External Accreditation: The American Association for Psychoanalytic Education

Lee I. Ascherman, Elizabeth Brett, Dwarakanath G. Rao and Dionne Powell

Lee I. Ascherman, M.D., is chair of the Board on Professional Standards.

Elizabeth Brett, Ph.D., is secretary of the Board on Professional Standards.

Dwarakanath G. Rao, M.D., is chair-elect of the Board on Professional Standards.

Dionne Powell, M.D., is the secretary-elect of the Board on Professional Standards.

The three educational essentials of APsaA’s Six Point Plan for structural reform are:

Professional regulatory functions refer to the credentialing of individuals (certification) and the accreditation of educational programs. These functions will be externalized from APsaA to be accessed electively by any individual who wants certification, and by any institute that desires to have external accreditation. Credentialing (certification) has already been externalized to the American Board of Psychoanalysis (ABP). The externalized entity to facilitate accreditation for those institutes that choose to pursue accreditation will be the American Association for Psychoanalytic Education. (AAPE). This article is devoted to providing APsaA members with information about the American Association for Psychoanalytic Education as they begin discussion about the future of their institutes.

The AAPE will provide a forum for psychoanalytic institutes that aspire to shared standards in psychoanalytic education and wish to address common challenges related to the achievement of these standards. The initial educational standards of the AAPE will be the existing educational standards of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Institutes affiliated with the AAPE will, by virtue of AAPE recognition, also meet the requirements of the Accreditation Council for Psychoanalytic Education, Inc. (ACPEinc). Hence, recognition by the AAPE will provide simultaneous accreditation by the ACPEinc. The ACPEinc will grandfather as ACPEinc accredited any institute that is recognized by the AAPE. This recognition attests to the public, state and federal government agencies, and insurers that the institute participates in appropriate oversight to ensure the standards in psychoanalytic education represented by the AAPE are met. Participation in the AAPE is entirely voluntary. APsaA institutes that affiliate with the AAPE may remain in APsaA, and in fact are encouraged to do so.

In modern parlance, “accreditation” means that an educational program has been reviewed by an independent agency through correspondence and some direct observation (site visit), rather than just by acceptance of a written attestation of what that educational program says it does. Hence, accreditation holds much more significance to the public and government agencies than approval through written correspondence only. The spirit of oversight is to assist programs through self-assessment and consultation in order to maintain and improve the quality of the educational program they offer. Oversight also helps the profession maintain sufficient common educational practices so that both applicants for training and the public have an adequate understanding of what these educational programs signify. Some accrediting agencies will recognize exceptional educational practices with a note of distinction, and they will share these practices with other affiliate programs.

Affiliation with the AAPE also provides protection for candidates and faculty if disputes regarding admissions, faculty appointments, promotion and financial decisions emerge. Without an external entity available to oversee fair application of policies, individuals can be left without any external recourse to address internal disputes or dissatisfactions. In such situations, the integrity and functioning of the local program can be jeopardized.

Modern accreditation of professional educational programs is based on core principles outlined by the U.S. Department of Education, which explicitly require that professional accrediting entities have “a voluntary membership of institutions of higher education” and are “separate and independent” of membership organizations. This means the pursuit of accreditation by any program is strictly elective. Input and representation from the public and the profession are required. Candidates will provide input to the AAPE through a Candidate Advisory and Liaison Committee. Accrediting entities are also expected to be “separate and independent” from membership organizations in order to protect against decisions that place the interests of individual members of the profession ahead of educational policies and ultimately, the protection of the public. The AAPE meets these expectations in spirit and policy. Participating institutes are attesting to their commitment to the principle of “protection of the public.”

AAPE institutes will be listed on the AAPE website with information for potential candidates, the public, state and federal agencies, as well as insurers about what AAPE recognition represents. By arrangement with the ACPEinc, AAPE recognition will also provide simultaneous accreditation by ACPEinc. This in turn will provide the benefit of U.S. Department of Education recognition when issued. Any APsaA institute currently in good standing can by request be grandfathered to become an AAPE institute. Participating institutes will subsequently be invited by AAPE to take part in the future development of education standards.