Conceptual Foundation

  Proposed Conceptual Foundation for the Tel Aviv Psychoanalytic Institute

  Dr. Michael Shoshani, Dr. Batya Shoshani and Dr. Gila Ofer[1]

  September, 1999

This proposal was handed out to the participants of the first founding meeting of what was to become the Tel Aviv Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. The meeting took place on October 1999, at the residence of Batya and Michael Shoshani (4 Lasalle st., Tel Aviv).

 Participants in the founding meeting: Alice Buras, Moshe Halevi-Spero, Michal Hazan, Neomi Huler, Itamar Levi, Gila Ofer, Beatriz Priel, Batya Shoshani, Michael Shoshani, Carlo Strenger, Shimshon Wigoder and Meir Winokur. 

The rigid class-conscious society of the late 19th century, the cradle of psychoanalysis, no longer exists. Cartesian philosophy and logical positivism have collapsed as epistemological and ontological foundations capable of sustaining a worldview and a perception of humanity. The rise of various post-modernist trends reflects the state of confusion we are presently in, and demands that we find new Archimedean points of support. For example, the hermeneutic and existential philosophies supply a basis for altering and expanding one’s perception of the world and of human beings.

Today, we can no longer naively believe that our latest discovery is “The Truth” we have been searching for. We must now bear the knowledge that any discovery is both temporary and dependent upon its geographic, temporal, linguistic and cultural context. We must learn to work and create within such a conceptual framework and to raise the next generation to be aware of this context. Several guiding principles are derived from this perception:

  1. A deep commitment to psychoanalytic theory, its worldview and its conception of human beings, while cultivating creativity and critical thought.
  2. The Institute’s purpose and its raison d’etre are to train highly skilled psychoanalysts to treat and benefit their patients; psychoanalysts with high levels of social awareness and sensitivity, equipped with the professional tools appropriate for social, cultural and even political involvement.
  3. Aspiring to excellence: Constantly striving to attain the highest levels, both intellectually and clinically.
  4. Conceptual and theoretical heterogeneity: Current psychoanalysis is abundant with trends and ideas, which can serve as a rich source of creative clinical thinking. We will teach the main theoretical schools – Freudian, Kleinian, the Independent Group, the French School, Self-Psychology, and the interpersonal and inter-subjective approaches; we will teach each approach and theoretical school with great devotion, but we will also teach the candidates to be loyal and committed not to one school or another, but only to their patients and to their selves.
  5. The democratic ideology: We believe that this ideology demands the establishment of a second Psychoanalytic Institute in Israel.
  6. Since 1934 and to this day, the Psychoanalytic Institute in Jerusalem has been the only organization in Israel authorized to train psychoanalysts; its importance and contribution notwithstanding; as such it has acquired the characteristics of a monopoly. The two most malignant outcomes of a monopolistic organization are:
  7. Complete equivalence between signifier and signified (e.g., vacuum cleaner = Hoover; telephone communication = AT&T).
  8. A patronizing relationship between the service supplier and its customers. In the present state of affairs, the Psychoanalytic Institute chooses its candidates, but the candidates do not choose it, since there is no alternative.

Since 1934, a complete identification has been created in Israel between “psychoanalysis” and the Israeli Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, including their structure, ideology, target population, work methods, and so on. In other words, the Jerusalem Institute version has turned from a “version” into a “truth,” leading to the trap of equating signifier with signified.[2] This state of affairs requires and justifies the establishment of an additional Psychoanalytic Institute in Israel (This criticism does not refer specifically to the existing Psychoanalytic Institute, but only to its monopolistic status; the same analysis is applicable to other monopolistic organizations as well).

