A Preview of How Psychoanalytic Training Institutes Are Addressing the Diversities

Anton Hart, Jordan Dunn, and Lauren Jones

Anton Hart, PhD, FABP, FIPA, training and supervising analyst and faculty at the William Alanson White Institute, is chair of the Diversities Section of APsaA’s DPE, and co-chair of the Holmes Commission on Racial Equality in the American Psychoanalytic Association.

Jordan Dunn, MA, is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at The New School and psychology intern at Mount Sinai-St. Luke’s Hospital. He is the outgoing APsaA DPE Diversities Section research assistant, and a student organizer in the sanctuary movement.

Lauren Jones is a senior psychology major at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She currently works as the research assistant for the Diversities Section of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s Department of Psychoanalytic Education.


Anton Hart


Jordan Dunn


Lauren Jones

Many voices, from within and outside of psychoanalysis, are calling for an awakening, an acknowledgment of and an engagement with issues of race, racism, and other matters of diversity and discrimination. Psychoanalysis has begun to answer the call and recognize its complicity in maintaining the status quo of white supremacy within aspects of its theorizing, organizational structures, and clinical applications. The Department of Psychoanalytic Education (DPE) Diversities Section has dedicated itself to examining how the diversities are addressed, as well as how they might be considered and engaged, in the process of training the next generations of psychoanalysts. Our goal is to assess how institutes incorporate the diversities into psychoanalytic training, both in curriculum and organizational development.

Contribute to APsaA’s Psychoanalytic Curricula on Diversities Survey

As members of the psychoanalytic community, it is important to commit ourselves to the pursuit of equity, inclusion, and belonging by organizing and disseminating our resources, especially in light of recent social and public health crises. In this spirit, we urge all institutes to contribute to this ongoing project within APsaA by completing the Psychoanalytic Curricula on Diversities Survey and submitting related materials for others to share.

What follows is an abbreviated, preliminary report of in-progress findings from the Psychoanalytic Curricula on Diversities Survey recently administered by the Diversities Section of APsaA’s Department of Psychoanalytic Education. For the survey, which is ongoing, we contacted all APsaA-affiliated institutes and training centers and as many non-APsaA-affiliated institutes and psychoanalytic training centers we could find.

We offer this report in the hope it will be useful to institutes as they embark on their own journeys to address issues of discrimination that psychoanalysts have not been immune to perpetuating. We have assembled our findings, so far, in a table which describes institutes at four levels of development as they incorporate diversities issues.

Using directory listings from APsaA, IPA, and Division 39 affiliate training centers and adding as many non-affiliated institutions as we could identify, we circulated a 21-question survey to the training directors of 105 psychoanalytic institutes, training centers and societies throughout the United States and Canada. Questions focused on an institute’s diversities-related curricular offerings, programming, and professional development activities, and scholarships; we also asked what they might need from national organizations like APsaA to further develop their curricula and training to reflect the diversities. We inquired about challenges institutes face as they pursue diversities-oriented initiatives, and their perception of institutional consensus on the “right” amount of diversities-focused educational content.

Our data analysis identifies training centers’ patterns in incorporating the diversities into their approaches. Three categories of data emerged: attitudes, practices, and challenges. Attitudes refers to dominant beliefs, and normative values that guide an institute’s commitment to engaging with the diversities. Practices refers to actions taken by an institute, including changes to curriculum and programming, approaches to recruitment and retention, ways of sustaining leadership and contributions of non-dominant/minority faculty and trainees. Challenges refers to common organizational obstacles to developing diversities-centered attitudes and practices.

While data collection and analysis are ongoing, we have organized our findings so far into four clusters: 1) Not yet attending to problematic aspects of the status quo; 2) Becoming aware and getting started; 3) Applying awareness and work in progress; 4) Cutting edge-progressive, imaginative thinking, perpetual refinement.

In our table, below, we present these clusters as discrete statuses. It is important to note that we do not consider this model to be linear, or these statuses to be mutually exclusive, as it is typical that any given institute manifests a hybrid of these developmental levels.

