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Parsons, M. (2009). Becoming and Being an Analyst in the British Psychoanalytical Society. Psychoanal. Inq., 29(3):236-246.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 29(3):236-246

Becoming and Being an Analyst in the British Psychoanalytical Society

Michael Parsons

The articles of Elizabeth Spillius and Jennifer Johns exemplify contrasting ways in which an analyst may form her psychoanalytic identity. She may recognize and accept a particular theoretical standpoint as valid, and form an analytic identity around that position. Or she may engage with a variety of viewpoints, and form an analytic identity through the interaction between these and her own internal self-experience. These approaches coexist in the British Psychoanalytical Society. There has been the potential for creative discussion between them, especially as regards their implications for analytic training. These six articles together, however, reveal how hard it has been for such discussion to take place. Spillius describes the disparity between the Society's three groups in relation to candidates' choice of supervisors, and I discuss this further. It seems to reflect an underlying difference in approach to psychoanalytic training, based on these different views of how an analyst's identity is formed. I suggest that the difficulty in debating this freely reflects a fear that opening up the issue might lead the Society to split. In 2005 the so-called Gentlemen's Agreement, which for 60 years governed group balance in the British Society, was formally abolished. In the light of this, I consider what is needed for a Society creatively to contain divergent philosophies of training.

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