Doctor of Psychoanalysis Degree
BGSP is unique among both psychoanalytic training institutes and graduate schools in offering regionally accredited degrees in psychoanalysis, culminating in the Doctor of Psychoanalysis degree (Psya.D.). This program combines full training to become a psychoanalyst with academic and research studies leading to the doctorate. Psychoanalysts who have already been certified but would like to pursue the doctorate may apply for the Accelerated Psya.D. Program.
The Psya.D. program takes the psychoanalyst-in-training beyond the process of understanding how people develop their emotional and mental lives, into the realm of entering and intervening in the unconscious life of clients. The student explores the full range of character structures and psychopathology, integrating academic study with casework to understand patients’ repetitions, defenses, resistances, and symbolic communications. In clinical supervision, students learn to use the transference and countertransference responses to work constructively as analysts. Psychoanalytic research studies foster the student’s discipline to examine clinical data systematically, strengthening the process of making valid inferences from observations.
Such work requires an investment not only of time and resources, but also of oneself. The journey for the analyst-in-training entails both the courage and commitment to develop 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 BGSP’s integrative approach to learning).
Graduates of the Psya.D. program are prepared to practice as psychoanalysts with a wide range of clients, as well as to teach, conduct psychoanalytic research, and apply their knowledge to a broad range of endeavors. Over the last five years, 92% of graduates from the Doctoral program report they are working in the field.
Each student participates in a training analysis, working individually with an analyst throughout the program for a minimum of 450 hours of analysis. The training analysis is a cornerstone of the educational process for psychoanalysts. It deepens the student’s understanding of course material through personal experience and helps the student tolerate the feelings aroused by psychoanalytic study. It offers a fuller appreciation of one’s own emotional dynamics, increases the student’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.
Course of Study
The doctoral program is organized in two levels: Pre-Candidacy and Candidacy.
At the Pre-Candidacy level, students gain a psychoanalytic perspective on 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. Through the fieldwork externship, they also develop basic skills for establishing a therapeutic relationship with regressed or narcissistic clients. Throughout their studies, they observe emotional responses induced in themselves, and use these responses in order to understand others.
The Master of Arts in Psychoanalysis and the Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling degrees fulfill all Pre-Candidacy requirements except the qualifying exam.
Students entering the doctoral program with a relevant prior master’s degree may customize an accelerated Pre-Candidacy program or enroll in the CAGS in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy to avoid repeating coursework.
Students in Pre-Candidacy complete a three semester Fieldwork Externship, which provides direct contact with regressed patients in mental hospitals or comparable settings, giving students the opportunity to observe extremes of pathology at the earliest levels of fixation or regression. The fieldwork externship provides the opportunity to learn how to develop the basic skills in establishing a therapeutic relationship with clients in regressed states. It 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 experience culminates in a presentation of fieldwork cases and completion of a case study paper.
Advancing to Candidacy
After completing all Pre-Candidacy requirements, students apply to advance to Candidacy. Progressing from Pre-Candidacy to Candidacy requires an accredited Master’s degree; successful completion of Pre-Candidacy coursework, the fieldwork externship and case study paper; and an acceptable qualifying exam.
During Candidacy, students 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. The candidate begins working analytically with patients in the Therapy Center under intensive supervision. 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.
Therapy Center Internship
Once accepted to Candidacy, 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 Candidacy (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. 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 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.
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 qualitative research methods, 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 children’s unconscious resistances to learning a second language, a textual analysis study of regression and its relationship to progression in analysis, a study of the effects of trauma on Cambodian refugees escaping genocide, a single case study of the development of mentation in a psychotic child, and a study of fantasies related to analysis in a second and primary language.
Conferral of the Doctor of Psychoanalysis degree requires:
- Completion of an accredited Master’s degree
- Satisfactory completion of Pre-Candidacy and Candidacy 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.
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 take at least six 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. Therefore, a more typical time to completion is about 8 years.
Abstracts of Doctoral Research Dissertations
Catalog for Clinical Programs
Clinical Practice & Scholarship
• M.A. in Mental Health Counseling (license eligible)