Doctor of Psychoanalysis Degree
BGSP is unique among both psychoanalytic training institutes and graduate schools in offering the Doctor of Psychoanalysis degree (Psya.D.). This post-master’s program combines full training to become a psychoanalyst with academic and research studies leading to the doctorate. Tailored to take into account your prior education and training, the program fosters a high level of emotional attunement, attainable only through the combination of seminars, self-examination in the training analysis, and intensive clinical supervision -- all hallmarks of our integrative approach to learning.
The Psya.D. program takes candidates through the process of understanding how people develop their emotional and mental lives, into the realm of entering and intervening in the intrapsychic life of clients. The doctoral candidate:
- explores the full range of character structures and psychopathology, integrating academic study with clinical work to understand patients’ repetitions, defenses, resistances, and symbolic communications
- learns to use their own countertransference responses in clinical supervision, candidates learn to use their own countertransference responses to understand the transference and to work constructively as psychoanalysts
- examines clinical data systematically, strengthening the process of making valid inferences from observations
Course of Study
Doctoral candidates gain a psychoanalytic perspective on both human development and clinical work. They learn about the development of the human psyche from infancy onward, study unconscious processes such as repetition, defenses, transference, resistance, and symbolism, and develop a psychoanalytic framework for understanding psychopathology across a wide range of diagnoses. Candidates explore advanced psychoanalytic theories from a range of perspectives, including those of Freud, Klein, Bion, Spotnitz, the theorists who followed them, and a range of other contemporary psychoanalysts. Advanced clinical seminars on resistance analysis, transference and countertransference, symbolism, and theory of technique inform candidates’ work with patients. Courses in psychoanalytic research hone candidates’ skills in systematic observation and inference and facilitate the student’s work on the dissertation.
Doctoral Fieldwork Program
Prior to beginning psychoanalytic practice under supervision, doctoral candidates participate in a two-semester fieldwork program, which provides direct contact with regressed patients in mental hospitals or comparable settings, giving students the opportunity (a) to observe extremes of pathology at the earliest levels of fixation or regression and (b) develop basic skills for establishing a therapeutic relationship with regressed or narcissistic clients. The fieldwork experience fosters an ability to read the client’s contacts, responses to stimulation, and symbolic communications while observing the emotional responses induced in oneself. These skills are basic to working with people at all levels of functioning. The fieldwork experience culminates in a clinical oral and written presentation of cases.
Therapy Center Internship
After completing the fieldwork program, students apply to begin their Therapy Center Internship. During the internship, students work with three or more analytic cases (at least weekly) under supervision for the duration of their studies (minimally three years). Candidates enroll in the clinical seminar appropriate to their level of training, beginning with Case Management and progressing through advanced psychoanalytic seminars, in which they remain until graduation. Initially, students engage in group supervision; they then choose individual control supervisors, one of whom covers only the primary control case. (A “control case” is the term used for a case studied under close supervision.)
Candidates present their work with cases to the clinical faculty at two points during training: once after 25 hours of control supervision, for the Clinical Case Review, and again at the end of their studies, for the Final Clinical Presentation. The Clinical Case Review is a time for the candidate to gain formal feedback on clinical work, including case formulations, patient dynamics, and countertransference resistances, in order to work more productively towards the Final Clinical Presentation. This phase of the program takes from three to six years depending on the pace at which the student develops a caseload and progresses in meeting clinical and academic requirements.
After completing the first year of full-time coursework (or its equivalent) and the fieldwork program, candidates sit for the Qualifying Exam. In conjunction with assessment from first-year coursework and the fieldwork presentations, the Qualifying Exam is used to assess readiness for further doctoral study.
Each candidate participates in a training analysis, working individually with an analyst throughout the program for a minimum of 450 hours of analysis, of which 150 hours may be group analysis. The training analysis is a cornerstone of the educational process for psychoanalysts. It deepens the candidate’s understanding of course material through personal experience and helps the candidate tolerate the feelings aroused by psychoanalytic study. It offers a fuller appreciation of one’s own emotional dynamics, increases the candidate’s access to all emotional states, and increases self-understanding, which is particularly critical for understanding others. Most importantly, the training analysis provides a space for the analyst-in-training to recognize how clients activate his or her own unconscious processes, in order to contain those reactions and use them productively, rather than acting them out.
