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“I DIdn't pass. Now what?”

Receiving the decision of not passing can be a deep disappointment, particularly when you have invested a great deal of time and effort into preparing for the examination.  While unwelcome, the decision may offer an opportunity to discover and reflect on aspects of your psychoanalytic work not previously considered.  Ideally, it can prompt a period of learning and growth. Many applicants returning after not passing a first examination have described that the experience contributed to a process of new development,  promoting a deeper level of understanding and growth as a psychoanalyst.

Applicants not passing the examination will receive a detailed letter from the Examination Committee Chair within 10 weeks that outlines the area(s) that led the committee to the determination you did not pass.  In order to meet national standards for certifying organizations, ABPsa no longer offers direct exam mentoring.  However, there are a number of avenues available to help address the issues raised in your letter and prepare for a new examination.

Many have found that starting by discussing the findings from the examination committee with trusted supervisors or mentors has allowed for fresh thinking about the clinical work.  This can apply to issues regarding your case write-ups and/or your clinical process material.

Some applicants prefer to engage with new senior analysts to allow for new thinking about the clinical work.  Often it can be helpful if these individuals are outside of one’s own institute. Some applicants get suggestions for names of senior analysts outside their institute by asking a supervisor or mentor for potential names, or by inquiring at national psychoanalytic meetings.

Some applicants form peer discussion groups to present writing and clinical process to one another, for peer feedback.  Applicants can reach out to colleagues locally or nationally, and many find national or international psychoanalytic meetings to be another forum for meeting colleagues who are also preparing for certification or professional promotion.

There are also a number of case writing discussion groups and/or clinical process groups at national psychoanalytic meetings such as the American Psychoanalytic Association meetings or the IPA where the writing process or clinical material is presented and discussed. Many find these discussion groups to be another useful forum for learning.

Appeal Procedure

An applicant who has not passed the examination at least twice may request an appeal of the most recent adverse determination, if the applicant believes that: (1) the Certification Committee’s determination was arbitrary, capricious or without any reasonable basis; or (2) the process used by the Certification Committee in the examination was so fundamentally unfair as to deprive the applicant of the opportunity to qualify for certification.

The applicant’s request for an appeal must be made in writing, addressed to the Chair of the Appeals Committee in care of the ABPsa Office, within one year of the most recently failed examination. The letter must explain the applicant’s reasons or bases for the appeal request, confirm that the applicant has read the appeals procedure, and authorize the Appeals Committee to have access to all of the underlying materials in order to facilitate the review and appeal.

Upon receipt of the appeal request, the Chair of the Appeals Committee will review the request and determine if the applicant has stated a sufficient basis to proceed with the appeal. The applicant will be notified in writing of the decision whether or not to proceed, together with an appropriate explanation.

If the determination is that there is merit to proceed, the Appeals Committee Chair will appoint a review committee for the specific appeal, of three ABPsa fellows who have had experience administering the certification examination. No member of the review committee shall have participated in any prior consideration of the application to be reviewed. The Appeals Committee Chair will set forth in writing the procedure to be followed for considering the appeal.

The review committee will be provided with the complete application, including without limitation the records of the examination and Certification Committee’s deliberations and the applicant’s letter requesting the appeal.

Since each applicant and his or her application have a distinct character, the certification process for each applicant has a correspondingly distinct character. ABPsa’s appeal process is not intended to offer a re-examination to applicants who have not passed an examination or otherwise to be a process wherein the appeal review committee merely substitutes its judgment for the judgment of the Certification Committee. Rather the appeal process is intended to offer a remedy where there may have been a serious flaw in how a particular examination was conducted. The process of the appeal proceeding will be outlined in writing by the Chair and will include an in-person interview with the applicant and Certification Committee Chair and offer both an opportunity to present with respect to the appeal.

At the conclusion of the appeal proceeding, the appeal review committee will commence deliberations and make a final determination whether the decision made by the Certification Committee should be affirmed, reversed, or vacated with instructions. If the appeal review committee determines to reverse or vacate the decision of the Certification Committee, it shall determine a fair remedy in deciding how further consideration of the applicant’s application should proceed and may make additional determinations it deems necessary or fair in the situation.

The decision of the review committee shall be reported to the ABPsa Board of Directors and the applicant and the Certification Committee will be notified of the determination in writing.

The applicant requesting the appeal will be given notice of these policies and procedures.

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The American Board of Psychoanalysis is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to serving the public interest and promoting the profession of psychoanalysis through certification and maintenance of certification. 

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