4 Year Certificate Program in Psychoanalysis

Core Curriculum Course Descriptions



Below are brief descriptions of the significant courses and course sequences that we offer in the four year psychoanalytic training program at IPSS.  While the curriculum provides a solid grounding in Self Psychology and Intersubjective Systems Theory, it encompasses most of the major theoretical perspectives within psychoanalysis.  As candidates proceed through the four years of training they will not only learn these different perspectives, they also will be encouraged to think comparatively about them and to evolve their own, individual ways of integrating these models in theory and practice. We encourage our candidates to develop their own voice!

Freud and The Freudian Tradition

This 3 Trimester course sequence begins with Freud’s early theoretical propositions, from 1895–1923, related to the topographic model. The concept of the unconscious, the formations of psychological events, symptoms, defenses, fantasies will be studied. The second part of the sequence considers Freud’s later theoretical views (1923-1940) and how more contemporary Freudian have continued and further evolved Freud’s ideas. We will review Freud’s structural model and his second theory of anxiety and explore how subsequent classical analysts (Arlow, Brenner and Rothstein) and ego psychologists (Gray and Busch) have developed Freud’s conceptualizations and applied them to clinical work. We then will consider Freud’s later ideas about gender and trauma and trace how contemporary relationalists and relational Freudians (Ellman and Bach) have disputed and modified Freud’s thinking. Candidates will learn about Freud’s models of the mind, his technique papers, and his theories of anxiety as they evolved over time. This course should enable students to better understand Freud’s earlier and later concepts and the continuities and new developments in Freudian thinking.


Clinical Case Seminar

This 3 Trimester course is an ongoing case seminar for the purpose of understanding clinical technique in terms of transference-countertransference, case formulations and the interpretive process. Cases are presented by candidates on a weekly basis, usually with a specific clinical question in mind predetermined by the candidate and instructor.


Development – Theory and Practice

The course begins with the question, “What is development and why do we study development? We use a short story and psychoanalytic readings to consider the “products and processes” of development. Then, we consider models of the developmental process, giving extra attention to understanding non-linear developmental models. A third section considers, “Does theory matter: Does one’s psychoanalytic theory affect one’s understanding of development?” For clinical illustration, papers from attachment theory and separation-individuation theory offer different interpretations of the same data. A fourth section reviews attachment theory and research and its relation to the treatment process. This section includes infant research acquainting our candidates with capacities that infants are born with and the way infants integrate these capacities through the dyadic experience with another. Particular attention is paid to infant/mother observational research and ways in which this work opens ways of applying this research to the treatment of adult patients. The goal of the course is for candidates to become conversant with the prevalent psychoanalytic models of development, to recognize when they are being utilized in clinical formulations, by others or by themselves, and to develop greater facility thinking developmentally.


Self Psychology – In Context and in Depth

This 3 Trimester course sequence begins with a detailed discussion of two papers by Freud, Narcissism: an Introduction and Analysis Terminable and Interminable. These papers are used as a springboard for Kohut’s early writings in which he spells out his major contributions and innovations including his delineation of the selfobject transferences and empathic rupture and repair as an approach to transference interpretation. The clinical implications of Kohut’s work are further elaborated through papers by Anna Ornstein and Kohut’s case of Mr. Z as we follow his line of thinking in the clinical situation and his translation of his theoretical proposals into clinical practice. Then the course sequence moves on to review the development of Kohut’s psychology of the self in the broad sense in The Restoration of the Self and How Does Analysis Cure? We will review many of Kohut’s crucial conceptualizations, including his ideas about compensatory structures, drive, the oedipal phase and therapeutic action. Following this intensive study of Kohut’s work, we will consider the contributions of subsequent self psychologically-oriented writers including the Ornsteins, Marian Tolpin, Howard Bacal, Judy Teicholz, Steven Stern and Dick Giest. Throughout the sequence, the students and the instructors will present illustrative clinical vignettes from their own work. Students will gain a better appreciation for the development of Self Psychology and how it can be applied to clinical practice and enhance it.


Clinical Technique

The focus of this 3 Trimester course sequence is on the theories of psychoanalytic technique with an emphasis on guidelines for psychoanalytic intervention. Throughout the course a historical perspective is maintained. The special emphasis, however, is on contemporary theoretical and technical understandings and controversies that are being addressed in psychoanalysis at large and psychoanalytic Self Psychology in particular. Topics covered include the re- conceptualizations and current thinking on transference; countertransference; resistance; neutrality; facilitative responsiveness; love, passion and aggression in the analytic relationship; implicit and explicit dimensions of analytic work; self psychology and relational psychoanalysis; and understanding and use of dreams. In the third trimester, candidates will consider how to apply infant research to adult treatment.


