Core Competencies

ABAP Board of Trustees Adopts Core Competencies for Psychoanalysis

At the November 17, 2017 Semi-Annual Board of Trustees meeting, the ABAP Board unanimously adopted the Core Competencies of Psychoanalysis. This set of Competencies was developed through more than two years of intense thought and discussion and multiple revisions among a diverse team of psychoanalysts representing multiple theoretical positions from several different API Institutes.

These Competencies were designed as a tool to enhance understanding of the psychoanalytic education process in effect today, and to bolster the training that institutes have been doing all along.  They will not become a part of the ABAP Standards, per se, but will be retained separately as an endorsed product and updated periodically with the review of the API and approval by the Board. Once adopted by ABAP, the Competencies will be referenced in the ABAP Standards, and institutes will be encouraged to utilize them in conceptualizing their training process.

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General Psychotherapeutic Competencies for Psychoanalysts Foundational Psychoanalytic Competencies Psychoanalytic Assessment and Intervention Competencies Competencies that Integrate the Practice of Psychoanalysis
Operate within legal and ethical guidelines Understand development from one or more psychoanalytic perspectives Evaluate whether the patient’s needs are appropriately served by psychoanalysis Maintain an analytic attitude – a set of guiding psychoanalytic stances and values that focus the analyst’s attention and intention
Engage interpersonally in a professional manner Understand motivation from one or more psychoanalytic perspectives Conduct psychoanalytic assessment Recognize various domains of patient experience in prioritizing interventions8
Be sensitive to and willing to work with diverse identities of individuals and groups1 Understand psychopathology from one or more psychoanalytic perspectives Formulate a psychoanalytic diagnosis Apply psychoanalytic models flexibly in response to the patient’s individual context and conscious and unconscious needs
Recognize the importance of socio-cultural influences on behavior, cognition and emotion Understand core concepts of psychoanalysis according to one or more theoretical orientations5 Establish and maintain a psychoanalytic frame6 Make use of the psychoanalytic relationship as a vehicle for change
Understand lifespan development Understand therapeutic action from one or more psychoanalytic perspectives Work with both a patient’s internal and external realities Capacity to create and defend a comprehensive psychoanalytic case formulation
Understand biological contributors to behavior, cognition, and emotion Facilitate the exploration of unconscious experience7 Make appropriate use of psychoanalytic supervision and consultation9
Be aware of non-psychoanalytic models of psychotherapy Employ a range of psychoanalytic interventions Evaluate and incorporate research on psychoanalysis and ancillary fields10
Conduct global patient assessment2 Be aware of, process, and effectively engage the transference Make use of the personal training analysis to work through personal and emotional issues that may interfere with psychoanalytic treatment
Make diagnostic formulations Be aware of, process, and effectively engage counter-transference
Understand the interaction of affects and psychopathology Identify and respond to enactments within the psychoanalytic relationship
Identify appropriate interventions Recognize and work with the patient’s defenses and resistance
Respect the patient’s socio-environmental and intrapsychic realities Recognize psychoanalytic indicators of therapeutic change
Navigate the emotional content of sessions, including shifts and endings3 Maintain a consistent focus on core analytic aspects of treatment
Understand empirical research4


Notes for Competencies:

  1. Such as racial, cultural, and religious identities; sexual orientation, gender expression, and/or political affiliation.
  2. Global assessment includes: personal history, symptoms, mental status, and readiness for treatment, as well as assessment of appearance, demeanor, suicidality, and homicidality.
  3. ‘Navigate’ refers to the awareness of, understanding of, moving about in, and addressing the emotional content of sessions.
  4. For example, research on effectiveness of psychotherapy and the effectiveness of psychotherapy in comparison with other forms of treatment, patient variables or therapist variables in psychotherapy, as well as research in neuro- and cognitive sciences, anthropology, and sociology.
  5. Core concepts include such things as symbolism, interpretation, transference, countertransference, resistance, defense, psychic structure, unconscious process, fantasy, dream work.
  6. The psychoanalytic frame includes such things as the physical setup of the consulting room; the use of couch or chair; the use of the fundamental guideline of free association; the frequency, time, and duration of sessions; establishment of fees, to include method of payment, use of insurance, or third-party payment; handling of changes to the schedule and vacations; guidelines for contact between sessions; the issue of physical contact; and contact with outside parties.
  7. Unconscious experience refers to dreams, fantasies, slips of the tongue, parapraxes, daydreams, unconscious/derivative communication, the analytic third – i.e. any manifestation of the unconscious in analysis.
  8. Domains include such things as surface versus depth, level of patient functioning, conscious versus unconscious processes, somatic states, or transitory states – the movement/variation of intervention across levels within a session.
  9. For example, does the candidate become defensive during supervision, seem to incorporate feedback, retain and assimilate concepts presented during supervision, or recognize limitations and know when to seek consultation?
  10. Includes both qualitative and quantitative research. Ancillary fields include health research, neuro- and cognitive sciences, and studies in sociology, anthropology, religion, philosophy, literature and the other humanities.