The goal of having an independent, inclusive certification organization to offer Board Certification in psychoanalysis is not new. Beginning in 1998 a series of APsaA task forces were appointed to study the externalization of certification of individual analysts and each attempted to address the political and philosophical controversies within APsaA that surrounded certification by proposing the establishment of independent organizations that would take on some or all of this function. The conclusions of the task forces in 1998, 2006, and 2008 each included a recommendation that an independent body, separate from APsaA, should conduct certification. However, this recommendation was not adopted or implemented on any of those occasions.
In January 2012, the Task Force to Externalize Certification (TFEC) was appointed by the Chair of the Board of Professional Standards of APsaA, subsequent to a unanimous vote of the forty-one Fellows and was also supported by APsaA's President, President-elect and Secretary at that time. The tenor of the January meeting was best expressed by the then President-elect Robert Pyles when he stated that certification "has always been under political pressure and that external certification would have much more credibility in the eyes of the external world". The new Task Force to Externalize Certification was charged with the job of proposing how this could be done, to create an independent certifying agency, so certification in psychoanalysis would have the same status as certification in any other profession in the eyes of the public, other professions, and governmental agencies. A second, related goal emerged as the task force began its work: to support the educational and professional value of certification in and of itself, independent of whatever role it served within APsaA or other organizations.
There are several important reasons for an independent certification. An autonomous certification has greater public standing. It therefore allows the certifying body to present credentials to state legislatures to counter the efforts by other politically active psychoanalytic organizations representing psychoanalysts with more limited training and experience who wish to influence state licensing criteria. Furthermore, an independent certification board confers a credential more appropriate to the needs of the public, providing more widely accepted recognition of certified analysts while also promoting the professionalism of psychoanalysis. There are, in fact, nationally accepted guidelines for certifying agencies set by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
The Task Force studied the NCCA guidelines as well as the procedures of several certifying organizations. We learned that to be credible and publicly recognized, a certifying program must function completely autonomously and be free from “undue influence” from membership organizations, educational institutions that train applicants for certification or any other conflicting interests. To ensure that autonomy, the Task Force proposed establishing the American Board of Psychoanalysis as an independent corporation under whose auspices certification in psychoanalysis could be conducted. To further protect that autonomy, it would be written into the bylaws that sitting officers and fellows of BOPS, Council members and elected or paid officials of APsaA are ineligible to sit on the board. In addition, the ABP would be financially independent of APsaA or any other psychoanalytic organization.
At the January 2015 BOPS meeting Dr. Stacey Keller presented on the work of the TFEC since January 2012 and took two hours of questions. The Board on Professional Standards voted 41-1 in favor of approving the TFEC recommendations to implement the establishment of the American Board of Psychoanalysis (ABPsa). In June 2015 the TFEC, now formally the ABP, again presented to the Board on Professional Standards, with updates on the development of the organization, including its outreach to other psychoanalytic groups in our effort to create a fully inclusive, national certification organization. The ABP also reported on its efforts to make the transition from an internal certification process to an external board seamless for certification applicants.
The transitional ABPsa board has had the task of establishing the infrastructure of a new and autonomous corporation and has spent many hours clarifying the role and responsibilities of the ABPsa certification arena. Developing a mission statement, Bylaws, and setting policies and procedures of our main committees were our first tasks as a Board. Our organizational development continues, establishing clear scaffolding for our activities as we expand to meet our goal of becoming an inclusive national organization. We obtained 501c3 status and carried out a successful Phase I fundraising campaign. While the TFEC's operating costs came from the APsaA budget, the costs incurred by the ABPsa have been kept separate. The initial costs for creating a new corporation, website, etc. were paid for by the ABP board members themselves, with additional money raised by donations from supporters of an independent certification process. As an autonomous board, we were tasked with making the ABPsa financially independent. Therefore, the ABPsa is organized to be self-supporting, obtaining funding from donations and grants, as well as fees for certification, grandparenting and maintaining a registration on our website.
With our structure firming up, and our fundraising taking off, the ABPsa launched formal activities in July of 2015. An initial email to all APsaA members describing our organization was met mostly with curiosity. We began the opened the doors to grandparent all eligible certified analysts in late July and continue to explore the Grandparenting process. We launched our website, www.abpsa.org, in September 2015 and offered our first round of exams in January 2016. The ABPsa will provide the following program services: perform Certification Examinations, offer Grandparenting to eligible analysts, conduct Research and test development services, maintain a Registry of Certified psychoanalysts, and provide Verification of Certification status to the public.
To facilitate the transition, some members of the initial Task Force, are serving on the initial, transitional board, which will have a two-year term to complete the establishment of the infrastructure. After this term, members of the 15 person Board of Directors will serve staggered three-year terms. In addition to the chairs of the Certification Committee and the Research and Development Committee, regular board members will include certified adult psychoanalysts, certified child psychoanalysts, a public member and members with specific expertise related to the needs of the ABP. Diversity in areas such as gender, age, degree, geographical location and theoretical orientation will be promoted. Members of the Certification Committee, a subcommittee of the board, will conduct the combined written and oral certification examination, in which the examiners are the blind to the identity of the applicant, their supervisors and institute, and declared theoretical orientation. The examiners must themselves be certified psychoanalysts who will serve one to two three-year terms. Again, diversity of theoretical orientation and other characteristics in the examiners will be a priority. The board will oversee the work of the certification committee and will be responsible for maintaining a list of certified analysts in good standing with regard to ethics and licensure. This list will be available to the public on an ABP website.
Looking forward, the ABPsa hopes to continue its development as an autonomous, inclusive certifying organization. That goal has even greater salience now that the ABPsa has voted to make graduates of ACPE approved institutes eligible for certification. The ABPsa continues to welcome questions and input from all psychoanalysts. We will provide various venues for this input and will hold open annual informational meetings.