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Key Research Findings Presented at APSA 2024 Poster session

At APSA’s Feb 2024 Annual Research Poster Session, the ABPsa presented the results from our targeted Focus Group Research Project. For context, the poster described the intensive focus group research process, the centerpiece of the final phase of the multi-year research initiative which culminated in an updated core competencies list.

What was studied?  Using a descriptive, phenomenological qualitative study, we aimed to learn what psychoanalysts believe constitutes competent psychoanalytic work today.

How was it studied? 12 focus groups whose participants included a variety of career stages, theoretical orientations, type of psychoanalytic training, and areas of special expertise including child analysis and diversity met for two-hour virtual semi-structured interviews. The participants responded to questions such as, “How can you tell when you are hearing the work of a competent analyst?” and “What thing you hear which cause you to think analytic work is seriously flawed?”

How was the data analyzed? A thematic data analysis was then conducted on the transcripts of these recorded meetings.

Key Findings from the Research:

  • Significant uniformity in terms of what psychoanalysts view essential as competencies for analytic work despite the different identity of each focus group.  
  • Four main thematic categories: Analyst’s Approach to Analytic Work, Knowledge, Assessment, and Elements of Treatment - What the Analyst Does—which would ultimately be grouped into competencies
  • Categories made up of themes based on the data. Most themes were endorsed by all 12 groups, and included:  
    • Capacity to work with the frame
    • Having a thoughtful approach to the patient (especially in regard to diversity issues such as gender/sexuality/race/culture)
    • The ability to create an intimate complex relationship 
    • The ability to work with countertransference and transference
    • The analyst’s ability to tolerate affect and not knowing
    • An ability for self-reflection 
    • A focus on the unconscious of the patient and the analyst, and their subjective experiences
  • The addition of child competencies
  • The incorporation of diversity aspects within all theme or competency categories

In summary, there are new competency items and numerous shifts of emphasis, with competencies that were previously implied or subsumed now taking center stage. At the same time, the findings also corroborated the previous list of competencies. The key tenets of psychoanalysis endure!

Post-the poster: What happened after the Focus Group Data Analysis?  Following a secondary? review of findings by participants, experts and examiners, the themes in each category were further grouped or clarified so Board Certification examiners and examinees, as well as anyone else using the competencies, would be clear as to their meaning. The final list of competencies, including the new child competencies, can be found on the ABPsa website. 

Where do we go from here?  ABPsa was pleased with the excitement these findings created amongst our colleagues. Questions and ideas were raised that the ABPsa plans to explore in its ongoing research, e.g., what is the impact of remote work on the practice of psychoanalysis, as we further operationalize the competencies, explore external validation studies, and continue to follow changes in the practice of psychoanalysis.  

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