The Alliance for Psychoanalytic Schools: Promotion of Psychoanalytic Ideas in All Schools

Barbara Streeter

Barbara Streeter, M.S.SpEd, LPCC, is a child and adolescent psychoanalyst, education and therapy director of the Hanna Perkins School, and president of the Alliance for Psychoanalytic Schools.


Barbara Streeter

The Alliance for Psychoanalytic Schools (APS) was founded in 2003 by the directors of four psychoanalytic schools. It has grown to include eight active member schools and a number of individual members who are involved in consultations and therapeutic interventions in a variety of schools and early childhood programs. The overarching goal of the APS is the promotion of the interface between psychoanalysis and education: for the benefit of parents, children, school teachers, the wider community, and the profession of psychoanalysis.

Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysts in Schools

Child and adolescent psychoanalysts around the country and abroad have been engaged in a great variety of efforts to bring psychoanalytic understandings to educational settings ever since Anna Freud joined other like-minded colleagues in such endeavors in the 1920s. Her publication in 1930, “Four Lectures on Psychoanalysis for Teachers and Parents,” was the first discussion of the interface between psychoanalysis and education.

Anna Freud’s colleague, Anny Katan, established the Hanna Perkins Therapeutic Preschool in Cleveland in 1951 [See “Psychoanalytic Schools: A Piece of History Flourishing Today,” TAP, 47/1, page 22]. In the 1990s several analysts visited Hanna Perkins and were subsequently inspired to develop psychoanalytic schools in their own communities. Jack and Kerry Novick developed the Allen Creek School in Ann Arbor; Don Rosenblitt the Lucy Daniels School in Cary, N.C.; and Art Farley and Diane Manning directed what eventually became the New School on the Heights in Houston. In the process of establishing their schools, they continued visiting Hanna Perkins and sought consultation with Robert Furman, director of the Hanna Perkins Center, and his wife, Erna Furman. When Tom Barrett succeeded Robert Furman as director, the leaders of the four schools found it helpful to continue meeting as a group to discuss the various challenges they encountered and learn from each other’s experiences. In 2003, they formed the Alliance of Psychoanalytic Schools, a 501(c)(3) organization with the mission “to provide support to existing psychoanalytic schools and those in various stages of development. In so doing, the APS may disseminate psychoanalytic ideas and demonstrate the practical applications of psychoanalytic principles.”

Psychoanalytic Schools

Child psychoanalysts have an understanding of the inner life of children and the developmental tasks of childhood that can make a tremendous difference in the trajectory of children’s lives. Imagine the difference made when a caregiver is helped to understand that she can help a toddler mitigate his aggression by “bringing the love to bear,” reminding him of his loving feelings in the face of a meltdown, instead of sending him to time out for bad behavior. Or when preschool teachers learn to help children recognize and tolerate their sadness at separations rather than distracting them. 22When first grade teachers recognize a child’s provocative behavior as connected to externalized conflicts. When teachers regularly ask “why?” when a child exhibits problematic behavior.

Consider, too, the difference for a child in need of therapeutic intervention when teachers, parents, and therapists work together as a team to address the difficulties within the context of a school, especially in a school informed by these understandings:

Teachers can be helped to understand the challenges a child encounters and parents’ understandings are enhanced by the day-to-day modeling and support from the teachers. Therapists benefit from the input of the teachers, their observations and their insight.


Working in psychoanalytic schools offers opportunities for child analysts to study normal development; how parents and educators support children in mastering developmental tasks; and methods of intervening when stresses and developmental conflicts interfere. APS members discuss their experiences with each other and, together, they work to define what is unique to psychoanalytic schools and how to put psychoanalytic understandings into practice, whether in psychoanalytic schools or as consultants to educators in a variety of settings.

Current concerns in the field of education regarding children’s emotional health offer opportunities for child psychoanalysts to acquaint the general public with the value of child psychoanalysis. The increasing recognition by educators and researchers that many preschool programs insufficiently address the emotional needs of preschoolers and that many of the problems in grade schools and high schools are related to issues of mental health has resulted in the development of numerous evidence-based programs designed to address the issues.

As a school director, I receive daily emails about social-emotional curriculums, anti-bullying programs, and materials designed to promote character development. While of significant benefit to educators, the programs often lack the more individualized and in-depth approach psychoanalytic consultants bring and do not address ways to embed psychoanalytic understandings in the actual structure and practices of the school. When I was discussing one widely distributed social-emotional curriculum with some preschool directors, they said it very simply: “The approach to listening to children is similar to what you help us do, only you help us go deeper, you always ask ‘why?’”

The approach to listening to children is similar to what you help us do, only you help us go deeper, you always ask “why?”

