinio Montagna (from Brazil) with contributors from many countries.

The IPA in Culture Committee sent out a survey and received 1722 responses indicating the main interests of the members in literature, movies, philosophy and sociology, performance arts and visual arts.

The IPA is actively reaching out to partner with humanitarian organization and we were very gratified by the enthusiastic reply we received from these organizations.

After this inspiring discussion, the Board turned to business and discussed the report of the Finance Committee. The unsettled international situation has naturally impacted the IPA. The financial crisis in Argentina (its currency has lost 50% of its value) and the situation in Venezuela where the IPA at this moment receives no dues do affect our bottom line. Another factor is that IPA dues are paid in US dollars but most of its expenses are in British pounds making the IPA very vulnerable to currency fluctuation. The IPA is dealing with the problem by hedging the currency which has worked to our advantage.

Various task forces reported on their activities. One important issue that has surfaced as a result of the IPA Board’s 2017 decision regarding a more flexible Eitingon frequency standard is the concern in Germany on how to provide a mechanism to assess equivalency of training in large societies who wish to join the IPA. This matter will be studied in great detail by the ING (International New Groups Committee).

We had a report on the health of the IPA. We have around 12,700 members. IPA institutes/societies are training 5575 candidates globally.  This breaks down to 1208 from North America, 1885 from Latin America and 2365 from Europe. Among these are 117 candidates from the Asia Pacific Region.

Why are there so few candidates from North America? Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves why we are unable to generate more interest in North America? Does our apathy extend to a disinterest in helping a new generation become excited about becoming analysts? Psychoanalysis is flourishing everywhere but in North America. In the Asia Pacific Region there is a lively interest in psychoanalysis.

The last issue discussed at the Board was confidentiality. A final report will be presented at the London meeting detailing the various pitfalls and difficulties in ensuring as much security and confidentiality as possible in this era of electronic communication.

To sum up, the cordiality, mutual respect and ability to work together on some difficult issues were extremely rewarding to all us from the three regions.




The IPA’s Committee on Women and It’s Conference on Misogyny

To too many of us in North America, the IPA seems so distant and irrelevant to our everyday professional lives. I would like to call your attention to a fascinating conference on misogyny organized by the IPA in conjunction with IPA societies in Los Angeles. We are missing a lot by overlooking the many good things the IPA does for our profession. The IPA has to work harder to communicate with its members about existing programs and benefits as well as creating new ones. But here’s something terrific you should know about.

In November, the IPA Women and Psychoanalysis Committee (known as COWAP), under the leadership of chair Paula Ellman, had a very timely meeting entitled “Psychic Survival in the Face of Misogyny.” Andrea Kahn chaired the conference.  Virginia Ungar and Adrienne Harris presented papers as did Dana Calvo, creator of the TV show “Good Girls Revolt.”  Additional panelists were Maureen Murphy and Stephen Friedman, former president of MTV and creator of their social impact department which was responsible for the TV shows “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom.”

Virginia Ungar’s paper, entitled “From the Glass Slipper to the Glass Ceiling,” focused on the internal glass ceiling that creates internally imposed limitations and a realignment of a woman’s own desire in order to adapt to a hegemonic model of a woman in a state of submission. She also addressed cultural stereotypes, represented in fairy tales like Cinderella with her petite glass slipper, portraying a feminine woman who has to be rescued and is not able to make her way in life.

Harris’ remarks took off in analyzing the concept of “witch-hunt” and ranged widely over topics of envy, the melancholic male and hatred of the other.

Calvo told the story of her experience as a Hollywood writer.  She was the creator and showrunner of the Amazon series “Good Girls Revolt,” a fictionalized portrayal of real events in the late 1960’s culminating in a successful EEOC complaint against Newsweek magazine on behalf of 60 female employees.  Prior to the complaint, Newsweek had hired women as researchers but insisted their tradition was that “only men would write.”  Despite a strong performance, “Good Girls Revolt” was canceled off-handedly by the studio head who admitted he had never watched the show.  Calvo herself revolted.

I was one of the men in the audience.  On an intellectual level I was very interested in the topic, having written a paper on misogyny some years ago after stumbling across a horrifying fifteenth century document, Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches’ Hammer), a book that provided a rationale and handbook for the persecution and torture of women accused by the church of witchcraft.  On an emotional level, listening at the conference, I felt that this was one of the best conferences I had ever attended. The topic was timely, the presentations of the analysts and the movie producers were very powerful and evoked strong feelings in me and in the audience. There was a camaraderie and a feeling of respect in the audience which was very rewarding.