Object Relations

This 3 Trimester sequence will expose the candidate to the theoretical and clinical contributions of the major British object relations thinkers: Klein, Fairbairn, Balint and Winnicott and Bion. The candidate will learn the important concepts presented by these thinkers and how they can be applied in clinical work.  He/She will also come to better appreciate how this line of theorizing grew as an alternative to Freudian  thinking and emphasized the relational dimension of development and treatment.

In addition, there will be a section on contemporary object relations theory as developed by the neo-Kleinian movement, including Thomas Ogden. The candidates will be encouraged to consider the similarities and differences between the British middle school theorists, particularly Fairbairn and Winnicott, and self psychological thinkers such as Kohut and Stolorow et. al..


Intersubjectivity Theory

This 3 Trimester course sequence begins by introducing candidates to the work of Stolorow, Atwood, Brandchaft and Orange, including the rejection of isolated mind psychology in favor of an ontology of intersubjective generation and transformation of personal experience in psychoanalysis, The relationship of this point of view to infant research, to phenomenology, and to other schools of psychoanalytic thinking—especially ego psychology, self psychology, and relational psychoanalysis—are explored and discussed. Then there is a review of different forms of intersubjectivity and their clinical utility, including models proposed by Jessica Benjamin and Thomas Ogden. Then, the course sequence will engage in a comparison of the different models of intersubjectivity that have been previously studied in terms of how they are similar and different theoretically and how they can applied to clinical practice. Throughout the sequence, candidates will be encouraged to share relevant clinical examples.


Contemporary Theories of Change from a Neuroscience Perspective

This 1 Trimester course introduces the student to basic concepts derived from neuroscience that are particularly applicable to the psychoanalytic interactive process. It is intended to expand the range of interventions available to the clinician and to provide additional scaffolding for conceptualizing therapeutic action. These concepts do not suggest new ways of doing psychoanalysis. Rather, they shift the clinician’s focus to non conscious and non symbolic forms of communication, expanding the psychoanalytic lexicon. The course begins with the paradigm shift of the 21st century to complexity theory as the overarching metaphor for understanding the workings of the brain, its impact on mind and for conceptualizing therapeutic action. Specific subjects covered are: the neuroscience of memory, bi- directionality and implicit communication, the mind/body connection, the neuroscience of fear, with specific emphasis on fear and trauma, the neuroscience of intentionality ( mirror neurons), the neuroscience of empathy and finally a neuroscientific explication of intersubjectivity. In each class the most significant aspects of the material are emphasized and students are encouraged to think about the concepts in the context of their clinical work. As part of a three trimester sequence, this course on neuroscience will be followed by courses on trauma and enactment that expand upon and apply the ideas presented in this first course.


Interpersonal Theory

This one trimester course will study the contributions of writers in the interpersonal tradition: Sullivan, Fromm, Thompson, Fromm-Reichman, Levenson, Stern, Buechler and Hirsch.  Through reviewing their writings, the candidate will gain a better understanding of interpersonal conceptualizations of the social field, dissociation, enactment and use of the countertransference.  Candidates will be encouraged to compare and contrast self psychological and interpersonal conceptualizations and approaches to treatment, particularly whether to focus on the “leading” or developmental edge vs. the repetitive enactment.


American Relational Theory

This one trimester course will present the significant contributions made by major Relational thinkers: Mitchell, Aron, Greenberg, Davies, Slochower, Pizer, Harris and Benjamin.  Through this review, candidates will better appreciate how some writers are integrating object relations and interpersonal thinking in an effort to balance considerations of the historical intrapsychic with the here-and-now interactive, while other writers in this tradition make distinctions between both phenomenology and technique.  They also will see how Relationists tend to interpret repetitive enactments in the transference in an effort to facilitate “new experiences”. In addition, they will look comparatively at Relational Theory and Self Psuychology, especially at the relative emphasis on using the countertransference  and understanding repetitive enactment vs. empathic listening and stressing the developmental striving.


 Field of Psychoanalysis – Six Saturdays

This course is the equivalent of 3 Trimesters and takes place on 6 selected Saturdays throughout the 3rdand 4th years of training. Through participating in this unique course, candidates will have an opportunity to meet as a class, with significant psychoanalytic contributors of their choice for intensive 1- day seminars.  These seminars give the candidates a chance to understand how their visiting theorist’s writings have evolved, what they are currently emphasizing and how these theorists respond to clinical cases. The course offers an intimate and invaluable way to see where the field of psychoanalysis is today.


Writing Workshop

This is a one trimester course which gives the candidate support and structure towards developing their publishable paper for graduation.


These one trimester courses are offered during the third and fourth year of the candidates’ training and take into account their particular interests.  In the past, we have offered electives on such varied topics as Gender and Sexuality, Trauma, Enactment, Pathological Accommodation, Child Treatment and Bridges Between Self Psychological and Relational Theory. All the courses present the diversity of current thinking about the selected topic within psychoanalysis and encourage the candidate to think comparatively about it.