A recent edition of the Psychoanalytic Study of the Child (2018 v.71) includes a section on Psychoanalytic Schools, edited by Denia Barrett, titled, “So You Want to Start a Psychoanalytic School? Succumbing to an Almost ‘Irresistible Temptation.’” The section features chapters about the four original member schools of the APS; as well as an article by Elizabeth Danto about Anna Freud’s and her colleagues’ efforts in bringing psychoanalytic thinking to school settings; and an article about psychoanalytic consultation to a public Montessori School. One of the many things that stands out in the reading of the chapters is that each school has its own character, its own distinct approach, and its own unique challenges. Hanna Perkins provides therapy-via-the-parent for preschoolers; Allen Creek is considered a school for typical preschoolers with the addition of psychoanalytically oriented consultants and optional parent groups; Lucy Daniels is distinctly therapeutic with its own unique approach to addressing children’s issues within the classroom environment and providing parent consultation. It started out primarily as a preschool but has more recently added classrooms for elementary school students. The New School on the Heights provided an alternative school for elementary and middle school students who were unable to succeed in other school settings. Clear boundaries were maintained between school and therapy; parent consultation was provided and some of the children were in analysis. The commonalities the schools share are: respect for the complexity of the inner life and uniqueness of each individual, recognition of the importance of the parent/child relationship, view of behaviors as communicating feelings, and appreciation for children’s needs for support in mastering developmental conflicts.

Since the inception of the APS, additional schools have applied for membership and been accepted:


Every one of these schools provides its own unique form of psychoanalytically informed social-emotional curriculum, and its own particular practices and ways of communicating, all informed by understandings of the inner life of children.

In 2013, the founders of the APS passed on the leadership of the APS to Janet Rotter, Felecia Powell-Williams, and me. Membership criteria for the APS were revised to include interested individuals as well as psychoanalytic schools. The name of the organization was changed to the “Alliance for Psychoanalytic Schools” (instead of “of psychoanalytic schools”) and the mission was expanded to include “a forum for individuals interested in promoting the interface between psychoanalysis and education.” Individuals who have joined include Nat Donson, who has consulted to preschools for years, Rosaleen Rusty Horn, a psychoanalyst with training in early childhood education, and Gil Kliman, the developer of Reflective Network Therapy and the medical director of the Children’s Psychological Health Center in San Francisco. As some of the original developers of member schools have since passed on the leadership of the schools, they have continued with the APS as individual members.


A forum for individuals interested in promoting the interface between psychoanalysis and education.

Activities of the APS

  1. Meetings at the Association for Child Psychoanalysis (ACP) annual meeting and at the meetings of the American Psychoanalytic Association. The meetings cover regular business and various initiatives and serve as a way to keep in touch.
  2. Periodic conferences and visits at each other’s schools
  3. Collaboration with APsaA Schools Committee
  4. Presentations and Discussion Groups at ACP and APsaA
  5. Development of the APS website,
  6. Online dialogue
  7. Outreach efforts to schools and parent groups
  8. Consultations to childcare centers
  9. Publications, programs, and blogs for the wider community

Publications and programs emanating from psychoanalytic schools that are shared with the wider community include Jack and Kerry Novick’s book on “Emotional Muscle,” which resulted from their observations and reflections of their work with the Allen Creek Preschool. Many are already familiar with Gil Kliman’s replicable programs for children in foster care, from low-income families, and with autism, most notably Reflective Network Therapy, which grew out of the Cornerstone Method. More recently, Victoria Todd, Pam Millar, and others at the Hanna Perkins Center have created a structured educational program consisting of a series of stories focused on helping preschool age children give words to “mad feelings” and distinguish them from “mean feelings.” Referred to as a “bullying prevention program,” it is currently being implemented in Shaker Heights public school classrooms, where the teachers are responding as much to the language used as are the children. More examples are available at and member school websites.

It is our hope that the more we share with each other and work to build a presence in the larger community, the more educators and families will be receptive to the value of psychoanalytic thinking.

Dare we dream about a day when the term “psychoanalytic school” is as recognizable as the schools that Maria Montessori developed?

From the Issues in Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis Editor

Barbara Streeter concludes her piece on the Alliance for Psychoanalytic Schools (APS) with this bold comment:

“Dare we dream about a day when the term ‘Psychoanalytic School’ is as recognizable as the schools that Maria Montessori developed?”

What are Psychoanalytic Schools? What are schools that incorporate a psychoanalytic perspective in their atmosphere and curriculum? Streeter, current president of the APS, provides for us the historical background of psychoanalysts and educators collaborating and the evolution over the last several decades of unique partnerships throughout the country.

The central message in this piece can be summarized with the following idea. What are the commonalities of a psychoanalytic perspective in schools?

Hopefully, this article can be a stimulus for more of our members to be involved in helping our children by collaborating with educators.

—Leon Hoffman