Sunday, March 13, 2011

Division 39 and the Psychoanalytic Consortium

 During the recent debate concerning the proposed bylaws amendments, the focus of the discussion centered on the Division’s relationship with psychology and the American Psychological Association. It is true that our bylaws strongly address our Division’s unique focus on psychoanalysis as a vital and legitimate area of psychological study and practice. It is important that our organization remain committed to psychoanalytic research, scholarship and practice as an important part of our identity as a psychological organization.

At the same time, our organization is committed to psychoanalytic teaching and education and has taken its place among the major psychoanalytic organizations in this country. For18 years the Division of Psychoanalysis has been part of the Psychoanalytic Consortium made up of the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA), the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry (AAPDP), and the National Membership Committee on Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work (now renamed, American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work [AAPCSW]) in addition to the Division.

Accreditation and Psychoanalytic Institutes

It may come as a surprise that psychoanalytic institutes in this country have never had a recognized set of standards or a means to accredit institutes as being able to adequately teach psychoanalytic practice. Further reflection may easily suggest why. Institutes in this country were often formed by those breaking away from other institutes in order to teach their view of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic practice. Although APsaA has maintained some control over its separate institutes, this has been entirely an “in house” matter. During the early years, especially with the dominance of medical psychoanalysis, there was little thought that institutes might need to demonstrate the value or validity of their teaching.

This admittedly anarchic approach to accrediting institutes began to shift as psychoanalytic institutes and organizations faced the declining prestige of psychoanalytic training, the increased challenges to psychoanalytic treatment, and the embarrassing diversity of psychoanalytic training and practice. In response to these perceived challenges APsaA initiated an effort to seek recognition as the only organization able to accredit institutes. The National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis (NAAP) countered with similar efforts to establish training standards that would be recognized by the Department of Education (DoE). One outcome of both NAAP’s and APsaA’s efforts led to the formation of the Consortium and the attempt to develop a common set of standards among the four constituent organizations of the Consortium.

Emergence of Accreditation Council for Psychoanalytic Education

The Consortium was able to develop a set of common standards and to enlist the agreement of the major organizations that this document could become a common standard for psychoanalytic education in 2001. At that point, a new organization was formed, the Accreditation Council for Psychoanalytic Education (ACPE), which was empowered to seek approval of the DoE and to accredit any institutes that applied. For 10 years, ACPE has continued to refine the standards and the accreditation process, prepare for application to the DoE, and to accredit institutes.

The bland recital of the emerging consensus among the major psychoanalytic organization disguises the wrenching struggles both within the Consortium and our Division Board. It particularly overlooks the role many of our members played in forging a consensus and at times bringing other groups dragging and screaming onto agreement. Although many members served on the Consortium, certainly Nat Stockhamer, Lew Aron, Jonathan Slavin, and Laurie Wagner stand out not only among our own members, but also of the Consortium members. It is fair to assert that while these and other Division members actively attended to the value and importance of psychoanalytic psychology and the issues particular to “our” institutes, their contributions in many ways “saved” Consortium members from shortsighted and preemptive attempts at protecting their “turf” to the detriment of a wider concern for psychoanalytic education and training.


Whither ACPE?

The Consortium has largely continued to function in support of the ACPE. ACPE has been largely dependent upon Consortium members to fund its operations. It has also been highly dependent upon volunteer efforts of the ACPE officers who have devoted countless unpaid hours in advancing the goal of establishing ACPE as an accrediting organization. Over the years, the requests for funds have been relatively modest and our Division has typically provided $5,000 a year to support operating expenses. The problem is that until ACPE is recognized as an accrediting body by the Department of Education, it cannot in good conscience charge institutes that apply for accreditation. Also, ACPE cannot apply for recognition by the DoE unless it is able to translate its standards and procedures into “bureaucratese.” Hence they have needed to employ a bureaucrat sympathetic to psychoanalysis (such people evidently do exist) as a consultant. Finally, even a well-crafted application to the DoE needs to be accompanied by two things: a demonstration that there is an actual need for this service, and financial resources to keep ACPE going.

So this is where we come down to the current year. In order to make the final push to seek DoE approval, ACPE must have vastly increased financial resources and a significant number of current and future applicants for accreditation. While the Consortium organizations created and sustained ACPE for ten years, only institutes can make ACPE a going concern. The Consortium has been asked to bankroll the application and to provide sufficient funds to convince DoE that it is a viable organization. Division 39’s share of this request comes to $40,000 payable over the next 18 months. If these funds are not forthcoming, the process is likely to grind to a halt if not fail altogether. If these funds are provided and ACPE still fails to gain DoE approval, some of the funds will be returned to the Division. Finally, money or no, DoE approval or no, ACPE needs institutes applying for accreditation.

Whither Institutes?

ACPE offers a process whereby institutes may obtain external accreditation for their programs. One problem with this is that many institutes do not necessarily see the value of external accreditation. As noted above, APsaA institutes must seek and maintain internal accreditation and may feel that this is sufficient. NAAP is an accrediting body for many psychoanalytic training programs and many of these programs might not be able to meet ACPE standards even if they desired to do so. Other institutes may simply not see the benefit of accreditation. Although there are certain benefits accruing to recognition by DoE, these may not be compelling to institutes struggling to stay “above water” in an increasingly difficulty time for training programs.

Why is this important to Division of Psychoanalysis

As noted above, not only has the Division been a participant, but also it has been the linchpin of this process and has consistently been supported by the Division Board. That in itself cannot answer the question as to the value ACPE has for the Division. We believe that external accreditation of psychoanalytic education is certainly an important part of our mission to improve psychoanalytic education generally and psychoanalytic training generally. External accreditation is likely to lead institutes to become more pluralistic and rigorous in their approach to teaching and increasing fair and transparent in identifying candidate “milestones” and evaluating candidate progress. This is certainly a reflection of our values as a psychoanalytic psychology organization.

It is a fair question to ask whether the current request for funding accurately reflects the needs of our members, many of whom are not institute graduates or candidates, many of whom have serious concerns about defining psychoanalysis solely through institute training. This is an important objection. I believe there has been an insufficient attempt to mobilize institutes and institute leaders and graduates to make separate contributions to a project that will mainly benefit institute training. I am encourages that ACPE officers have acknowledge this “gap” in seeking funding and plan to make this effort in the future.

I believe that this last request, as substantial as it is, reflects an important contribution to seeing through an 18-year project that has been vitally important to many of our members.  The fact remains that the hefty request would not have seemed so hefty had ACPE had a crystal ball and foreseen what it would take to complete the process. Instead it has had a “low ball” approach to budgeting based on paying current bills and “making do.” I hope that our Division Board and our members will continue to support this final push to get ACPE functioning independently.

No comments:

Post a Comment