Strategic Plan

2023-2026 Strategic Plan
BGSP @ 50: Train Lead Serve
June 2023

The Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis began in 1973 as a start-up institute for training in psychoanalysis and has grown into an accredited, doctoral-degree-granting graduate school with three campuses and around 200 students. Fifty years after its founding, its purpose has remained the same: to educate people to understand and work with unconscious constructive and destructive motivations of behavior, empowering students to remove impediments to the lasting growth of which virtually all people are capable. BGSP’s 2023-2026 Strategic Plan, “BGSP@50: Train, Lead, and Serve,” marks the School’s 50th anniversary and establishes strategic objectives to pave the way for BGSP’s next 50 years.

Though it is small, because of its psychoanalytic approach, BGSP has an outsized impact on its alumni and the many people they influence. In addition to learning the foundations of psychological development, mental health, and psychopathology, BGSP students learn to recognize how people unconsciously manage competing impulses, thoughts, and feelings, and how internal conflict about these impulses, thoughts, and feelings leads to problematic symptoms or self-defeating, repetitive patterns of behavior. Students further learn how these patterns recur in therapeutic relationships and, within those relationships, how to help people free themselves to learn new ways of approaching the world. This gives them a deep understanding of interpersonal processes and a greater capacity for managing people with severe illness or very complex treatment issues. Today, this type of training is rare, and BGSP’s graduate degrees incorporating psychoanalytic knowledge are unique.

What helps students learn these complex skills is BGSP’s experiential approach to learning. Understanding mental life, whether of individuals or groups, cannot happen purely through intellect. Therefore, the faculty may use the emotional experiences within the classroom to model the concepts they are teaching, especially when the material presented is difficult to absorb.  Classes may explore individual and group resistances to assignments, to discussing material, and to functioning cooperatively as a group, as part of the class process. This helps students understand the course material, the importance of unconscious factors at play, and the need to recognize and resolve resistance – important skills in working with individuals and groups. Additionally, in order to fully explore the workings of the human psyche, each student participates in a personal training analysis. The training analysis deepens the student’s understanding of course material through personal experience. It increases the student’s access to all emotional states and increases self-understanding, which is particularly critical for good clinical care. In this sense, the School relies on the mission to define not only the content of its programs, but also the processes by which it achieves its objectives.

As a result, students develop expertise in handling extremely difficult clinical situations – an assessment echoed by employers of BGSP’s interns and alumni. Alumni also report that their BGSP education leads them to grow personally, helps them developing greater acceptance of and tolerance for their own feelings, and helps them learn to understand and engage with other people’s negative feelings constructively – all attributes that contribute to their clinical skill.

“BGSP@50: Train, Lead, and Serve” recognizes these strengths and seeks to provide an even bigger impact by increasing the School’s engagement with the communities around it. Having maintained strong relationships within the School and sustained its outstanding clinical training even through a pandemic, BGSP needs to attract new students, faculty, Board members, community partners, and donors to set the stage for future growth. These groups each play a critical role in the life, contributions, and sustainability of the School. To build its future, BGSP needs to cultivate these connections, including its relationship with communities that have previously been marginalized by psychoanalysis.

To do so, the 2023-26 Strategic Plan establishes six objectives for the next three years, each one advancing one or more of the School’s fundamental pillars: Training Students, Leading Through Faculty, and Serving the Community. It focuses on promoting the sustainability of the School so more students, alumni, community members, and faculty can contribute to lasting change.

BGSP used its previous strategic planning cycle to grow out of an enrollment slump, increasing enrollment by 22%. It developed a diverse and vibrant selection of clinical placements for its students by establishing working partnerships with agencies in Greater Boston, and it launched new growth and development for its Board of Trustees, increasing public membership on the Board by 57%. Furthermore, it maintained its student-centered values and education vigorously throughout the pandemic. It launched its new strategic planning process, therefore, from a position of strength.  

In early 2022, the Board initiated a Strategic Planning Committee that included two Trustees, the President and Vice President, and faculty members, administrators, and students from across BGSP’s three campuses (Boston, New York, and New Jersey). (See the Appendix for a list of committee members.) Trustees Heike Arendt and Melissa Fristrom led the Committee through a discussion of BGSP’s mission and vision as a “guiding star” for the planning process and the institution overall.  

As mentioned above, the School leans on its mission to define not only its educational content, but also its organizational processes. The Strategic Planning process was no exception, and the Committee had in-depth discussions related to group dynamics among the School’s three campuses. The discussion helped identify working assumptions about campus identities and roles, which allowed leadership to address some structural issues in the President’s Council, outside of the planning process. The group then articulated a shared conviction, across all campuses, that “understanding unconscious motivation leads to sustainable growth and lasting change.” 