  1. The democratic ideology is translated into principles of partnership, mutuality, transparency and demystification of relationships. These principles must be manifested in the relationships between analyst and analysand, between the Institute’s teaching and training staff and its candidates and between the Institute and society at large. (Intelligent application of this ideology will not necessitate annihilation of the principles of hierarchy and differentiation, which we do advocate).
  2. Social commitment: The Institute will have a close and obligating social affiliation to varied population sectors, including those which, until now, only rarely enjoyed the contributions of psychoanalytic theory. This refers to an emphasis on age-groups such as children and adolescents, the elderly, marginal ethnic groups, underprivileged populations, and a special emphasis on women and gender. This social ideology is loyal to a humanistic value-system and is derived from it (see the philosophy of the Frankfurt School in the 1920’s). At the same time, it is also motivated by a deep concern for the future of psychoanalysis. There is no doubt that psychoanalysis must be closely connected to society and remain relevant; otherwise it will become enclosed in an ivory tower and will not survive (see Neil Altman’s new book, The Analyst in the Inner City, 1995).
  3. An inter-disciplinary approach: Belief in the seminal power of dialogue between different disciplines. The process by which psychoanalysis has been drifting away from philosophy, anthropology, literature and art has exacerbated its inaccessibility and withdrawal into itself. Encouraging such dialogue will lead to mutual contributions and help psychoanalysis reconnect to the intellectual and cultural heritage, draw nourishment from these roots and facilitate reciprocal influence.[3] Citing Modell (1990), we believe that “other times [create] other realities.”

 Translating the Conceptual Foundations into Actions

Possible applications of the social ideas:

  • Each candidate will be required to direct a seminar for one of the teams working with an underprivileged population. The seminar will be held at the candidate’s clinic, once a week for two hours throughout the first two years of the candidate’s studies, on a reduced-fee or pro-bono basis.
  • Later, the Psychoanalytic Institute’s Outpatient Clinic will be established, functioning on a walk-in basis. Some of the analysands can be drawn from these referrals; the fee will be minimal.
  • While the institute recommends conducting three analyses, the actual requirement is only two; one including four weekly sessions and the other three weekly sessions. Each of these analyses will be accompanied by a weekly supervision session and each analysis will be supervised by a different supervisor.[4]
  • One of each candidate’s three analyses will be with an analysand from an underprivileged sector. This analysis will naturally include certain parameters and require certain modifications; therefore, it will be carried out under special supervision.
  • The location of the Psychoanalytic Institute: We see the ideal location of the Institute as South Tel-Aviv or Jaffa, thus reflecting the particular social statement we are trying to make.
  • In addition to developing each candidate’s regular clinical skills, we also wish, with the help of “Ofek” and “Choshev” (two associations specializing in development of groups and organizational skills), to create a unique package for the development of candidates’ organizational and consulting skills and abilities, which they will be able to use for consultations with organizations and social services on a regular basis. This way we will be able to reach broader and more diverse target populations, and not leave entire sectors in the hands of unskilled or partially skilled professionals from various disciplines.
  • Another particularly important application is the establishment of a separate and unique program for training psychoanalysts to work with children and adolescents. Society as such, including educational frameworks and parents, is often helpless in the face of our young and adolescent children’s turmoil and upheaval, which has become a cause for deep concern. New and perhaps even radical ways of thinking and conceptualizing are needed. Counseling and educational psychologists and recently developmental psychologists as well, are trying unsuccessfully to deal with these phenomena. We believe that psychoanalysts, uniquely trained to work with children and adolescents and with the professional teams who work with them, are an important part of the solution to these increasing and dangerous problems.
  • Within the framework of the adult psychoanalysis program we will establish a sub-program for psychoanalysis with the elderly – a growing yet still neglected population sector. I believe it is enough to recall Hanna Segal’s important paper “Psychoanalysis of an old patient” – describing the analysis of a patient in his late seventies – to understand the potential and importance of this notion.

