Welcome Letter from the Specialty Board President

Richard R. Hansen, PhD, ABPP

Thank you for your interest in our board and for taking the time to read this letter.  I am honored and grateful to have been chosen to write to you on behalf of my colleagues at the American Board and Academy of Psychoanalysis (ABAPsa).  It is my privilege to be a member of a dedicated group of psychoanalysts who volunteer their time and talents in the service of furthering the recognition of psychoanalysis.  Through our combined activities as a board and an academy, ABAPsa both certifies the training of our membership, and provides educational and advocacy programs which affirm the centrality of the psychodynamics of the human relationships that form us.

One of the first questions I am asked when fellow analysts inquire about board certification is, “Why should I become board certified?  I have a doctorate in psychology, I am licensed to practice in my state, and I have trained at least 4 more years in a postdoctoral program in psychoanalysis, from which I received a diploma certifying my training.  I have also had over 200 hours of supervised experience in psychoanalysis and have been required to have a training analysis of at least 350 hours.  What does board certification do for me?”

The answer is that while we are licensed and well trained, the public, and our fellow professions, may still be unclear as to our qualifications.  Licensing laws vary from state to state and the proliferation of various titles in the mental health professions such as “therapist” and “psychotherapist” may be confusing.   A board-certified (BC) physician in Internal Medicine who came to see me put it best, “It means a lot to me that you are board certified.  I’m not so familiar with the titles in your field, but I know what board certification means.”  To us as psychologists and psychoanalysts, BC means that our members have achieved the highest educational and training standards in our specialty, derived from agreed upon national standards in psychoanalysis as required of all specialties, and as set forth by ABPP.  Our standards are inclusive and pluralistic, expressing our board’s commitment to the diversity of theoretical orientations that constitute psychoanalytic practice.  Additionally, becoming board certified through ABAPsa, means being a member specialty of ABPP, the only multi-board organization for psychologists recognized by the American Psychological Association.

As our board title states, we are both a board, and an academy.  The distinction is that the board’s main function is to conduct exams and serve as a certifying body, while our academy’s main function is to promote psychoanalysis and psychodynamic understanding to the public as well as to offer professional benefits to our members.  Not every ABPP board has an academy.  While there are 15 board specialties and one subspecialty, only nine boards have academies.  As an academy, we engage in a variety of activities with a focus on increasing the awareness of psychoanalysis.  We have a completely redesigned website (www.ABAPsa.org) that more fully details our mission statement and reflects our commitment to diversity, theoretical plurality, social justice, and evidence-based practice.  Our website provides a directory of our membership and additional information for the public.

We have an annual book award program that has gained international recognition, and we have several newer, ongoing projects.  We have produced 3 Free eBooks published with Routledge that are distributed worldwide: Comparative Psychoanalysis; Psychoanalysis Among Competing Schools; and Psychoanalytic Plurality in Theory and Praxis.  We have also recently developed an online scholarly journal whose title, Metalepsis:  Journal of the American Board and Academy of Psychoanalysis, reflects our focus on inclusion and plurality.  When the title was suggested, and not having heard the term before, I was pleased to find that it means using a word or phrase in a new context.  How appropriate as we strive to find new contexts within which to apply psychoanalytic ideas and praxis.  There are links to our FreeBooks and Metalepsis on our website.

We have several new projects that we are excited about.  We expanded our board this past year by adding a graduate student liaison and early career psychologist liaison. Although they are non-voting members, these two women have made significant contributions.  They were instrumental in the development of our publications databases: The first database encompasses Multicultural, Diversity, and Social Justice in Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Psychology, and Psychoanalysis. This reference database will be made publicly accessible in 2022 and will be continually updated. Currently, it contains 350 psychoanalytic and psychodynamic journal articles and books on race, ethnicity, racism, oppression, disability, and economic disparities. It is the largest known reference database of its kind.   The second is a database of Evidence-Based Research in Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic Psychology and Psychoanalysis. This is a comprehensive database of outcome and process research in psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychology, and psychoanalysis (currently, 995 research articles with abstracts). The database is coded and searchable across 12 domains, and over 50 variables, containing over 300 RCT peer-reviewed journal articles.

Lastly, we are in the early stages of reevaluating ways to broaden our outreach.   We appreciate that there are many psychodynamic psychologists that are committed to the study, practice and development of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and who have made significant contributions to the field, without having had full psychoanalytic training.  These psychodynamic psychologists represent the preponderance of the membership of Division 39.  We are in the process of investigating a procedure that recognizes their advanced training.  This project is in its early stages, and I hope to have more to say about it this coming year.

In the interim, let me again thank you for your time and for your interest in becoming board certified in psychoanalysis.  There is much more I would like to share with you that is beyond the scope of this letter.  For example, while serving on the board for the past six years I have learned a great deal about board certification in our field, how it interfaces with the medical model, and its importance in the authorization of healthcare providers.  It is my opinion that board certification is essential for the survival of all specialties in psychology.  That BC is vital, is reflected by the fact that over 85% of all physicians have chosen to become board certified.  Sadly, only 4% of all psychologists have chosen to do so.   If you would like to continue the dialogue, or have any further questions about board certification in Psychoanalysis, please feel free to contact me directly.


Richard R. Hansen, Ph.D., ABPP
President, American Board and Academy of Psychoanalysis