Next, the Committee used this shared understanding of the mission as the basis for conducting a “SWOT” analysis of BGSP’s internal and external environment. (See the Appendix for more on the Committee’s assessments.) The SWOT led to several questions that were examined by subcommittees on Distance Learning, Faculty Development, and Applied Psychoanalysis, supplemented by work from the Institutional Advancement and Finance Committees, and explored by the School’s President’s Council, Administrative Directors, and Faculty Councils.  

Subsequently, the core Strategic Planning group (a smaller group of Trustees, leadership, faculty, and staff) met regularly to identify the primary themes and objectives of the Strategic Plan. Once these were established, the team reconvened a large-group listening session with all those who had been involved in its development to review a draft of the proposed 2023-2026 Strategic Plan. Out of that process emerged this final set of objectives to increase BGSP’s capacity while enhancing its commitment to its mission: to facilitate sustainable growth and lasting change by understanding the unconscious. 

As described above, because of its psychoanalytic approach, BGSP students learn to recognize how people unconsciously manage competing impulses, thoughts, and feelings, and how internal conflict about these impulses, thoughts, and feelings leads to problematic symptoms or self-defeating, repetitive patterns of behavior. This gives them a deep understanding of interpersonal relationships and the therapeutic process, including a particular capacity for working with people with severe illness or very complex treatment issues. Today, this type of training is rare, and BGSP’s graduate degrees incorporating psychoanalytic knowledge are unique.

BGSP’s experiential approach to learning remains the key to helping students unlock their ability to help others. By studying themselves in class, in the field, and in personal analysis, students learn to recognize, tolerate, and use their emotional responses as the basis for an in-depth understanding of psychoanalytic theory, constructive exchange with others, and the development of skills for individual clinical work and the larger workplace. BGSP interns are frequently hired by their internship sites, and alumni who move into private practice have very diverse and successful practices. This educational transformation happens thanks to the enormous contributions of BGSP’s dedicated faculty at all three campuses, who account for the success of BGSP’s graduates and its Therapy Center. The increased diversity and engagement of the Board of Trustees, which has been highly involved in the planning process, has also opened new opportunities for development.

At the same time, BGSP’s high reliance on tuition revenue remains the biggest threat to the institution. Student enrollment continues to be highly variable. With higher education at large facing an “enrollment cliff,” anything that constricts enrollment poses a serious challenge, including BGSP’s low capacity to offer scholarships to incoming students, diminishing faculty resources as faculty retire, and the limited extent to which BGSP is part of the local psychoanalytic and mental health education landscapes. The majority of the School’s admission referrals come from word of mouth, reflecting the perceived value and strong connection to the School by constituents. However, these referrals are too few, and are constrained by BGSP’s limited interactions with other psychoanalytic communities and alumni from all three campuses. Reputable competitors are gaining influence locally, and few BGSP faculty members publish, making it harder for BGSP to attract students. These challenges are only heightened by the peripheral position of psychoanalysis in relation to communities of color and to mental health training overall, which dictates that the market for psychoanalytic education will remain small through this strategic planning cycle.

BGSP has abundant opportunities to cultivate relationships that amplify BGSP’s ability to provide the deep emotional understanding critically needed in today’s world. Partly because of a lack of resources, the School has not developed certain relationships as fully as it could. It can expand its appeal to a wider student market by focusing on relationships with alumni, employers and other community agencies, and new faculty members, in addition to both current and prospective students. In addition, it needs to build a development program by better cultivating and stewarding its relationships with donors.

Developing stronger relationships with alumni at all three campuses will provide opportunities not only for student referrals and traditional advancement activities, but also for greater community education and engagement. Working with alumni, BGSP can expand its contributions to the community through leadership in mental health practice, or “practice leadership.” Building on the School’s greatly improved program of local internships and strong hiring record for graduates, there are good options for partnerships with community agencies to serve three functions: providing training to community agencies to improve their services, piloting opportunities for organizational intervention programs, and developing referral pathways into BGSP’s programs.

Such relationships also provide the opportunity to hear feedback from employers, graduates, and students about the BGSP curriculum. Clinical students and alumni praise the uniquely robust clinical training provided by BGSP’s modern psychoanalytic heritage, but also express the need for exposure to a wider variety of psychoanalytic perspectives related both to individual clinical work and groups of all sizes. In addition, students and faculty recognize the need to consider the influence of cultural biases in the field of psychoanalysis (the study of which is currently siloed in BGSP’s small programs in Psychoanalysis, Society, and Culture) and develop more inclusive psychoanalytic theories, as well as more inclusive practices and a more diversified faculty and student body.

