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What Is Psychoanalysis?

Introduction to: NPAP’S Panel on What is Psychoanalysis?

February 10, 2019

Dear NPAP community,

I would like to thank you all for coming and showing an interest in our topic: What Is Psychoanalysis? Today we will hear six definitions of psychoanalysis, provided by members of this community. Based on these definitions I hope to stimulate a discussion among all of us about who we are as a psychoanalytic training institute and as a community.

The idea for this panel, rather the need for it, grew out of last year’s panel on Psychoanalytic Education – The Future of an Illusion? It became apparent then that in our community there are different ideas about psychoanalytic education and what we each think is important to teach, and therefore, what we think defines psychoanalysis.

This issue goes to the core of NPAP’s self-definition as a multi-model psychoanalytic training institute. The question before us is: is there still ONE unified/unifying definition of psychoanalysis, and if so, what are the key elements of that definition, or are there mutually exclusive definitions, based on the specific theoretical model that given members subscribe to? To say it differently, does the multi-model philosophy of our institute mean that we uphold incompatible definitions of psychoanalysis or are our definitions describing different parts of the same elephant?

These questions prompted me to organize this panel.

How did we come to these six definitions?

To refresh your memory, about half a year ago I reached out to the NPAP community, encouraging all of you to submit your definitions of psychoanalysis in no more than 750 words. 11 members and 1 candidate replied.

I then contacted 8 members of our community, representing a cross-section of our theoretical orientations, and 6 candidates, 2 from each level of training, and asked them to rank all the entries, anonymously submitted, according to their preference. From these responses, our ADMINISTRATIVE DIRECTOR, Jennifer, tallied the results and established 2 groups, one group with more votes and one group with fewer votes. The six definitions that you will hear today received the most votes.

To be clear, this vote is not about determining which one is the best definition; the chosen ones are the ones that are more representative of the NPAP community. What was one member’s first choice, was another member’s least favorite and vice versa.

I want to thank the members of our community who ranked the entries. They are: Will Critzman, Jerry Gargiulo, Gina Gold, Jim Holmes, Hope Igleheart, Susan Kassouf, Ruth Oscharoff, Gav Reisner, Kimber Riddle, Monique Rinere, Ruth Rosenbaum, Liz Singer, Tom Taylor and Aleksandra Wagner

And, of course, I want to thank again all the members who have submitted their definitions:

They are: John Bliss, Laura D’Angelo, Warren Holt, Paul Marcus/Alan Rosenberg, Susana Martinez, Merle Molofsky, Alan Roland, Jared Russell, Stephanie Teitelbaum, Jack Weiner, and myself.

After this panel, all the submitted definitions will be distributed to the membership with the hope that the discussion will continue. It is very possible that some of you will recognize yourself in one of the very definitions that were not presented here today.

Liz Singer served as the moderator and she will explain the format of this afternoon and will lead our discussion.