The Future of Psychoanalysis, by Peter Zagermann

The Debate about the Training Analyst System


The Future of Psychoanalysis is a call to action with the aim of reaching a fundamental discussion within our worldwide psychoanalytic community about one question: How do we want to train?  

We should direct our minds back in time to the point in 1920 that marks the beginning of the Eitingon model and ask what psychoanalytic training should look like against the background of the experiences we have gained so far and the principles resulting from our science itself. This is about a—potential—new beginning that also requires from us the courage to relinquish existing structures, as the case may be, and refocus on our primary commitment with respect to scientific truth.


Max Eitingon

As Stefano Bolognini mentions in his compelling Foreword to the book, the question of psychoanalytic training is the hottest and most fiercely discussed topic of the current international controversies in psychoanalysis, up to the point that the American Psychoanalytic Association faced the danger of a split, as Robert Pyles describes shockingly in his contribution to the present volume.

This highlights sharply that we are dealing with the crisis of a large-scale conflict that requires solution. The readiness for a break also shows, however, how vital it is to put our basic values as psychoanalysts over and above all other interests. The Future of Psychoanalysis, therefore, aims to offer a platform for the different points of views, their complexities, and individual merits, in order to find our way back to our common scientific identity via their discussion. For this reason, it is also important to us that, through the diverse collection of authors of this book, all regions of the International Psychoanalytical Association will be heard: How do we want to train?

The explosive dynamics of the current situation can be described, above all, through reference to the controversy about the training analyst system: one side regards the “Eitingon syndrome” (Zusmann) of the “authoritarian self-perpetuating training analyst elite, with its paranoiagenic and infantilizing aspects” (Wallerstein) as that aspect of the cause for the current crisis which lies in institutionalized psychoanalysis itself. On the other side, it is a psychoanalytically valid perspective to consider, also, that the depressive anxiety that this crisis gives rise to can generate persecutory reactions that might lead to the singling out of an internal “enemy” in the institution itself, such as the training analysts who want to preserve their power and influence.


Left to right, seated- Sigmund Freud, Sándor Ferenczi, and Hanns Sachs. Standing; Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, and Ernest Jones. Photo 1922

In view of the existential threat which psychoanalysis faces on all relevant levels, the suggestion of a persecutory depressive reaction has a realistic background. The suggestion alone, however, is unable to remove the objectively describable negative mechanisms of our training structure, as they cannot be ascribed to the investigators’ mental condition. Could it be that this very persecutory depressive reaction of ours to the actual misery of psychoanalysis puts us in a position where we recognize and take seriously the circumstances of that pathology of dependency resulting from the training analyst system, in as far as this pathology of dependency produces the very same persecutory depressive reaction in candidates?

In any case, one must ask how it is possible, in a scientific association, that, the objective character of these phenomena is not recognized, or is being resolved through a subjectivization. Some authors warn of a “horizontal model” that cannot acknowledge hierarchy and authority because of its opposition towards oedipal exclusion. In this case, too, as analysts, one must acknowledge the possible justification of the criticism. On the other hand, a significant number of those authors who critically concern themselves with the training analyst system base their criticism on a detailed examination of the effects of the structure of this system, in terms of the psychoanalysis of organizations. Such prioritization of the importance of structure is, however, not what one would associate with an egalitarian point of view – while, at the same time, the point of view that stresses hierarchy and authority often appears to be blind to the negative effects of the structure of the training analyst system as practiced.


The Difference Between Vertical and Horizontal Organisational Structures

It must surely be food for thought when three former presidents of the International Psychoanalytical Association, in this volume, are speaking with one voice, taking up the position for a horizontal and anti-oedipal model of training, along the above lines of argumentation. In other words, a simple polarization does nothing to clarify the complex problems which must be resolved and analyzed in the diversity of how they really appear via a common discussion and discursive debate of the question: How do we want to train?

The central theme with which we must concern ourselves with respect to the question of retaining or dismissing the training analyst system is clearly expressed by Fornari Spoto in her contribution to this volume: “The complexity of the analytical situation in the Eitingon model of training is also one of the reasons why higher levels of competence in the training analyst are deemed to be necessary”.

5392Two questions arise here: one, whether this is indeed an idealization of qualification (i.e., whether from an overall perspective the claim for higher levels of competence is indeed being met or not); and secondly, whether the Eitingon model and the real dependency it induces in the candidate on the training analyst and the training analyst system, creates the particular difficulties which are then being used in order to justify the introduction of a special, supposedly very gifted, caste of analysts.

The systematic problem that we have lost sight of thereby, in my opinion, is that by creating a two-class society in our institutes and societies we have produced an oedipal fixation of inclusion and exclusion which paralyzes institutionalized psychoanalysis by tying our attention to the internal conditions of power and power shifts.

What results from this – as from any fixation – is potentially a neurotic self-limitation of psychoanalysis. This would be an important internal cause for the crisis in psychoanalysis. Reason enough to also seek scientific dialogue here, and to move away from the mentality of trench warfare. The question, also in this respect, is How do we want to train?