This type of growth and development naturally requires the recruitment of new faculty members from diverse backgrounds, which is necessary in any event to compensate for the high rate of retirement among the current faculty. However, low faculty compensation constrains growth and succession. By focusing institutional advancement in part on faculty development, BGSP has an opportunity to broaden its faculty’s expertise and racial diversity while enhancing its appeal to a wider and more diverse student population and developing a stronger academic program and reputation. Moreover, the development of relationships with a wider array of faculty members can only enhance word-of-mouth referrals.

In addition, BGSP has room to grow its outreach to students and alumni who are remote from the main campus. Promoting better integration of branch campuses into the life of the School will help build brand identity and alumni relationships. During the pandemic, the School demonstrated its capacity to connect with its students, faculty, and scholars who share BGSP’s passion for psychoanalysis around the country and the world. Capitalizing on its success in distance learning while maintaining its unique approach to experiential learning will allow the School to shore up its student and faculty base and strengthen its impact across the world.

Finally, the School must help reduce the cost burden of BGSP’s transformative education.

Accomplishing this ambitious program requires the School to initiate a sustained institutional advancement initiative, which will also help to balance the School’s reliance on tuition revenue. BGSP can only benefit from deepening its relationship with its donors, Trustees, and friends in the community who value the role of the unconscious in emotional, mental, and interpersonal life.

Based on the above analysis, BGSP has identified six initiatives to focus the School on attracting new students to a fresh curriculum highlighting its experiential approach to learning, led by a robust faculty, creating meaningful and lasting impact in the local community and beyond. 

1. Increase Engagement with Alumni and the Communities They Serve

The 2023-26 Strategic Plan recognizes that BGSP and its alumni are embedded within local communities that both benefit from the work of the School and can inform and participate in the School’s future. BGSP needs to strengthen its bonds with its alumni and the communities in which they work.  

  • Community Engagement: After they graduate, BGSP interns are frequently hired by their agencies to provide services to adults and children with complex mental health needs. Along with the School’s Therapy Center, these alumni provide a crucial link between BGSP and the demands of local community agencies. Acting on the training that BGSP has provided in working with the dynamics of very difficult individual cases and the clinical and group resistances that can hinder good care, alumni often rise into supervisory positions in their agencies. This provides the opportunity to provide more training and consultation to community organizations that struggle with challenging caseloads, difficult group dynamics, and clinician burnout. A community-based program of training will help agencies provide better care for its clients and its staff. Learning from community leaders can stimulate fresh takes on psychoanalytic theory and practice and facilitate the integration of social justice into the curriculum. Partnering with community agencies at an organizational level can bring BGSP’s rich understanding of group dynamics to bear on organizational concerns. Community programs will also strategically promote word of mouth referrals of bachelor’s and master’s level staff into BGSP’s graduate programs. 
  • Alumni Engagement: Apart from their roles in the community, alumni represent all that BGSP has to offer and are the best ambassadors for the School. Engaging more productively with graduates will showcase the strength of BGSP’s training, promote an engaging community for alumni, stimulate word of mouth referrals, and promote institutional advancement.   
  • BGSP will hire a new part-time Coordinator of Alumni and Community Relations to enhance the School’s understanding of and communications with its alumni and employers in the community.
  • With the leadership of the Coordinator, the School will build on alumni success in the workforce to develop partnerships with employers to offer training programs in agencies.
  • The School will solicit feedback from employers about the BGSP curriculum with two aims: (1) to inform updates to the School’s curriculum, particularly related to equity and inclusion; and (2) to evaluate needs for training in group dynamics, group process, organizational dynamics, and leadership.
  • The Coordinator will seek to encourage a student pipeline from the workforce to BGSP, with an emphasis on providing access to candidates of color and/or from other marginalized communities.
  • Through greater engagement, BGSP will cultivate and steward alumni donors to expand alumni giving.

2. Recruit and Develop New Faculty

BGSP needs to systematically recruit and develop the next generation of psychoanalytic faculty members to replace retiring faculty members and sustain the School’s growth. Recruiting BGSP graduates for this purpose will be important for maintaining the School’s integrative approach to learning; this allows students to reflect on their experiences in class, the field, and personal analysis to recognize, tolerate, and use their emotional repertoire to conduct psychoanalytic work. However, recruiting alumni faculty will not be sufficient to meet the School’s needs. New faculty from a diversity of psychoanalytic backgrounds can provide the clinical programs with a wider variety of psychoanalytic perspectives and a deeper understanding of how the field’s history has limited its appreciation of the concerns of marginalized populations. New faculty for the Culture programs can offer students more practical training derived from their rich psychoanalytic understanding of social and group processes. Growth in faculty compensation and benefits will be required in order to attract the next generation of faculty.