Table: Engagement with the Diversities-Institute Profiles

Attitudes: Practices: Challenges:
Not Yet Attending to Problematic Aspects of the Status Quo
  • Monocultural norms, policies, and procedures viewed as “standard procedure”
  • Often denies the existence of diversity issues within the organization
  • Tolerant of a limited number of “token” people of color and members of other social identity groups only if they possess the “proper” perspective and credentials
  • Belief that the empathy and attunement one learns through psychoanalytic training makes the superficial study of sociocultural identities unnecessary
  • Maintenance of organizational hierarchies and concentrations of power such that opportunities for diversification of power are limited
  • Maintenance of white supremacy through its formal policies and practices, teachings, and decision making
  • No courses offered in the diversities
  • Lack of critical self-reflection among senior decision-makers in organization
  • Anxiety-based inertia in the organization and the individuals that compose it
  • Implicit organizational values have not been made visible -- that which is believed to be “neutral” in fact privileges dominant identities
  • Rigid adherence to tradition, due to a scarcity of resources and concerns about the endangerment of psychoanalytic education
Becoming Aware and Getting Started
  • Awareness of monocultural norms, policies, and procedures with intent to move toward organizational equity, inclusion, and multiculturalism
  • Organizational uncertainty and plurality about the extent to which attention to the diversities should be a part of psychoanalytic training
  • Seeking practical guidance on how to incorporate the diversities into existing curriculum
  • Emphasis on psychoanalysis’ strengths in addressing and conceptualizing the diversities, but lack of critical attention to psychoanalysis’ (at times) overtly racist, exclusionary, and Eurocentric history
  • Diversities-focused courses are offered, but not required; elective options may be available
  • Working to create convening opportunities for voicing the absence of the diversities in the training that is offered
  • Individuals or small groups seek to identify institutional resistances to incorporating the diversities into organizational mission and curriculum
  • Token placements in staff positions are often forced to assimilate into organizational culture
  • Difficulty creating diversities courses from scratch, and needing support and existing examples of such courses in order to offer them
  • Increasingly diverse candidate populations do not see themselves or their patients reflected in course content, which negatively impacts retention
  • Generational divide of awareness and sensibilities between candidates and faculty/training analysts
Applying Awareness and Work in Progress
  • Critical awareness of monocultural norms, policies, and procedures with a commitment to move toward organizational equity, inclusion, and multiculturalism
  • Ambivalence about whether sufficient curricular time is dedicated to the diversities
  • Consensus that curricular and other implementations of attention to the diversities are necessary, but doubts about institutional wherewithal and expertise
  • Interest in cross-institutional collaboration to further develop diversities training and education
  • Celebration of contemporary psychoanalytic thinking, but insufficient attention to psychoanalysis’ role in perpetuating systems of oppression
  • One required course, perhaps two, dedicated to diversity issues often assigned in year three or later
  • Some efforts are made to infuse all courses with attention to the diversities, but they are not integrated into the main course material throughout the semester
  • Ongoing faculty and candidate groups focused on diversities initiatives
  • Workshops and seminars from invited speakers with expertise on the diversities
  • Scholarship and fellowship opportunities are limited by insufficiently sustainable endowment
  • Ambivalence about whether to dedicate scarce resources toward diversities-focused initiatives
  • Concerns about burnout associated with the prospect of relying too heavily on a few designated institute members
Cutting Edge-Progressive, Imaginative Thinking, Perpetual Refinement
  • Ongoing, organization-wide commitment to fostering an environment of equity, inclusion, and multiculturalism
  • Movement toward consensus that diversity issues need to be integrated into all courses, in addition to offering stand-alone courses, though organizational ambivalence is likely to persist
  • Openness to ongoing evolution of traditional psychoanalytic theories and educational practices, in light of an ever-changing social context
  • Recognition of a need to create recurrent context for dialogue regarding the diversities, including room for dissent:

Candidates are encouraged to note omissions (e.g., during class) of particular diversities — and there is a stance of welcoming, processing, and discussing these questions

Faculty facilitates exploration of counter-narratives

  • Willingness to de-center established canon/foundational materials
  • Attentiveness to an institute’s local context, such that analysts ask themselves what they need to understand to be able to serve their communities
  • Diversities-focused course in the first year
  • Three or more courses focused on the diversities, several of which are required
  • Curriculum-wide attention to discussion of minority identities and to making dominant identities visible (e.g., white, middle-class, male, cis-heteronormative, non-immigrant, able-bodied), as well as their impact on clinical thought
  • Participation in national initiatives/committees/forums on the diversities
  • Cross-institutional collaboration to develop and share diversities training resources
  • Regular meetings with all faculty focused on furthering diversities training and enriching curriculum
  • Meetings focused on diversity issues involving the organization as a whole
  • Financial resources are committed to diversity initiatives at all levels of the organization
  • Development of diversities courses beyond those on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality
  • Sufficient diversities-focused scholarship and fellowship opportunities
  • Complacency; arriving at a feeling that the work is mostly complete and the organization can focus on other things
  • Organizational pressure to cling to its status as “cutting edge,” and a commensurate hesitancy to consider newly emergent limitations and challenges
  • Sustainability of projects, preventing burnout, being realistic about capacity

We note that no institute is able to address diversity issues without organizational conflict. Psychoanalytic organizations that begin to take part in dialogues about the diversities become aware that losses are inherently intertwined with gains with each new organizational awakening. If we are to examine all forms of elitism that exist within psychoanalysis, particularly those with roots in patriarchy and white supremacy, we will be able to move toward creating a more just psychoanalytic training process, one that serves and illuminates the struggles and triumphs of people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, physical ability statuses, nationalities, religions, socioeconomic statuses, and social classes.

To check if your institute has completed the survey, please contact Anton Hart, at DPEdiversities@apsa.org. Please do not hesitate to be in touch regarding any other questions.