On Coming Together: A Challenge in Leadership

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Posted September 30, 2007

Psychoanalysis has a long record of schisms and splits that I need not recount here. I fervently hope that in our second century we have matured past that way of handling our disagreements. Just as a democracy embraces its citizens of all political and religious stripes, this Association can embrace analysts of an immense variety of theoretical persuasions. We have a common ground in the fundamental experience of psychoanalysis that takes people deep into inner experience and self-knowledge and gives them new mastery, and does it in a protected environment of free expression and close attention to the relationship between the two parties.

The growing movement towards establishing psychoanalytic centers is an expression of our realization that there is strength in numbers and unity of purpose. There are two kinds of mergers that lead to psychoanalytic centers. The first is the organizational unification of a society and an institute, which I have seen first-hand.

As the first president of the Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center, I quickly overcame an initial skepticism I had experienced when the idea was first proposed by our young leaders and a new Foundation that had brought community leaders into our midst for the first time. The former society and institute were now able to pool their resources, cutting down on expenditures and eliminating duplicated organizational structure and member efforts. We hired a professional executive director and elected a Board of Trustees composed half of analyst members and half of community leaders.

We were thrilled by the commitment and caring about our Center that our community trustees evinced – clinical and academic leaders in the mental health field, top-quality financial experts, business managers, experts in public relations and the media, clinician graduates of our psychotherapy training program–all contributed expertise. The result has been an invigorated psychoanalytic community, gradually increasing financial security, enhanced community outreach, attractive new quarters, and a greatly improved psychoanalytic library. We have a membership of committed analysts, a large portion of whom are highly involved in our many activities. All graduate members are faculty, and the entire membership elects a Faculty Committee. Our Education Committee includes elected non-training analysts and autonomously runs the Psychoanalyst Training Program. We are not free of problems, but we have completed our first strategic plan and are building our vision for 2016.

The second kind of merger is more difficult. Bringing together societies and institutes that have inherited schisms from a previous generation is considerably more challenging. In Cleveland we can still find traces of bitterness from a schism in the late 1960s. Power struggles, disagreements about educational policy, theoretical differences, and transferences all play their part in creating splits and lifelong animosities. Psychoanalysis in its second century cannot afford the luxury of such divisiveness. We have too many common interests to remain divided because of long-past battles. We have to come together on the basis of our common commitment to psychoanalysis. To facilitate this is a challenge in leadership.

For the American Psychoanalytic Association this means to me that we should try to keep our membership interests and educational and scientific concerns under one roof. We need to respect the educational autonomy of the institutes and their representatives in the Board on Professional Standards, and they in turn must be sensitive to the realities and needs of the field of practice. I hope we can resolve our differences without externalizing BOPS, by respecting the right of educators to agree upon common but adaptable educational standards. It would help if such matters as certification and the qualifications of training analysts were not enshrined in the bylaws that require a two-thirds vote of members for evolutionary change (see my statement on Certification, Standards, and Competence.) Certain functions such as certification could be entrusted to a consortium of like-minded psychoanalytic organizations or an independent board without dividing the organization.

The American Psychoanalytic Association is the flagship of psychoanalysis in the United States. Its highly respected position is the result of its concern about scientific and clinical integrity, reflected in its educational system and its publications. I believe that most of our members want to keep all of that under one roof.

I have a long record of bringing people together. I am sensitive to the concerns of people passionately committed to both sides in our current disputes, and respected by those people even in disagreement. I am used to controversy, in APsaA and the American Psychiatric Association, in both of which I have long been a leader. I hope you will find these qualities deserving of your vote to elect me as President-Elect of APsaA. Please feel free to contact me at naclemens@cs.com or my home phone, (216) 371-4373.

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