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APsaA Apology to Non Medical Psychoanalysts

Conveyed by Lee Jaffe

TAP: November 17, 2019

For years the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) did not offer the same pathways to clinical psychoanalytic training for all mental health professionals that were available to medical doctors. While there were a few waivers for academic researchers and strategically placed teachers if you were not a physician, they were difficult to obtain. The policies in place insured most psychoanalysts trained in the United States were physicians, not psychologists, social workers or other mental health professionals. In 1988 a lawsuit was settled forcing APsaA to offer training to all licensed mental health professionals on an equal basis.

As a result of that lawsuit, much has changed in the past 30 years. I, for example, am the first psychologist to be president of APsaA in its 100 years, despite the fact that I was initially denied access to training and required to apply for special waivers to be acceptable for training. Since 1988, APsaA approved training programs have accepted various mental health professionals, yet the change came about by court order, not willingly, and there was no public recognition of the error of the restrictive admissions policies.

During the years that training was restricted to physicians, it was difficult if not impossible in most cities for others to become psychoanalysts. Some interested in analytic training were rejected outright, while others no doubt were aware that they were not welcomed and did not even apply for training. Since APsaA had a near monopoly on analytic training in the United States, there were no alternatives for many who were not medical doctors. Consequently, career choices were restricted, and some mental health professionals were denied their desire to become a psychoanalyst. Feelings were hurt and grudges against APsaA festered. Moreover, these restrictive policies contributed to an atmosphere in our field that did value the contributions to psychoanalysis from other disciplines.

Granted, today's APsaA is no longer an exclusive, predominantly physicians' organization, and training is open to all licensed mental health professionals. Nevertheless, I am personally aware of colleagues whose professional lives suffered in the past, some who still bear wounds and grievances, and some who never got to realize their wish to become a psychoanalyst. I am also aware that despite being forced to change, APsaA has never apologized for the hurts caused by its restrictive policies.

I believe in an effort to heal old wounds; those who suffered are owed an apology. APsaA was wrong. For this reason, I asked the APsaA leadership and board of directors to unite with me in an official apology to all the mental health professions who were hurt by these old, restrictive policies. The leadership of APsaA agreed. We unreservedly apologize for unfairly discriminating against our colleagues, devaluing their expertise, and causing them difficulties or harm.