Robert S. Wallerstein (1921- 2014), to whose memory the book is dedicated

This brings me to Robert Wallerstein, to whose memory this book, which is essentially about the future of psychoanalysis, is dedicated. In fact, his essay in this book is the last scientific work that left his desk, at age ninety-three. It clearly represents his legacy to psychoanalysis and, thus, simultaneously, is a piece of psychoanalytic history writing. I quote from his letter dated 14 June 2014, which accompanied the essay when he sent it to me:

The paper does trace the trajectory of my own involvement in these issues (i.e. the reform of the psychoanalytic training system), and changing my mind at several points over the decades of my psychoanalytic involvement (starting in 1949). I do end up with my current comprehensive overview which I no longer expect to be shifting. It presents a case for what I think must eventually evolve, the inclusion of psychoanalytic training as a discipline within the university . . . It also makes a radical change in abolishing the whole required training analyst system with the personal analysis of the candidate to become a totally voluntary and private affair not involved in any way with the educational structure. I am sure that it will raise lots of questions and controversy. Here it is for you.


Anna Freud

Wallerstein, in his plea for a university-based full-time training, invokes Anna Freud who already in 1971, in her essay titled, ‘The ideal psychoanalytic institute: a utopia’, amusingly declared, “The present part-time system seems as out-of-date to me as if church services were still conducted in catacombs, since this is where the early Christians were obliged to meet”.

How do we want to train? The integration of psychoanalytic training into the university is, for the time being, an unrealistic thought for most constituent organizations of the IPA, given that the current crisis in psychoanalysis is very specifically a scientific crisis, due to the fact that formal research in psychoanalysis is largely absent. But then we have the case of Germany, where, in the foreseeable future, it might become a reality that within the framework of statutory health insurance (into which psychoanalysis is integrated) the training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy might by law become part of the university-based clinical-psychological training. In this case, we are faced head-on with the problem that the training analyst system and the university are incompatible, as we are dealing here with two differently justified hierarchical systems that mutually contradict each other.


Otto Kernberg

Then again, an integration into the university might, for example, be combined with Otto Kernberg’s proposition (2014) to tie the authorization to conduct analyses undertaken in connection with training to a general certification to which, ideally, all analytically active members of a psychoanalytic institute, or society, submit themselves five years after their final exam.

All these analysts would then be freely available to the candidates, without any further formal involvement in the training context. What this comes down to essentially is a termination of the training analyst system according to the Eitingon model; also along these lines, Kernberg titled his 2014 work ‘The twilight of the training analysis system’.

The contribution to the present volume by Kernberg and Michels takes this concept further. In Israel, the introduction of a similar concept in 1996 has, meanwhile, led to a broad termination of the training analyst system, which seems to work well, as Emanuel Berman describes in his contribution.

For the last time: how do we want to train? As initially mentioned, it appears to me the most important and most difficult task we face is to mentally question the Eitingon model at all, as a first step, and with it the training analyst system to which it gave rise. I am of the opinion that this is only secondarily connected with the simple question of retaining power, which is so frequently mentioned.


“It must surely be food for thought when three former presidents of the International Psychoanalytical Association, in this volume, take up the position for a horizontal and anti-oedipal model of training”

As psychoanalysts, we have all been trained and raised, so to speak, within this system, and the massive oedipalization it produces, which I briefly described earlier and expand on in my chapter in this book, leads to a very explicit identification with this system, so that we are all inclined to look upon it as the only conceivable option and a quasi-natural reality. It is against that background that the question of retention of power can be played out in a way which, for psychoanalysts, is often amazingly crude and unreflected because one feels full oedipal justification.

The first step, therefore, must be to take a look at the training analyst system in the history of its development in the 1920s and to focus, especially, on its emergence out of the unresolved transference relationship of the first generation of analysts towards Freud. Only such fundamental and necessary relativization and reflective distancing, if we can adopt it, will help us accept the validity of those arguments that are put forward against the training analyst system on the functional level from the part of organizational psychoanalysis, in order to then look for an alternative, better form of training.

Peter Zagermann, PhD, is a psychoanalyst for children, adolescents and adults in private practice in Munich. He studied psychology, art history, and ancient history at the University of Munich, Germany, before psychoanalytic training with the German Psychoanalytic Association (DPV/IPA). He is a full member of the DPV, as well as member of the German Psychoanalytic Society (DPG), and the author of a number of books including Psychoanalysis: A General Theory of Psychic Structure Formation and Pathogenesis (in publication), as well as a series of papers on psychoanalytic subjects in German.

His edited book, The Future of Psychoanalysis: The Debate about the Training Analyst System, has recently been published by Karnac.


Reviews and Endorsements

zagermann‘A reader expecting from these pages some academic, traditional, reassuring confirmation of the previously existing educational mentality and processes in psychoanalysis could feel unexpectedly displaced and surprised by the content of some of these chapters. This book hosts a real, innovative debate among independent thinkers who are connected by a strong, genuine interest in transmitting psychoanalysis to future generations and who reflect, without bias or prejudice, on the experiences of their own and of previous generations.’
— Stefano Bolognini, President of the International Psychoanalytical Association; from the Foreword

‘This book is a landmark in the current discussion on analytic education. Well organized by Peter Zagermann, it brings to the reader a living debate among some of the most productive authors who have been reflecting on the controversial issue of the training analyst system. In order to revitalize psychoanalysis, it is time for a joint and courageous reflection on our educational system, its achievements and its failures. This book offers us a unique opportunity to get in touch with different experiences in many analytic centres and regions, in each one of which we can witness how the lack of open and clear debate can keep psychoanalytic education as a prey of past experience. I strongly recommend its reading to both experienced and new analysts, and I am certain that it will be astimulating bridge for the future.’
— Cláudio Laks Eizirik, Past President of the International Psychoanalytical Association, and contributor to this volume


One thought on “The Future of Psychoanalysis, by Peter Zagermann

  1. Pingback: Stalker, Hacker, Voyeur, Spy, by Helen K. Gediman |

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