International Psychoanalytical Association

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Throughout his lifetime Sigmund Freud was concerned to maintain the unity of the theory and practice of psychoanalysisan enterprise that he had labored so prodigiously, so single-handedly, and for so long to create. To him, psychoanalysis was not only a science and profession, but also a movement calling for dedicated and disciplined allegiance. When confronted with the enormously painful blow of Carl Gustav Jung's defection, he readily took to the idea, which Ernest Jones claimed to introduce (1955, p. 152), of creating a secret committee of seven ring holders, a group of his geographically scattered closest friends and adherents, to try to ensure the stability of his central psychoanalytic doctrines. This desire to safeguard psychoanalysis as a unified enterprise against both destructive pressures from without and human divisiveness from within also served as a principal impetus for organizing the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA).

At the first international congress, a scientific gathering of interested colleagues organized by Jung and held at Salzburg, Germany, in 1908, Freud presented the case of the Rat Man, a presentation that took over four hours. The outstanding success of this meeting and the growing concern over the spread of substandard psychoanalytic work by uninformed outsiders, as well as antipathies and attacks emanating from the organized medical and academic worlds, led to the official founding of the IPA during the second congress at Nuremberg in 1910. Three branch societies were recognized at this congress: Vienna, Berlin, and Zurich (Limentani, 1996). This congress was more contentious than the first one in Salzburg. Sándor Ferenczi, who actively promoted this new venture, proposed, with Freud's strong backing, that the administrative center should be Zurich (not Vienna) and that Jung should be president. To mollify the disgruntled Viennese, Freud handed the presidency of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society to Alfred Adler and designated Adler and Wilhelm Stekel as coeditors of the newly founded official journal Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse.

The first IPA congresses, up through the ninth congress in Bad Homburg, Germany, in 1925, were essentially scientific conclaves of the gradually increasing cadre of psychoanalysts, mostly in the central European heartland in which analysis first grew and thrived, but with members gradually coming from a wider geographic orbit as psychoanalytic influence slowly spread throughout Europe and even across the Atlantic. In fact, at the third, Weimar, congress in 1911, a New York group was admitted as the newly formed American Psychoanalytic Association.

At the fourth congress in Munich in 1913, organizational politics erupted. Jung agreed to continue as president despite increasing opposition by many members, less reluctant than Freud, to face Jung's growing alienation from psychoanalysis. But within a few months Jung's break became final, and he resigned his IPA membership and with it the presidency. Jung's break followed Adler's earlier defection in 1911 and was contemporaneous with other significant departures, those of Eugen Bleuler and Wilhelm Stekel. This early turmoil and the rise of alternative psychologiesAdler's individual psychology and Jung's analytical psychologyprompted Jones to propose the committee of seven (Sándor Ferenczi, Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Hanns Sachs, and Max Eitingon, in addition to Freud and himself) to watch over Freud's creation. This committee, a major result of the tensions that periodically characterized the history of the IPA, went on meeting and corresponding until 1927.

There were only four congresses, one in Austria and three in Germany, with German the dominant language in each, before the five-year hiatus caused by World War I. When the fifth congress took place in Budapest at the end of the war in 1918, only analysts from Austria, Germany, and Hungary were able to attend. At this fifth congress Ferenczi was elected President, but unfavorable circumstances in his country soon forced him to ask Ernest Jones to take over the position. Thus began a presidency by Jones that lasted from the sixth congress in the Hague in 1920 until the sixteenth congress in Zurich in 1949 (with the exception of a nine-year period, 1925 to 1934, when Abraham and Eitingon served as president). During this period between the First and Second World Wars and under Jones's presidency, a major struggle over lay analysis took placea struggle that nearly sundered the IPA.