- satisfactory completion of coursework
- satisfactory completion of the fieldwork externship, case presentation, and written case study
- successful completion of the qualifying exam
- 450 hours of training analysis, of which 150 may be group analysis
- 200 hours of supervision with at least three supervisors (at least 50 hours are completed with each of two different supervisors)
- analysis of three psychoanalytic cases over time
- satisfactory presentation of cases for Clinical Case Review after 25 hours of control supervision, demonstrating understanding of cases and current resistances including countertransference resistance
- final case presentation to the faculty demonstrating understanding of the case as well as use of self as a therapeutic personality
- completion of a doctoral dissertation: a well-executed original research project demonstrating mastery of psychoanalytic concepts, a body of literature, research methodology and valid inference making
- successful oral presentation of doctoral dissertation to the doctoral faculty
Psychoanalysts study the unconscious level of mental functioning through making valid inferences from the stream of verbal and behavioral responses comprising human behavior, whether individually or in groups. Psychoanalytic research projects address a question about underlying motivation and conflict, about what leads to change in psychic functioning, about resistances to change, and a variety of other questions of interest both clinically and theoretically. In working with a patient, the analyst has the opportunity to make multiple observations over time under similar conditions while intruding minimally into the patient’s presentation of their experience and conflicts. Each case may be an in depth study, in itself contributing to the knowledge base on a particular pathology or character structure. Alternatively, the researcher may be interested in particular clinical phenomena best studied with a group of cases, e.g., somatization, phobias, eating disorders, or may undertake studies of particular interventions, e.g., group work with a particular diagnosis, or interpretation versus reflective techniques.
The doctoral research curriculum includes courses in psychoanalytic research, inference making, and proposal development as well as individual research advisement with experienced clinical researchers. The curriculum helps the student identify an area of interest, review relevant literature, design a viable study, and use his or her academic, clinical and research training to formulate a question and make valid inferences from data.
The dissertation is an original research project making a contribution to the field or applying psychoanalytic concepts or technique to understand something in a related field. A three-person dissertation committee guides the student through all phases of the project, culminating in the dissertation and the presentation to the faculty in the dissertation defense. Recent doctoral research projects include a study of the unconscious motivation behind a manic patient’s actualization of a conscious fantasy, a single case study of the unconscious fantasy underlying an obsessional patient’s state of paralysis, a study of increasing resilience in first responders as a result of psychoanalytic educational intervention, and a multiple case study of underlying unconscious factors in psychosomatic disorders.
Please refer to the program catalog for exact graduation requirements.
Because of the emotional growth inherent in learning to analyze patients, becoming a psychoanalyst takes more than a checklist of requirements, and every candidate’s progression will be unique. On a full-time basis, students entering with a clinical master’s degree take at least four years to graduate, but developing a robust caseload of psychoanalytic training cases can take more time. Almost all candidates reduce their studies to part-time status for one period of time or another, either to accommodate the rest of their lives, or to allow for a period of integration and analysis before proceeding onto additional work, such as completion of the dissertation. Furthermore, some students are more interested in the learning process than in the destination of graduation. Therefore, some students do attend full-time and complete the program in four years, and many more students study part-time and complete the program in closer to 8 years.
Psychoanalysts who have already been certified but would like to pursue the doctorate may apply for the Blended Format Accelerated Track of the Psya.D. Program.
Abstracts of Doctoral Research Dissertations
Criteria for Admission
The Doctor of Psychoanalysis is open to applicants with a masters degree. This is a four-year, full-time program for applicants with previous coursework in somatic factors, socio-cultural influences and diversity, research methods, psychopathology, and clinical work. Other post-master’s applicants may expect an additional year of coursework and clinical requirements. The additional requirements may be waived for applicants with a CAGS in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy from BGSP.