Possible applications of the democratic principle:

  • Accountability: Our organization will be open to examination and criticism by the professional community and the general public. A comprehensive and thorough report will be published every year, including as much information as possible, but without compromising the privacy of the candidates. For example, the report will include the number of candidates studying in each year; the number of people referred and the number of those actually accepted, including distribution by age, gender, profession, etc. An effort will be made to formulate uniform acceptance criteria, which will be made public.
  • Beginning in their third or their fourth year, senior candidates will gradually be incorporated into each of the Psychoanalytic Institute’s main committees as equal members (acceptance committee, teaching committee, training committee, and graduation committee). Each committee will include one candidate member.
  • Following a thorough examination and evaluation, the Institute will accept a limited number of laymen candidates, not belonging to one of the three therapeutic professions, as prevalent in the Psychoanalytic Institute in Britain.
  • Developing ways to balance the influence of various theoretical trends and of the supervisors representing different theoretical approaches. For example, a supervisor will be limited tosupervising no more than three candidates simultaneously.
  • Registration of the Institute with the International Psychoanalytic Federation in the first stage (3-5 years). The International Psychoanalytic Association is a traditional organization, and the rules, regulations and procedures it demands of every institute joining it are strict and require a “uniform” format which is too limiting. We believe that while we are taking our first steps, we should not be put into a straight-jacket, but instead we should have the freedom and space required to form our own unique identity. The International Psychoanalytic Federation is an umbrella organization for alternative psychoanalytic institutes around the world. Being affiliated with it should not preclude the possibility of joining the International Psychoanalytic Association in the future, if we should wish to do so.

Possible applications for the interdisciplinary principles:

  • A fixed and constant part of the teaching staff in the Institute will be comprised of intellectuals and theorists from other disciplines.
  • A separate program of the Psychoanalytic Institute in Tel-Aviv will be dedicated to studying and teaching academic psychoanalysis and research (such programs exist in several respectable institutes around the world). The students-candidates will be those interested in psychoanalytic theory, and they will join the Institute for theoretical studies only, without receiving any clinical training. These students should come from alternative disciplines, such as literature, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, art and criminology. The candidates will follow the full course of training, except for conducting analyses and receiving supervision for analyses. Instead, we will offer them advanced seminars on various theoretical subjects, as well as an opportunity to conduct theoretical and field research for purposes of application.
  • Establishment of an affiliation base with a university, so that through cooperation between the Psychoanalytic Institute and the university, we will provide graduates of this program with a Ph.D. in psychoanalysis in combination with an additional discipline (i.e., philosophy, anthropology, literature, or art). The establishment of a separate program for academic and research-oriented psychoanalysis, and the possibility of future cooperation with a university for granting a Ph.D. in psychoanalytic research, may provide the needed balance between the emotional and intellectual worlds.

In conclusion, some general thoughts and suggestions:

  • Studies at the Institute will parallel the school framework. Basically, each class in each program will begin and finish the study and training program together. Occasionally, study program students will branch out into optional classes in which students from other classes and programs will also participate.
  • Schedule: The training program at the Institute, including all courses, seminars, analyses, supervisions of analyses and case or research presentations (in the academic-research program), will take five years (barring certain exceptions).
  • The study program will comprise 36 courses of 12 hours each. Each candidate will have to carry out three analyses under the supervision of a qualified psychoanalyst, and to undergo analysis themselves. These three requirements are in line with the requirements of the International Psychoanalytic Association.
  • Tuition fees for teachers, lecturers, supervisors, heads of programs and heads of committees will be calculated according to the market price for an hour’s therapy.
  • Study will take place in a single building, once a week on Tuesdays, from the afternoon onwards (2:00 PM – 10:00 PM), in Tel-Aviv. The study program will be a semester program, spanning 8-9 months a year. A weekend seminar will be held every 9-10 weeks (Friday-Saturday-Sunday) with senior therapists and theorists from abroad. These three to four yearly seminars will be a constant and structured part of the study program, and will make up part of the 36 courses required for completing the study program.
  • The target date for opening the Institute is November 2001. We suggest that there should be10 candidates in the adult program and 5 candidates in the children and adolescent program by the third year of the Institutes’ activity. After we have successfully established the first two study tracks mentioned above, the fifth year should see the establishment of the third, academic-research track, with no more than five students.
  • During the new Institute’s formation and establishment, two interdisciplinary committees will function alongside the leadership and conceptualization committees: (1) a scientific-consulting committee, and (2) an international scientific-consulting committee, headed by Stephen Mitchell, who will also head the Qualifying Committee. We have contacted various people, some of whom have agreed to take part in the committees, and some who are considering to join the Institute. Once the Institute is established, these committees will become the Institute’s board of directors.
  • Gradually, we wish to establish a professional journal published by the Institute, which will serve as a mouthpiece for the Institute’s main trends and ideas.
  • We have considered many names for the organization. It seems that the one most suitable is: “The Israeli Association for Contemporary Psychoanalysis”. The association will be a non-profit organization, and will constitute the Institute’s legal entity. The Institute will be named “The Tel Aviv–Jaffa Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis”.
  • At the end of this first founders meeting, Dr. Michael Shoshani was elected as the founding chair of the TAICP and Dr. Batya Shoshani, Dr. Gila Ofer, and myself have asked Mrs. Michal Hazan to join us and establish the executive and steering committee to lead the founding of the institute.