Wallerstein (1998) has detailed the nearly eight-decade long struggle over the question of lay analysis within the worldwide psychoanalytic movement, from its inception in 1910 to its final resolution at the thirty-fifth congress in Montreal in 1987. In 1910 there occurred two events, seemingly totally unrelated and widely separated geographically, that were fateful for the evolution of this conflict. One, in Europe, was the publication of Freud's paper " 'Wild' psycho-analysis," expressing his alarm at the proliferating practice of psychoanalysis by the analytically uninformed. The other, in America, was publication of the famed Flexner report, which exposed the shocking state of medical education in the United States and caused in short order half the existing medical schools in the country to close their doors, with the remainder moving to emulate the preeminent German model and become the approximately 100 top-notch medical schools in the nation by the 1930s. The challenge was to exorcise charlatans from therapeutic activity and to make a proper medical degree, obtained from the fully upgraded schools, the hallmark of proper training and competence in the healing arts.

From these disparate circumstances, one can trace two divergent paths, beginning in 1910, for organized psychoanalysis. One set of developments occurred in central Europe, where Freud lived and was personally influential, and the other in North America, where as early as the second decade of the century some doctors became interested in psychoanalysis, went to Europe for personal analysis and some rudiments of training, and then returned to establish the new science in North America. The European developments were, of course, heavily colored by Freud's personal career. His new doctrines were not welcomed by the established medical and academic worlds, and for the most part, psychoanalysis in Vienna and throughout Europe had to exist as a completely private activity outside of academia and organized medicine and, in its early days, in the face of medical and public opposition. When Eitingon created the first organized training institute in Berlin in 1920 to counter the threat of "wild analysis," it was as a private night school, to which Freud and his followers welcomed all who came and wanted to learn. The majority of those attracted were physicians drawn mostly from a sterile diagnostic neurology, but others came from a great array of other disciplines, including pedagogy, psychology and other social sciences, and the humanities. From the start, psychoanalysis in Europe was open to all who could qualify, whatever their discipline of origin.

In North America, meanwhile, matters took a different course. Under the impact of the Flexner report, the Americans felt that the integrity of analysis could be safeguarded from psychoanalytic activity by the unqualified only within the increasingly respectable and scientific medical orbit. So from the start they restricted membership in the American Psychoanalytic Association, an affiliate of the IPA, to medical psychoanalysts. Thus Europe and North America, in attempting to cope with the same issues of psychoanalytic standards and competence, embarked on diametrically opposite courses, European psychoanalysis being open to all, with standards to be maintained by rigorous training in organized institutes, and American psychoanalysis excluding all but physicians, with standards to be maintained by barring those without medical qualifications.

This fundamental clash of conceptions was brought squarely into the IPA at the ninth congress, in Bad Homburg in 1925. At this congress the IPA, for the first time, undertook to become more than a scientific congress; it sought to become as well a standard-setting voice for establishing and maintaining uniform training criteria for all psychoanalysts in the growing number of geographically scattered centers of analytic activity in the world. This was done by organizing the International Training Commission (ITC), with Eitingon as its chair. The laudable intent was to establish and monitor internationally agreed-upon standards for training modeled on those of the Berlin institute, which Eitingon established five years earlier in 1920. This measure was also intended to make psychoanalytic credentials portable as analysts emigrated from their countries of origin, which at the time meant mainly from Europe to the United States.

For the Americans at Bad Homburg, this raised the specter of immigration into the United States of nonmedical analysts with credentials from European training centers, all of which accepted nonmedical applicants on the same basis as physicians. The Americans, therefore, strongly objected to the authority of the ITC and cited American laws against quackery, which required them to exclude nonphysicians from therapeutic activity. They asked to be exempted from the regulations of the ITC and to have the right to set their own criteria for admission to training in the United States and their own criteria for acceptance to American societies, criteria that would cover their own graduates and also immigrant analysts from Europe. Thus began a major confrontation between the Europeans and the Americans that lasted up to the onset of World War II and was only "resolved" by a compromise solution at the sixteenth congress in Zurich in 1949, the first congress after the war.

