Globalizing psychoanalytic psychology

A progress report from the Division 39 Committee on International Relations in Psychoanalytic Psychology

By Richard Ruth, PhD

You wouldn’t know psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychology have been deemed “endangered species” — some say dinosaurs — when you look at the vitality of our engagement with developments all over the world:

  • Psychologist —‐psychoanalysts, and psychoanalytically oriented psychologists who have preferred to pursue other trajectories of clinical training and practice, supervise, teach, and treat all over China — via Skype and Oovoo.

  • Different from what was the case in an earlier age, many US psychodynamically oriented psychologists are conversant with Kleinian and Lacanian approaches, and are in active dialog, supervision, and training with colleagues in Europe and Latin America, where these psychoanalytic schools predominate — either through travel or via electronic means.

  • Psychoanalytic psychologists from the US are actively involved with human rights, refugee, and war‐and disaster-relief efforts throughout the world, extending the reach and application of our ideas and work.

  • Increasing numbers of students from Western and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific come to study psychoanalytic psychology at psychodynamically oriented doctoral programs and
    psychologist-run psychoanalytic institutes all over the US.

Recognizing the importance of these trends, and wanting to be more proactively involved as a Division in understanding and enriching the collaborative international work going on, the Division 39 Board approved this past fall the formation of a Committee on International Relations in Psychoanalytic psychology. Co-chairs are Marilyn Jacobs and Ken Reich, and additional members are Moona Chaudhry, Kimberlyn Leary, Marilyn Metzl, Anurag Mishra (New Delhi), Richard Ruth, Andrew Samuels (London) and Kris Yi.

There is a long history of psychoanalytic involvement across borders; Division 39 has a distinguished record of previous involvement in such work, as do the American and International Psychoanalytic Associations. Our desire is to collaborate, where possible, with other efforts, not to replicate important work colleagues have already underway. That said, we think Division 39 has particular perspectives and expertise to offer:

  • As psychologists, we have the possibility to foster connections with other kinds of psychologists in other countries, as we do actively in our work with other divisions of the American Psychological Association.

  • The value our Division places on inclusivity, diversity, and respect and dialog among psychoanalytic psychologists with diverse theoretical views and diverse approaches to practice might help us offer in other countries something that complements what other psychoanalytic organizations might bring. Thus, it is not an accident, but something we warmly welcome, that our British member is Jungian and our Indian member belongs to the Societe Psychoanalytique de Paris. Our conversations are quite fertile! We particularly hope that close collaboration with the Division’s Multicultural Concerns and Sexualities and Gender Identities committees can enrich and enliven our international efforts.

  • Our aspiration is to help Division members learn from work being done in other countries, and not just consult and teach in other contexts. In the future, we hope to find creative ways to bring foreign colleagues to interact with us at our spring Division meetings and at our summer sessions at APA.

Our committee meets by conference call regularly, and will be hosting a conversation hour at the upcoming Santa Fe meeting, which we hope others involved or interested in international work will attend. Already, our committee has undertaken several important initiatives. We are mindful of selecting “right-­‐sized” projects sensitive to the Division’s budgetary constraints and our members’ active professional commitments; but we’ve already accomplished some important achievements in our first months of work:

  • When we learned a Syrian psychoanalyst, Dr. Rafah Nashed, had been imprisoned by the regime, we asked the Division Board to approve a resolution demanding her release and write a letter to the US government asking the US to use its resources and influence to intervene and secure her release. Our member Moona Chaudhry worked closely with APA’s International Relations Office, who in turn connected us with the Scholars at Risk organization; our Division president’s conversations about the case with leaders of other psychoanalytic organizations helped them to become involved on behalf of Dr. Nashed. We were gratified when she was soon released. This experience equips us well to intervene swiftly when we learn of other cases of psychoanalysts and psychologists in trouble abroad.

  • We have initiated a email list to facilitate communication among Division members with interests in international work. To join, please contact Marilyn Jacobs, PhD, email list Administrator, with your name, mailing address, telephone number, email and affiliation.

  • In addition to hosting a conversation hour in Santa Fe, we are actively organizing a panel for the 2013 Boston spring meeting of the Division, on psychoanalytically informed clinical work in war and refugee situations. Distinguished colleagues who have worked both in policy and in direct-service efforts will be participating.

We welcome your ideas and collaboration! We would like to know about international efforts in which members of our Division are currently working, and how our committee and the Division might support and assist in your efforts. We welcome your ideas about projects our committee might consider launching– maybe with your participation? We welcome your reactions to this article. And we hope to speak with many of you, in person, in Santa Fe! Feel free to be in touch with our co-­‐chairs, Ken Reich and Marilyn Jacobs.