Returning to the IPA, this great committee has a newsletter that keeps interested IPA members updated on its events.  To subscribe to the newsletter, write COWAP chair Paula Ellman (



IPA and Health Committee has Established Collaborative Facebook Group

In response to my post about new IPA outreach initiatives, Harvey Schwartz wrote to inform members about the new IPA in Health Committee. Harvey wrote, “We have started a Facebook page of that title. We are gathering input from IPA analysts worldwide who work at the interface of the soma and the dynamic mind.  Feel free to read about and contribute to the many fascinating activities’ off the couch’ that our colleagues are involved with.”
It’s exciting to me that this new committee is reaching out immediately to IPA members and sharing information about their ongoing work.  Harvey concluded, speaking for the IPA in Health Committee, “We welcome your involvement and participation in this project and your joining our Facebook page.”
Harvey added that the IPA in Health Committee is also in the process of establishing an IPA in Health Award which will be given to the project that best reflects work at the interface of the IPA and health. 
In fact, IPA President Virginia Ungar has just announced the IPA in the Community Awards that include awards for projects in four areas in addition to health:  IPA in Education, IPA and Humanitarian Organisations, IPA in Health, Violence, Psychoanalysis and Law, and IPA in Culture.
A first prize of US$1,000 and a second prize of US$500 will be awarded to the two best projects within each macro-area, with a special “President’s Award” of US$5,000 presented to the overall best project. 

Virginia Ungar said, “We know that many IPA members and candidates are already working outside of the consulting room, helping to expand the reach of psychoanalysis and improving access to people that otherwise may not have access to psychoanalytic treatment. These awards will raise awareness of this important work, and will help our members to connect their projects with others to enhance and promote the interchange of knowledge and experience.”

Further information about these new awards, including eligibility criteria and entry guidelines can be found here  Applications are due by the  31st January 2019.

A Modest Proposal for Resolving our Conflicts about Psychoanalytic Training


Last year’s vote by the IPA Board allowing greater flexibility in the frequency of sessions in training analyses has unleashed heated debates. These have highlighted how different psychoanalytic views have become divisive political topics, to the point that some societies have threatened to leave the IPA as a result of the Board vote. I feel confident that such threats will not come to pass but rather reflect underlying emotions – I suspect some combination of anger and fear – that need to be understood and dealt with as the IPA faces the necessity of change.

What makes people so fanatic and frantic about defending their particular brand of psychoanalysis?

Analysts have a passionate attachment to their theoretical models and their traditional training methods. However, globally and within the IPA there are numerous theoretical orientations and a variety of training models. Even though these may be very different from one another, in the end they are all called psychoanalysis.

This pluralism of theories and standards makes it difficult to agree on one standard mode to teach psychoanalytic practice and theory. The link between theoretical affiliation and models of training standards is not clear-cut.

However, we know our global psychoanalytic community includes drive theory analysts, relational analysts, object relation analysts and several post-modern approaches to psychoanalysis. Out of this profusion of theoretical viewpoints can one find a common denominator?

Whether the question is differences in theory or differences in training model preferences, debating opposing views on their respective merits seems to be an impossible challenge. The warring parties defend their point of view with sectarian fervor and discussions often end up with one side denigrating the other and claiming that they are not practicing real psychoanalysis.

Ann Marie Sandler, who recently passed away and is much missed, commented at the 1986 Clark Conference on Psychoanalytic Training for Psychologists on her surprise at the rigidity of her own views:

“I found myself wanting to deride those methods which were different from those I was accustomed to, and it took some time to overcome my culture shock and to accept, at an emotional level, the reality that there were outstanding analysts who have followed a different training route.”

Regardless of the training model we are attached to, our responsibility as analysts is to help candidates become competent analysts.

In North America, all societies but one (Quebec French Society) have always followed the Eitingon model. In 2007, the IPA officially accepted the French and Uruguayan models. These two models differ but both have always had analysis at 3x a week. Both of these models have produced some of our most gifted clinicians and theoreticians– André Green, Jean LaPlanche and Didier Anzieu are three well-known examples.

This raises an interesting question. Namely, besides frequency of sessions, what are the other aspects of psychoanalytic training that produce competent or even exemplary psychoanalysts?

I want to start with a question: What is the core nature of the psychoanalytic training experience that promotes a psychoanalytic mindset and identity?

Does it depend primarily on frequency or are there other factors involved? How does an analyst acquire this mode of thinking that is so unique? Psychoanalytic work is never a fixed skill; it is constantly evolving in the analyst’s mind.

Addressing the issue of psychoanalytic identity, Daniel Widlocher (President of the IPA from 2001-2005) stated in 1983: “Our identity as analysts depends on the discovery– which each person must discover on his own–of the psychoanalytic experience and the unique mode of mental functioning that it implies.”

Widlocher went on to say that psychoanalytic training, regardless of the model embraced, hopes to promote a “specific mode of mental functioning that does not come naturally to us”.