Strenuous efforts were made over the six congresses between the ninth in 1925 and the fifteenth, in Paris, in 1938, to reconcile the increasingly bitter differences between the Europeans and the Americans so that a viable ITC could function across the analytic world. But each time these efforts were unsuccessful or amounted only to temporary patchworks that promptly broke down. The matter came to a head at the fifteenth congress, in 1938, when the Americans proposed a resolution declaring that the IPA is a congress for scientific purposes alone and calling for the total dismantling of the ITC and the abrogation of any training authority in the IPA over psychoanalysis in America. They backed this up with the voiced threat that if their demands were not granted, they would secede from the IPA and split the analytic world into separate American and European hegemonies. The threat was ominous because the balance in the IPA changed considerably over the immediately preceding five years subsequent to Hitler's accession to power in 1933. Whereas the Americans were only 20 percent of the total membership at the beginning of the 1930s, by 1938 they were quickly becoming the majority, as Hitler's march across Europe systematically depopulated the major centers of IPA activity in central Europe, sending a tide of refugees abroad, mostly to the United States.

The threat of secession was indeed portentous: the IPA would have been split asunder, with the American part much the larger and the European part, such as still existed in 1938 after the dispersal of the Berlin and Vienna institutes, under the threat of gathering war clouds. Ernest Jones, the continuing IPA president, therefore proposed deferring a definitive vote on the American motion until the next congress, scheduled for 1940, with an injunction that all affiliated societies intensively deliberate on the issues in the hope that some viable compromise might yet emerge. But two years later, in 1940, Europe was in the midst of World War II and the congress was canceled, not to reconvene until 1949, in Zurich, eleven years after the near split of 1938. In the meantime, soon after the Paris congress the Americans passed what became known as the 1938 rule, asserting full autonomy over training standards in the United States, limiting training to physicians, and barring from admission to the American Psychoanalytic Association all nonphysicians except for a grandfathered handful, all trained before 1938. During the war years the IPA was essentially dormant.

In 1949, when the first postwar congress reconvened in Zurich, a number of divisive issues came to the fore. One was the conditions under which the reconstituted German Psychoanalytic Society could be readmitted, but even more contentious for the IPA was the unresolved issue of relations between the Americans and the Europeans. As IPA president, Jones, together with colleagues from the British Psycho-analytical Society, had taken the lead in exploring this issue even prior to setting a firm date for the congress. Efforts at a solution included an intense transatlantic correspondence and a series of meetings with an American delegation that came to London to meet with the British group. In the end, an amicable gentle-men's agreement was hammered out, and at the 1949 congress the form of the British-American agreement became clear. The ITC was defunct and would not be resurrected. The American Psychoanalytic Association was granted full control over training standards in the United States with no IPA oversight. The association could thus limit analytic training in American institutes to the medically qualified and bar all nonphysicians from admission to its ranks, except for a few individuals grandfathered under the 1938 rule. In addition, it would have an "exclusive franchise" in its geographic area, meaning that the IPA would recognize no training bodies in the United States other than those affiliated with the American Psychoanalytic Association. Also, from then on, the IPA presidency, heretofore always in Europe and for so long the preserve of Ernest Jones, would alternate between North America and Europe.

In return, the Americans made the concession that direct membership in the IPA could continue, so non-medical analysts who had immigrated to America, though barred from the American Psychoanalytic Association, could still maintain membership in the IPA without being a member of a local affiliated society. All in all, it was an agreement to proceed, in 1949, as if the American proposals of 1938, which never actually came to a vote but which the American Psychoanalytic Association had de facto made operative, had been formally adopted retroactively.

On this basis the IPA, in 1949, reached an accord that formally endured for almost another forty years until the thirty-fifth congress in Montreal in 1987. The issue of lay analysis thus receded from the center of IPA preoccupation until it was abruptly reawakened by a lawsuit against the American Psychoanalytic Association and the IPA, filed in March 1985 in New York and resolved by a negotiated settlement in October 1988, three and a half years later.

