Collaboration with APsaA

Psychoanalysis has a double identity. It is a comprehensive theory about human nature, motivation, behavior, development and experience. And it is a method of treatment for psychological problems and difficulties in living a successful life.

To meet the needs of these dual identities Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) often works in collaboration with The American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA), the oldest national psychoanalytic organization in the nation. APsaA, as a professional organization for psychoanalysts, focuses on education, research and membership development. 

As a general theory of individual human behavior and experience, psychoanalytic ideas enrich and are enriched by the study of the biological and social sciences, group behavior, history, philosophy, art, and literature. As a developmental theory, psychoanalysis contributes to child psychology, education, law, and family studies. Through its examination of the complex relationship between body and mind, psychoanalysis also furthers our understanding of the role of emotions in health as well as in medical illness.

Empirical Studies in Psychoanalysis

Many Division 39 members have been reporting increasing incidences of exasperating encounters with academic psychologists, biological psychiatrists, non-psychoanalytic clinicians, insurance company personnel, pharmaceutical industry representatives, government bureaucrats, and prospective clients who claim that psychoanalytic ways of working are not "evidence-based." Andrew Gerber has developed a web site for the American Psychoanalytic Association describing, and organizing under topic headings, studies that meet rigorous standards of scientific research and provide empirical evidence for the value of psychodynamic ideas.

Despite a paucity of randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs), which are expensive and difficult to conduct well (particularly with long-term, individualized treatments oriented toward structural as well as symptomatic change), there exists a solid and growing body of respectable scientific evidence for psychoanalytic approaches. It is our hope that by reference to these studies, Division members who are encountering the facile assumption that there is no empirical support for psychoanalysis can be better prepared to defend their work. Those who train therapists or who work in organizations where there is pressure to provide "only evidence-based treatments" may find this link particularly helpful.

The Enduring Significance of Psychoanalytic Theory and Practice

Division 39, in conjunction with the APsaA, has made available a presentation created with the intention of disabusing audiences of misconceptions held about psychoanalytic theories and treatments by exposing them to a few of the many relevant empirical studies. Dozens of studies have shown the efficacy and effectiveness of psychoanalytic treatments, and many more have substantiated various psychoanalytic tenets, yet most psychologists are not aware of this vast body of research.

Over the last few decades, psychoanalytic theory and practice have been severely criticized in both academic and popular circles. Some of the criticism is based on legitimate concerns about the insularity of psychoanalytic institutes, some misguided theorizing, and a handful of cases involving the misapplication of treatment. Some reflects stereotypes that have little to do with psychoanalytic therapy as it is actually practiced. As reported in the March 2006 Newsweek cover story, psychoanalytic theory and practice are an intrinsic and important part of our culture and communities. Therefore, it would seem important for psychologists to be informed of the relevant research.

The Enduring Significance of Psychoanalytic Theory and Practice (PDF, 224KB) is a presentation created by Greg Lowder, in collaboration with Nancy McWilliams, James Hansell, and the Board of Directors of Division 39. It covers some of the following research areas: word priming experiments demonstrating the operation of unconscious processes in motivation; research showing the association of conflicts about personal goals with increased somatic complaints; clinical trials showing similar outcomes for psychoanalytic psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy; evidence for the cost-effectiveness and efficacy of brief psychodynamic psychotherapies; and evidence of continued gains after termination of psychoanalysis.

This presentation may be used as a teaching tool for audiences such as insurers, undergraduates, non-psychoanalytic clinicians, academic book publishers, administrators, and individuals in the humanities. Please feel free to download and adapt this educational resource for any setting.