We hope we have succeeded in delineating our vision, although in very broad strokes, of the Institute’s structure.

 Dr. Michael Shoshani, Dr. Batya Shoshani, and Dr. Gila Ofer

P.S:   1.1.2015

Although not all of our plans have come true, and some changes had to be made, we find the vision expressed this document inspiring in that most of the basic tenets expressed in our Credo, have been attained.

[1] This proposal was prepared and written with the help and inspiration of Dr. Steve Mitchell, who accepted our offer to be the chairperson of the advisory board of the TAICP.

[2] Hanna Segal’s illuminating paper from 1957 on Symbol Equation versus Symbol Formation refers to people’s modes of thought; however, organizations undoubtedly also function by using these same modes.

[3] As Freud had said a long time ago: "If […] one had to found a college of psychoanalysis, much would have to be taught in it […] analytic instruction would include branches of knowledge which are remote from medicine and which the doctor does not come across in his practice: the history of civilization, mythology, the psychology of religion and the science of literature" (Freud, 1926, p. 246). One could see Freud's spirit in Bion's, Meltzer's, Britton's, and Ferro's writings.

[4] A profound and even painful deliberation had emerged regarding the number of analyses each candidate will be required to conduct and the number of weekly sessions these must entail. Michael Shoshani, who negotiated with Steve Mitchell, represented the view requiring candidates to conduct three analyses, each with four weekly sessions. In contrast, Mitchell, who by then was the chair of the institute’s advisory board, represented the view by which candidates will not be required to conduct more than two analyses, each with three weekly sessions. This debate uncovered crucial differences in opinion between Shoshani and Mitchell, leading to such a crisis in their relationship, that Mitchell considered withdrawing his support of the institute. At this critical junction, both parties reached out to Emmanuel Berman, who acted as a mediator, successfully bridging the profound gaps between these two views. The rupture that surfaced through this debate was so grave that Emmanuel’s opportune intervention was perceived as a veritable Deus Ex Machina. His proposed compromise, that was eventually accepted, decreed that the institute will recommend that candidates conduct three analyses, while formally requiring only two: one with four weekly sessions and another one with three. For more about this episode, see Michael Shoshani’s paper: Shoshani, M. Upon Earning the Right to Be and Ever Become. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 2010, 30:174–202.

Honorary members of our institute:
Dr. Salman Akhtar, (USA)
Dr. Anne Alvarez (Britain)
Prof. Emanuel Berman (Israel)
Dr. Galit Atlas (USA)
Prof. Robert D. Hinshelwood (Britain)
Dr. Riccardo Lombardi (Italy)
Irene Melnick (Israel)
Malka Hirsch-Napchan (Britain)

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