For the next several congresses the IPA occupied itself with the codification of its bylaws and procedures. In 1957 President William Gillespie, of London, created a task force headed by Secretary Pearl King to work on codification. After several congresses considered successive drafts, the twenty-third congress in Stockholm, under President Maxwell Gitelson of Chicago, adopted the final document from King's committee. These bylaws codified the special status of the American Psychoanalytic Association as the only regional society of the IPA with the two special privileges of complete autonomy in training matters and exclusive franchise within its geographic area, thus finally rendering de jure the rebellious American proclamation of 1938.

Succeeding administrations continued to bring innovations in organizational structure and activity, each marking an increase in IPA administrative authority beyond being merely an organizer of scientific congresses, as it had started out in 1910 and back towards which the Americans tried to consign it in 1938. In 1965, for example, Elizabeth Zetzel, as IPA secretary, was instrumental in launching, in Amsterdam, the first of the still ongoing precongress Conferences of Training Analysts. A compromise from the original ITC intention to manage the training activities of the IPA affiliated institutes, the new conferences constituted a forum for representatives of member institutes to discuss training problems encountered worldwide. In 1983 in Madrid the conferences were opened to any training analyst from around the world who wished to participate. Under President Pieter J. Van der Leeuw of Holland (1965-1969), the IPA began disseminating more information and committed itself to helping troubled societies and institutes by dispatching international committees for local site visits, either at the request of the local group or when clear evidence of the need for help became evident. Under President Leo Rangell (1969-1973), the IPA, housed up to that time within the British Psycho-analytical Society from the days when Ernest Jones was the dominant figure in both organizations, established its own permanent headquarters in London. (The IPA is incorporated, however, under Swiss law.)

President Serge Lebovici of Paris (1973-1977) inaugurated the modern functioning of the IPA. Under his administration the IPA became more international, strengthened its governance, and widened participation in its governance. For example, the 1977 congress was planned for Jerusalem, the first time ever outside of Europe. From then on congresses were hosted in a wide variety of cities on other continents: New York in 1979; Montreal in 1987; Buenos Aires in 1991 (the first time in Latin America); San Francisco in 1995; Santiago, Chile, in 1999; Nice, France, in 2001; and Toronto, Canada, in 2003. Concomitantly, the number of Latin American vice presidents in the IPA Executive Council was increased to give Latin America more representation. Members of the IPA Executive Council began to be more actively involved in administration, the president often asking them to head the ever increasing number of site visits to troubled societies and institutes and to chair regular sponsoring committees for the rapidly proliferating new study groups.

Lebovici also inaugurated two other important moves. The first was to call an all-day meeting of presidents of affiliated societies on the day prior to the opening of each congress. This meeting started as a forum for exchanging information but has since evolved into a structure, the House of Delegates, representing the affiliated societies (as distinct from the Executive Council, elected by the individual members). The House of Delegates was created under President Joseph Sandler of London (1989-1993) and is currently being incorporated into the formal governing structure of the IPA in a manner not yet fully worked out. Lebovici also started a series of IPA symposia that brought together forty to fifty administrative and scientific leaders of the IPA for a week-long conference (with mornings devoted to scientific conferences and afternoons to administrative meetings). These symposia were held every two years, beginning in 1976, in the years between congresses in an isolated rural setting, usually in England but once in Portugal. There were six such symposia before economic retrenchment forced their cancellation during the presidency of Joseph Sandler (1989-1993), and they served to bring the IPA's leadership, scattered all over the world, into close collegial dialogue and friendship.

These symposia also led to the creation of an IPA publishing program. The IPA published monographs on the proceedings of its symposia (held in the years between congresses) and its Conferences of Training Analysts (held in connection with the congresses). These monographs were published in the IPA's four official languages for distribution to members and for sale to others. Two monographs were published commercially, but this plan proved untenable, since it was subject to the schedules of the publishing house and only an English-language publisher was willing to take the commercial risk. The IPA then introduced in-house desktop publishing to publish and distribute a sequence of symposia and Conferences of Training Analysts until it began publishing the Educational Monograph Series during the presidency of Robert Wallerstein (1985-1989), which brought this venture to a close.