  • Decrease graduates’ barriers to teaching (such as rigid service-to-the-School requirements).
  • Create more structure for the Faculty Development Committee, including job descriptions for specific areas of the curriculum, qualifications for specific faculty positions, a budget and timeframe for faculty hiring, and updated searches policies and procedures. 
  • Recruit 6 new faculty members in the next three years, including at least two BIPOC faculty members.
  • Focus on faculty salaries as part of institutional advancement.  

3. Integrate More Contemporary Perspectives into the Curriculum

BGSP’s curricula are characterized by unique, powerful clinical training in the School’s clinical programs, and, separately, by an insightful, contemporary understanding of the strengths and limitations of psychoanalysis within its historical context in the programs in Psychoanalysis, Society, and Culture. To provide more relevance to students for both sets of programs, BGSP needs to update the curricula. Cross-pollination between the programs could be helpful. Furthermore, with the School’s attention to classroom process, faculty and students develop a rich understanding of group dynamics and processes. Formalizing and expanding this understanding could open pathways for group psychotherapy training as well as pilot programs in organizational consultation.

The clinical programs demand an updated variety of psychoanalytic perspectives related to individual clinical work and a deeper understanding of how the field’s history has limited its theories and practices. In addition, the clinical doctoral program needs to address students’ concerns about slow progression through the program to improve student retention and satisfaction. 

  • Establish a Program Review Committee to review, update, and cross-pollinate the curricula across programs, including new faculty on the Committee when appropriate.
    • Evaluate the role of research across BGSP to ensure that research initiatives accomplish their intended goals without adding undue burdens to students. Specifically, include a Curriculum Subcommittee to develop a clinical writing program that follows students from the beginning of clinical training through to the dissertation.
    • Enhance scholarship on race and inclusion in the clinical curricula.

Development of a program in group studies can help all constituents develop practical skills in leading small and large groups. The clinical programs will develop specializations in group psychotherapy that will make graduates stand out. Building on their robust understanding of unconscious social processes, the Culture programs can benefit from practical training in group and organizational leadership.

  • Create a Working Group on Group and Organizational Dynamics to develop “micro” programs that can be integrated into both clinical and cultural curricula.
    • Create a program leading to the Certificate of Group Studies. Allow clinical students to substitute advanced group psychotherapy courses for recurring clinical course requirements.
    • Evaluate capacity to pilot brief modules in Organizational Dynamics and/or Consultation, and develop such modules if capacity permits.
  • Work with the Coordinator of Alumni and Community Relations to pilot and evaluate organizational consultation in community agencies.

4. Pilot Fully Remote Programs

The last three years have brought a revolution in technology to BGSP, enabling people to join classes and meetings much more readily. While continuing to value the relatedness of in-person learning and emphasize the primacy of synchronous discussion, BGSP can also develop and maintain connections with people interested in psychoanalysis from more remote locations. This has to be done with a healthy respect for the resources available and the impact on in-person learning. In order to facilitate distance learning, the School will provide a unifying framework for administration of all campuses, including distance learning, to ensure quality across programs, wherever and however they are offered, and will open fully remote admissions to certain programs.

  • Integrate additional campuses and distance learners more fully into main campus administration and hire a Distance Learning Coordinator to manage remote programming along with the Deans and Directors at each campus.
  • Identify courses/classes which can accept remote participants and set limits to cohort sizes for remote programs.
  • Pilot fully online admissions for the following programs:  MA/PsyaD in Psychoanalysis, Society and Culture; MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling; MA in Psychoanalytic Studies.
  • Evaluate the costs and benefits of the online programs.

5. Increase Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

BGSP was founded on principles of access and inclusion. By espousing “modern” psychoanalysis at the time of its founding, the School was at the forefront of theories and interventions that allowed psychoanalysis to be helpful to a wider range of patients. Similarly, it recognized that students from a wide range of backgrounds (not just medicine, for example) could learn psychoanalysis as long as they were open to understanding the complexities of unconscious life. In its founding, the School reduced barriers to both psychoanalytic training and treatment.

