Training Ethos

The training ethos of the association reflects the following deeply held principles which have been developed by the association over many years.

Personal Psychoanalysis

A major tool for psychoanalytic therapy, and for most other psychotherapies, is the ongoing analysis of transference and countertransference through a training analysis. This enables a candidate to become deeply acquainted with his/her own unconscious structures and in this way the candidate can be come empathetic with the inner movement of his own psyche, developing an inner operari

First there will be many robust bridges from the conscious to the unconscious. Next, and related to these bridges, there will be the dissolution of many phantasies, conscious and unconscious, which cloud our judgement and vision, inward and outward. Thirdly, we say that the psychoanalytic process moves the censor from the gates of consciousness, as described by Freud, to the threshold of action.

This leaves a “play space” in between, so that we can receive impulses from the unconscious, and process them before acting or speaking. This play space is the internalisation of the analytic play space. These structural changes enable the practitioner to become a lot more self-aware than the average person. In this way he/she will be much less likely to be frightened or put off by bizarre products of the client’s mind. Moreover, in the multi-faceted interactions between client and practitioner, he/she will be able to differentiate material originating from the client from material of internal origin. Because of this, manageable resonances will occur.

Finally, the practitioner’s increasing self-knowledge will optimise his/her dealing with complex interactions, including transference and countertransference, so that a good outcome becomes highly probable. This practitioner deals daily and routinely with conscious and unconscious material which is often strange, and unworldly. So we must deal with the total process of growing this kind of person, not merely the academic training. Nor are the personal analysis and the work under supervision to be treated as some kind of unimportant add-on: they are probably even more important than the academic learning.

Personal analysis is valuable for many reasons. Let’s look at three of them. First of all, the personal analysis over a number of years strengthens the psyche of the candidate. The candidate—a human being— will by this fact have neurotic, and, not uncommonly, mildly psychotic residues from their own childhood. These in the hands of a senior practitioner will be much alleviated.
Moreover, in the ordinary citizen, the repressive barrier between conscious mind and the unconscious mind will be nearly watertight; the personal analysis will build a large number of bridges through this barrier, allowing the candidate to access their own unconscious mind more fluidly, and explore later resonances with their client. All this adds up to a greatly strengthened psyche. This is necessary in dealing with very disturbed clients,

But the personal analysis is vital for a second reason. The candidate, when later in his or her own practice, will enter into a highly structured relationship with his/her client—a meshing of minds. There can be a fear of losing oneself in the client’s subjectivity. The inner analyst has a way of holding this position. A not uncommon complaint among clients nowadays is a repeated pattern of not being able to get along with colleagues, or bosses, at work.

What if the practitioner were so troubled? How could he/she deal with the troubled client? To make progress in psychoanalysis, the practitioner must analyse transference and countertransference phenomena. This means, say, in a disagreement with the client, knowing what part of the practitioner’s mind is interfacing with what part of the client’s mind—and how the practitioner’s residue from childhood may be contributing to the (hopefully) well-managed discord.

Moreover, in dealing with a depressed client, the practitioner may become temporarily depressed too! In this case, we can say that the disorder has in part been transferred to the practitioner—and dealing with this in the practitioner’s own psyche (sometimes with the help of a senior supervisor) will actually help the client to get better.

A third reason why the personal analysis is important is a kind of loneliness. The bounds of confidentiality and the arcane knowledge of our profession, mean that there are few people with whom one can discuss the work. Even the supervisory relationship, when it is there, is fairly strictly boundaried. The capacity to be alone must be well developed in our candidates.

Academic Learning is of course an important part of the training. The question is how does a person internalise the theory and practise of the work? It is usually by modelling an identification that is through the relationship with the supervisor. We need a bigger context to hold this learning/ teaching methodology Up until the 1920s the theoretical bases of our work were complex enough—and back then, our forebears dealt, by Freud’s insistence, only with the “transference neuroses” which were almost exclusively hysteria and obsessional neurosis.

Freud thought that the transferential bonds in the consulting room, with disorders predating the Oedipus complex (starting around 2 years old) were non-existent. Melanie Klein and many others proved him wrong. The early transferences were very much there, but were expressed in such a primitive, indeed in such an outlandish fashion, that special training was needed to recognise and to deal with them. Huge advances in psychoanalytic metapsychology were made from between 1926 to 1946—and these advances were copperfastened in England, where the evacuations of small children during World War II provided a rich tidal wave of adults who had suffered traumatic separations as children. In this way, the theories of early (0-2 years old) developmental processes were both validated and refined leaving, in particular, the British Kleinians and the British Independents masters of early psychoanalytic developmental theory, instructing the rest of the psychoanalytic world in these matters. To cover all this theoretical development in even three or four years of academic learning is a formidable task.

To deal with unexpected or puzzling phenomena in our clients is a task and a privilege. As one of my colleagues put it, “again and again we have to bring to bear all our resources in dealing with our clients!” This means theoretical resources, from our academic training—plus knowledge and experience gained from prior clients, plus our own hard-won self-knowledge. So the academic learning must be felt, not just learned and parroted back. Therefore, it is important that the candidate would have had a fair bit of personal analysis before being exposed to the academic material. Ours is an unusual profession.

Work under supervision is like the masterpiece of a mediaeval artisan in a guild: proof indisputable that the lessons learned in the first two phases of training have produced a candidate who can deal successfully with troubled clients. My guess is that the vast majority of mediaeval masterpieces were judged to be acceptable. In our profession, occasionally, a candidate can do years of personal analysis and then theoretical study—and then find they are unable to deal with the clients.

The requirement to delay the start of work with clients under supervision until after theoretical training is advisable.

We would ideally require a candidate to undergo psychoanalysis, then theoretical study then work with clients. We would work out all the elements required with the core trainers each who have responsibility towards their particular candidate.