The main aim of a personal analysis during training is not only to prevent excessive countertransference reactions and to facilitate insight but also to help the candidate navigate without fear a totally different mode of thinking in which primary and secondary processes are combined with increasing self-awareness and the freedom to respond affectively.

In discussions about training outcomes, fostering the ability to set a psychoanalytic process in motion is often emphasized, as it should be. Of course, nobody has come up with an agreed upon definition of what constitutes a psychoanalytic process. Yet, most analysts, when they listen to case presentations, can intuitively feel or understand whether a psychoanalytic process is taking place. This situation brings to mind a quote from the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who famously said he could not define what exactly is meant by the phrase ‘hard-core pornography, “But I know it when I see it”

I feel this is at the root of an eternal dilemma in psychoanalytic education. We expect candidates to be able to do something that we ourselves have trouble defining.

The current passionate debates about training standards make me think that as we search for solutions and agreement, we need to navigate between the Scylla and Charybdis of psychoanalytic training. One danger to avoid is that “anything goes.” The other danger, equally capable of wrecking our ship, is perfectionism combined with over- idealization and a rigid, critical, even sometimes persecutory atmosphere that promotes/demands submission on the part of the candidate.

I want to plea for open minds as we continue to try to experiment and innovate to find the best way to help candidates achieve analytic competence. Anxiety about change and eagerness to innovate can both lead to defensive posturing.

Here’s my “modest proposal,” with apologies to Jonathan Swift. No need to eat our young. I suggest that in future discussions, significant time be given for each opposing position to be argued, but with an important difference. Each case should be argued in depth by someone who holds an opposing point of view on the issue. Let’s have someone deeply committed to 4-5 per week frequency (or TA vetting) argue the case for flexibility to reduce frequency and a personal analyst. And let’s have someone who sees no problem with a frequency of three times a week and distrusts the traditional TA system present a strong argument for those positions.


What is Going on in the IPA Right Now? Engaging the Community and Adapting to Change

Many North American analysts feel totally in the dark about what the IPA is doing and how they can possibly benefit from the IPA initiatives.

First, I want you to know about the new focus of this administration under the leadership of President Virginia Ungar and Vice President Sergio Nick. There is a new emphasis on reaching out in the community and changing our past ivory tower attitude where we kept ourselves apart from other professionals and did not make efforts to get involved in the community at large. To remedy this situation the IPA has created several committees that function under the heading of IPA in the Community. To give you an overview of the broad scope of this endeavor, the committees in this division include the IPA in EducationIPA and Humanitarian Organizations, and the IPA in Health, Violence, Law and Culture. As an example of the IPA’s social commitment, the president wrote a forceful letter condemning the separation of children from their immigrant parents.

The other important focus of the IPA nowadays is to assure high quality of training. This issue has been brought to the forefront as a result of the IPA’s Board vote last year changing the accepted frequency for analytic training to 3-5 sessions a week. This led to a concern among some that this flexibility would lead to a situation “where anything goes” and that standards of training were irrevocably altered. This attitude overlooks the fact that there has been a considerable gap between what is actually practiced and the Eitingon model as it was originally conceived.  Current discussions about good training practice tend to devolve into a focus on concrete numbers, overlooking the qualitative aspects of training. It is generally agreed that quantitative standards are not an adequate way to discuss the complexities of the models, particularly the Eitingon model.

To address these controversies and concerns, the IPA has created three new task forces.  The first one is the Task Force on Collegial Quality Assessment. This group is charged with developing a proposal for a collegial quality assessment tool or process. The purpose is to a provide means for sharing best practices among societies engaging all three training models and to reassure the Board and candidates that quality training standards are being achieved.  

The next task force is the Task Force on New Groups and Equivalence which addresses the issue of equivalence for groups who want to join the IPA and aims to assure that high training standards were achieved by new applicant group.  

The last new initiative is the Representation Task Force whose remit is to make recommendations to the Board as to what would be a fair system of democratic representation taking into account demographic changes in the IPA and to consider creating a Fourth IPA region for Asia-Pacific.

As you can see that there is a lot going on in the IPA. If you are interested in participating in one of the committees, please let one of the North American representatives know about your interest so you can be considered for an appointment.




Freud’s Bar: IPA Outreach at Its Best

Second in a series:  What does the IPA Do For Me?


Many institutes and societies might be considering their outreach efforts for next year right now.  There is one program in particular that I highly recommend you look into.
This is an outreach project now known around the global psychoanalytic community as “Freud’s Bars.” These are events where young people meet analysts in an informal setting and discuss psychoanalysis over drinks or other refreshments. This turns out to be an effective-and even cool– way of raising interest in psychoanalysis, especially among university students.