The presidents after LeboviciEdward Joseph of New York (1977-1981) and Adam Limentani of London (1981-1985)built upon the structure put into place by Lebovici. In addition, during these two administrations the IPA involved itself, for the first time, in the turbulent events of the surrounding social and political worlds. This stand forms a stark contrast to the manner in which the IPA, during the many years of Jones's presidency, carefully refrained from political statements, even in the face of Nazi triumphs in Germany and Austria and the subsequent dismemberments of the psychoanalytic societies in Berlin and Vienna. At the thirty-first congress in New York in 1979, this activism took the form of a resolution (in keeping with the practice of other scientific and professional organizations around the world) condemning the repressive practices, disappearances, tortures, and murders being committed under the military dictatorship in Argentina, with a listing of professional colleagues and family members who were among the "disappeared." At the 1981 congress in Helsinki, faced with a comparable situation in Brazil, the IPA moved the 1983 congress, scheduled for Rio de Janeiro, to Madrid, and shortly later drastically intervened in the analytic society in Rio de Janeiro, where there were serious allegations that a senior figure was shielding a candidate and army psychiatrist complicit in the torturesa situation that almost totally disrupted all scientific and educational activities in that society. The IPA committee made multiple visits over a several-year period to disentangle the warring factions, marginalize the extreme protagonists on either side, and enable a central group to restore order and functioning to the society. It should be noted, however, that such strong interventions relating to external political events are rare exceptions and not the norm in the activities of the IPA.

The major event preoccupying the presidency of Robert Wallerstein of San Francisco (1985-1989) was a lawsuit. The issue of lay analysis had not been under consideration by the IPA ever since the agreement for a regional association had given the American Psychoanalytic Association full autonomy over its admissions and training criteria. However, the issue continued as an ongoing controversy within the American Psychoanalytic Association, which, over time, took a number of limited initiatives and appointed a sequence of committees to consider various ways of accommodating the growing pressure to widen its admission criteria beyond psychiatric candidates while trying still to maintain its medical character. U.S. psychologists interested in psychoanalysis were following these years of debate within the American Psychoanalytic Association with growing impatience, and when in 1984 the American Psychoanalytic Association took up the cumulative study of many preceding years to look at the whole problem afresh, the watchful psychologists decided that their only recourse was legal action. Consequently, on March 1, 1985, four clinical psychologists, acting on behalf of a declared class of several thousand, filed a lawsuit against the American Psychoanalytic Association and two of its affiliated institutes on antitrust grounds, alleging a conspiracy in restraint of trade designed to deprive them of access to training and practice in this very prestigious and lucrative means of livelihood.

The IPA was secondarily sued for allowing its American affiliate to engage in these improper activities. The IPA administration headed by Wallerstein (with Edward Weinshel as secretary) was centrally engrossed with this divisive issue from the moment that it took office at the Hamburg congress in the summer of 1985, five months after the lawsuit was filed, until the formal settlement of the suit through a compromise solution promoted by the IPA and accepted by all the involved parties in October 1988, three and a half years after the start of the litigation.

Throughout these often tortuous legal proceedings, the IPA tried to play the role of honest broker between the American Psychoanalytic Association and the plaintiffs, sympathetically supported by IPA affiliated societies around the world, to whom the exclusionary practices of the American association were completely repugnant. The position of the American Psychoanalytic Association was that it had a right to restrict psychoanalytic training to the medically qualified, a right accorded to it under the regional-association agreement. The American association expected the IPA to support its affiliated organizations in their rights.