Since that time, especially when compared to other psychoanalytic institutes, BGSP has had a very strong track record of combatting sexism and homophobia in the field, and it has developed a critical program in Psychoanalysis, Society, and Culture. This strong track record may make it more difficult to recognize ways the School is not immune from implicit biases and power dynamics that continue to pose challenges for BIPOC and other marginalized students and faculty entering the field of psychoanalysis.  

To advance its mission to increase access to psychoanalytic training, BGSP can build on its strengths: connecting with others about the power of understanding unconscious motivations; tolerating shared feelings of vulnerability; listening and learning about its constituents; and making innovations to psychoanalytic theory and treatment. Applying these strengths to issues of social justice within psychoanalytic training will enhance recruitment and retention of BIPOC students and faculty, as well as those from other marginalized communities, and lead to a stronger institution.

  • Evaluate programming under the Community Engagement initiative to pull relevant insights and training into the School’s curricula.
  • As described above, hire at least two BIPOC faculty members in the next three years.
  • As described above, integrate more cultural perspectives into the clinical curricula.
  • Increase the measurement, analysis, and reporting of outcomes for constituents across demographic criteria to evaluate whether the School is meetings its goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

6. Build an Institutional Advancement Program

“BGSP@50: Train, Lead, and Serve” presents several spirited initiatives to advance BGSP’s substantial impact on training and practice in mental health and psychoanalysis. In order to fund its agenda for community engagement, faculty growth, and student support, BGSP will build an institutional advancement program, bolstered by recent successes in engaging a diverse and independent Board. Increasing its alumni and community engagement will help the School develop a sharp focus on fundraising to support its strategic priorities.

  • Launch the BGSP@50 Comprehensive Campaign focusing on BGSP’s three pillars – Train, Lead, and Serve – representing its training and education of students, the leadership of its faculty, and its community service, including its Therapy Center.

  • Develop an advancement program under the leadership of the Comprehensive Campaign Committee, focusing on:
    1. Developing the role of the Board in institutional advancement.
    2. Funding student scholarships to attract and retain students, reduce their debt burden, and increase their impact as graduates, including the impact of increasing the number of BIPOC graduates.
    3. Funding faculty development to ensure BGSP continues to provide robust training and education to the next generation.
    4. Funding training to bring psychoanalytically informed approaches into community agencies, helping the most challenging populations.
    5. Laying the groundwork for future development at BGSP.

“BGSP@50: Train, Lead, Serve” capitalizes on 50 years of success teaching students to understand how resolving unconscious conflicts can free people from repetitive symptoms and patterns of behavior and help people create new solutions for themselves. By advancing relationships with alumni and the community and further developing its faculty and curriculum, the School can increase its impact locally at each campus, and more broadly through distance learning. Facilitating these objectives through a new institutional advancement program will further heighten BGSP’s capacity to provide 50 more years of changing lives.


  1. Strategic Planning Committee Members
  2. List of Assessments Used in SWOT Evaluation

“BGSP@50: Train, Lead, Serve” Strategic Planning Committee Members

Heike Arendt, Trustee, Co-Chair
Melissa Fristrom, Alumni/Trustee, Co-Chair
Maria Beane, Psya.D. Candidate
Paula Berman, Associate Dean of Admissions and Enrollment
Gabriela Kohen, Faculty, New York Campus
Rosemary McGee, Alumni/Faculty, New Jersey Campus
Jean Claude Noel, Alumni/Trustee
Carol Panetta, Vice President
Lynn Perlman, Dean of Graduate Studies
William Sharp, Program Director, MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Jane Snyder, President
Stephen Soldz, Director of Research
Annette Vaccaro, Faculty, New Jersey Campus
Stephanie Woolbert, Director of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid

Assessments Used in SWOT Evaluation

  • Competitive analyses for each program: where would people attend if not BGSP?
    • New Jersey campus – Rosemary McGee
    • Boston campus – Counseling programs – Paula Berman
    • New York campus – Gabriela Kohen
    • Boston campus – Culture programs, including student interviews – Maria Beane

  • Jean Claude Noel: Market and capacity for new opportunities in Leadership and Organizational Consultation.
  • Carol Panetta and Stephanie Woolbert: Evaluation of the scholarship program. From a study from the Admissions Department, scholarships are not a known factor in deciding to apply but are a factor in deciding to enroll.
  • Paula Berman and Danelle Huntington: Retention and graduation rates.
  • Stephen Soldz and Carol Panetta: Focus group data on issues with timely completion in the PsyaD program.
  • Carol Panetta and Danelle Huntington: Enrollment pattern model for admissions, retention, graduation, and instructional activity.