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Kirsner, D. (2010). Training Analysis: The Shibboleth of Psychoanalytic Education. Psychoanal. Rev., 97(6):971-995.

(2010). Psychoanalytic Review, 97(6):971-995

Training Analysis: The Shibboleth of Psychoanalytic Education

Douglas Kirsner, Ph.D.

I want to suggest that training analysis is a “shibboleth” in psychoanalytic education in the same way as Joseph Schachter (2002) proposed transference as a “shibboleth” in psychoanalytic theory. A shibboleth is a form of jargon that acts to distinguish insiders from outsiders. A shibboleth can be a distinctive pronunciation, a mode of dress, or form of behavior. A shibboleth is a slogan with only a veneer of truth. How this originally Hebrew word was pronounced was a matter of life and death around 1300 b.c.e. The pronunciation signaled whether someone was from one tribe or another. Those who could not pronounce the word “shibboleth” properly were slaughtered because they were seen to as being from the Ephramites, who could not pronounce the sound “sh,” instead saying “s” (Judges, 12:6). Although those without a “proper” training analysis are not physically slaughtered, there is a sense in which the training analysis acts as a shibboleth in psychoanalysis. It is seen as a major determinant of whether the analyst has been “properly” trained. What good reasons are there to validate a particular means of education as the distinguishing feature of the ends of psychoanalytic education? Schachter suggested that psychoanalysts are especially troubled by their professional identity because their practice encounters so much uncertainty. Thus psychoanalytic education enforces the professional identity as a defense or even fantasized bulwark against uncertainty. But it acts as a shibboleth in aiming to distinguish it from other approaches.

Freud originally suggested that dream interpretation was the shibboleth of psychoanalysis, distinguishing psychoanalysis from other modalities. As psychoanalysis developed beyond its origins, the transference replaced dream interpretation as a shibboleth.

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