Otto Fenichel became a member of the Vienna Society when he was 23 years old. Ernst Kris was a late bloomer-he didn’t start his analytic training until age 23. Alas, gone are the days when people began psychoanalytic training in their twenties.

The decrease of psychoanalytic candidates along with an aging membership in many Societies/Institutes in North America is an ongoing and mounting concern regarding the future of our discipline.

Now, we need innovative ways of reaching the young adult population which has the greatest interest in the complex workings of the human mind and serves as the pool of our future candidates, patients and psychoanalytic scholars. Freud’s Bar is a stellar example of a program that brings analysts back in contact with this population.

Fortunately, many IPA societies have developed effective outreach programs. The IPA has helped support their development and worked diligently to make information about model outreach programs available to all its members and societies.

College students are the primary target audience for the Freud’s Bar events. Regrettably, psychoanalysis is minimally present in universities and almost totally absent in psychology or psychiatry departments in this country. Yet college students are intensely interested in understanding the human mind. In fact, many analysts report that their own interest in psychoanalysis began with exposure to Freud’s writings in college.

David Clinton from the Swedish Society introduced the Freud’s Bar concept at the 2013 Prague IPA Congress, telling the audience about the success of that activity in Sweden.
Other societies picked up on this idea and organized local Freud Bar activities. One of the most successful programs is in Rome, sponsored by the Italian Psychoanalytic Society (SPI) which produced an excellent video in both Italian and English that showcases the project. Click here to view the English version.

I strongly recommend viewing the video if you do decide to create this kind of program as it contains how-to tips as well as a report on the Rome experience.  And if you are planning on taking a pass on this idea, my recommendation of giving it a viewing would be even stronger.

While the format varies a bit from city to city, the basic premise is to have a relaxed setting where young people feel comfortable, hear lively talks on topics of particular interest to them and can ask whatever questions they want.

In Rome, the discussions and informal lectures have been so successful that even high school students attend. The experiences of the societies that have started this informal activity have been very positive. People get to see analysts in an environment that is not stuffy and chat with them about questions they have about psychoanalysis.

The curiosity of the young people has been astonishing. They wanted to know about Freud’s ideas and if they are still pertinent in this day and age. They asked what it is like to be a psychoanalyst and what is entailed in getting psychoanalytic training.
The Freud’s Bar outreach program model has been successfully launched in cities from Toronto to Montevideo to Odessa.

The lesson of these activities is that we can and should reach out and establish personal contacts. We have to leave our offices and connect with people who are curious about psychoanalysis but have no opportunity to interact informally with analysts. Our historical attitudes of secrecy and avoiding community involvement have gone a long way toward the marginalization of psychoanalysis. We used to be part of the Zeitgeist; now we are an afterthought.

The IPA has collected information on many Freud’s Bar programs that you can access on the IPA website here. You can see entries for the programs in Berlin, Guadalajara, Brussels, London, Munich, Odessa, Rome, Toronto and Montevideo. Click on the country’s flag to view a description of the local program and related documents. You can also find more information in the IPA’s Outreach Resource Library in the Members Section “Freud’s Bar”.

For more information or advice on setting up your own Freud’s Bar in your city, contact the experienced organizers of the Rome program: Claudia Spadazzi  and Fabrizio Rocchetto

If we don’t leave our offices to interact with people who are curious about the human mind they will have misguided ideas about Freud and psychoanalysis and we will have only ourselves to blame.

The current IPA leadership is especially focused on this issue: exploring how can we develop strategies to go out in the community and inform people about psychoanalysis rather than waiting for them to find their way to us.

In an upcoming post, I’d like to tell you about another remarkably effective outreach program called the Summer University on Psychoanalysis that was developed by the German psychoanalytic society (DPV).




Removing the IPA’s Veil of Mystery–A Powerpoint That Tells you Who, What and Why

In February, IPA Vice President Sergio Nick gave a PowerPoint presentation at the APsaA meeting in New York.  The presentation contained a lot of useful information including the benefits the IPA provides its members.  It also elucidated at least some of the mysteries of IPA governance and explained the committee structure within the organization which is a good way of seeing more about how the IPA views its mission. I suspect some of you didn’t have a chance to hear Dr. Nick’s talk at the Meeting of Members early Friday morning, so I wanted to make it available to you.  
At the end of the presentation, you will see information about what steps to take if you are interested in serving on an IPA committee. I know we are all weighed down with time spent serving on local and national committees, but I urge you to consider getting involved with the IPA this way.  There is something really remarkable and invigorating about getting to know psychoanalysts from around the world while working together on a project. I’ve converted the PowerPoint to a PDF document. After seeing the presentation, if you have any questions or want the original slide deck, please feel free to contact me.
Click here to view the presentation.
The image that accompanies this post is the view from the new IPA headquarters in London.