New York Psychoanalytic Institute

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The New York Psychoanalytic Institute is an educational institution whose purpose is the training of psychoanalysts in the Freudian tradition.

Its origins derive from an organization, the New York Psychoanalytic Society, founded by Abraham Arden Brill and others in 1911 for the study of psychoanalysis, the first such organization in the United States. Brill had previously translated Freud into English, published in a widely-distributed Modern Library edition.

After World War I a small group of psychiatrists from New York went to Vienna for personal analysis with Freud with a view to obtaining a psychoanalytic education. Their number increased in the 1920s with the addition of Americans who had been formally trained in the institutes of Berlin, Budapest, and Vienna. In response to a growing demand for formal instruction the New York Psychoanalytic Society organized its first series of lecture courses in the fall of 1922, and in 1923 appointed its first educational committee to organize and improve the teaching functions of the society. Enrollment was limited to physicians with an MD degree to conform to the recent standardization of medical education in the United States. The basic structural elements of the tripartite model was already in place: personal analysis, seminars, and the supervision of cases in analysis.

On September 24, 1931, the New York Psychoanalytic Society established the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, patterned after the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute from which Sandor Rado was recruited to become the first educational director. The institute has been educationally autonomous and financially self-supporting from its inception. The graduates of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute become members of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Dues, tuition, and income from an endowment created by the members provide the funds. Then as now, the society sponsors the presentation and discussion of scientific papers and interdisciplinary seminars. The institute, responsible for the training of candidates, selects teachers and training analysts, at first by the Educational Committee itself, later by the faculty electing an ad hoc committee which has come to include the intensive evaluation of current psychoanalytic work.

In the 1930s, psychoanalysis was an important part of the intellectual ferment of the times so that prominent intellectuals as well as many others sought personal analysis. Eminent psychoanalytic writers who contributed to the expansion of psychoanalytic knowledge at that time included Bertram Lewin, Paul Schilder, Sandor Rado, and Sandor Lorand.

During World War II, the successful application of psychoanalytic principles to the treatment of war neuroses, the only set of ideas that explained these conditions, influenced many American doctors to seek psychiatric training so that they could qualify for psychoanalytic training. Applications to the institute exceeded 60 in those years, and classes of 30 were not unusual, compared to the early twenty-first century's average number of applications of six to eight and classes of four or five.

Hitler's persecution resulted in the immigration of large numbers of eminent European psychoanalysts who became intellectual leaders and senior teachers. In New York these included Heinz Hartmann, Ernst Kris, Rudolph Loewenstein, Edith Jacobson, Robert Bak, Kurt Eissler, and many others. In cooperation with Anna Freud, they established contemporary ego psychology. In the area of child analysis leadership was supplied by Berta Bornstein, Marianne Kris, and Margaret Mahler.

Hartmann introduced the adaptational point of view as part of his effort to make psychoanalysis a general psychology. These ideas as well as the earlier contributions by psychoanalytic thinkers in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s greatly influenced the fields of social science, mental hygiene and child care. The New York Institute in that period served as a model for institutes throughout the United States.

With the passing of the European psychoanalysts in the 1970s and 1980s, the mantle of leadership fell chiefly to Jacob Arlow and Charles Brenner, who also clarified and codified Freud's contributions in 1923 and 1926, and outlined a modern, contemporary psychoanalysis based on human psychology viewed as the outcome of intrapsychic conflict.

There have been many profound teachers who published very little, but influenced large numbers of candidates at the institute. One such individual was Otto Isakower, who revised the curriculum in the late 1950s from a chronological reading of Freud's works to a topic-dominated collection of courses covering the literature from Freud's earliest works to contemporary contributors and critics within the Freudian tradition. In recent years many of the proliferation of divergent ideas in psychoanalysis have been added to the curriculum.

The administrative structure of the New York Institute and Society is a representative democracy. Every graduate of the Institute becomes a member of the Society and automatically a member of the Institute, with the right to vote and hold office in both. The Society is concerned with the scientific program and the relationship to other societies of the American Psychoanalytic Association; the Institute with psychoanalytic training. The governing body of the Institute is the Educational Committee. The training analyst members of the faculty select a committee that nominates training analysts who are eligible for membership on the Educational Committee. The electorate consists of the entire membership of the Institute/Society.

In recent years there has been a vast expansion of the Institute's and Society's activities beyond the training of candidates. There is a large Extension School for psychiatric residents, psychology interns, and social work doctoral candidates which teaches psychoanalytic principles, psychotherapy, child development, and various special subjects such as dreams, and the treatment of severe character disorders. The Institute also provides an externship for graduate students in psychology which includes supervision of psychotherapy, and a fellowship program for selected potential candidates which has come to include psychiatric residents and PhD students in psychology and social work. This program offers seminars in theory and case supervision. A psychotherapy training program is in the planning stage. With the decline of psychoanalysis as a profession in the United States, and its fragmentation as a discipline, the New York Institute is attempting to teach what is considered fundamental to the Freudian tradition, but does not neglect the multiplicity of ideas and technical innovations that have emerged and have contributed to enlarging our psychoanalytic understanding. The Institute has also expanded its interaction with training programs of potential candidates, and with the community at large, to attempt to educate larger numbers about psychoanalysis and its value.

Manuel Furer

See also: American Academy of Psychoanalysis; American Psychoanalytic Association; Splits in psychoanalysis; Training analysis; United States.


Hartmann, Heinz, Kris, Ernst, and Loewenstein, Rudolph. (1964). Papers on psychoanalytic psychology. New York: International Universities Press.

Wangh, Martin (Ed.). (1962). Fruition of an idea. New York: International Universities Press.

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New York Psychoanalytic Institute