Two main events facilitated settlement of the lawsuit. The membership of the American Psychoanalytic Association approved, by more than a two-thirds vote, the recommendation of a new committee studying the question of lay analysis, the Gaskill Committee. This opened the way for qualified nonmedical applicants to be admitted to full clinical psychoanalytic training within its institutes. Soon thereafter the IPA and the American association worked out an alteration of the regional-association agreement (subsequently approved at the IPA business meeting at the 1987 Montreal congress), under which the American association would retain its control over its admission and training standards but would relinquish its exclusive franchise in the United States. This, for the first time, allowed nonmedical psychoanalytic organizations that had unofficially grown up outside the aegis of the American association to qualify for IPA affiliation if they could meet IPA standards. Thus two channels for nonmedical analysts in the United States to become IPA members were opened almost simultaneously, one within the American association and one outside it. All this enabled the IPA and the American Psychoanalytic Association to push successfully for a settlement of the lawsuit, which essentially sought such alterations in training procedures, and bring to final resolution the controversial issue of lay analysis that had so divided the IPA for most of its existence, from the 1925 congress at which the International Training Commission had been established. This long history has been chronicled in Wallerstein (1998).

The Wallerstein administration undertook other important actions: (1) It made Latin America fully equal with Europe and North America by including Latin America in the rotation of the presidency (thus enabling Horacio Etchegoyen to be elected as the first Latin American president of the IPA in 1993) and by equalizing the number of vice presidents at three from each of the three regions. (2) It made IPA governance more democratic by having presidents of affiliated societies regularly meet with IPA officers at the biannual congresses. (3) It added half-day sessions on child and adolescent analysis, on psychoanalytic research, and on applied analysis as regular components of the scientific program at IPA congresses. (4) It inaugurated the IPA Educational Monograph Series (replacing the earlier monographs on symposia and on Conferences of Training Analysts). In this series of teaching monographs, distinguished analysts from around the world discuss a seminal paper of Freud's, reviewing it in the light of intervening developments in analysis since Freud's time. As of 1996, four educational monographs had been published.

President Joseph Sandler of London (1989-1993) and Secretary Jacqueline Amati Mehler took office at the thirty-sixth congress in Rome in 1989. Its four years were marked by three main thrusts: (1) IPA governance became more democratic. For one, the entire worldwide membership began electing IPA officers by mail ballot. This system replaced elections at congress business meetings by those able to be present. In addition, out of the meeting of presidents of affiliated societies there evolved a new structure, the House of Delegates, whose twenty-seven members are elected by and represent affiliated IPA societies. The House of Delegates is gradually working out its role in relation to the president and Executive Council, elected by vote of individual IPA members; (2) The IPA has made psychoanalytic research part of its core mission with the inauguration of an annual Psychoanalytic Research Conference held each year at University College, London; (3) The IPA is making a greater effort to bring precept and practice together in a uniform base of training requirements so that graduating from an IPA institute has comparable meaning and represents comparable accomplishment wherever the institute is located in the world.

At the thirty-eighth congress in Amsterdam in 1993, the first Latin American administration of the IPA was inaugurated, with Horacio Etchegoyen of Buenos Aires as president and Ana Maria Andrade de Azevedo as secretary. This administration has further formalized the role of the House of Delegates (representing the affiliated societies), alongside the president and the Executive Council (representing the individual members), in the governing structure of the IPA. At the fortieth congress in Barcelona in 1997 this administration was succeeded by one from North America headed by Otto Kernberg of New York as president and Robert Tyson as secretary. From the commitments made during the presidential campaign, it is clear that a major emphasis will be on a marked expansion in IPA support for psychoanalytic research. Kernberg also is committed to increasing regional activities in the IPA as a counterweight to the world gatherings grown increasing unwieldy as the IPA expands in numbers and geographic dispersal. By 2004 it has grown from fewer than 100 close colleagues and mostly friends who started the organization in 1910 to an organization now poised at the 10,000 mark, with over 45 societies in 30 nations on almost every continent and with four official languages. From this base of growing strength and the vitality chronicled in this brief history, it confidently faces its future.

Robert S. Wallerstein


Freud, Sigmund. (1910). "Wild" psycho-analysis. SE, 11: 221.

Jones, Ernest. (1953-1957). Sigmund Freud: Life and work. London: Hogarth.

Limentani, Adam. (1996). A brief history of the International Psychoanalytical Association. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77, 149-158.

Wallerstein, Robert S. (1998). Lay analysis: Life inside the controversy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

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