In this first-of-kind book, edited by a BPSI Member, Fred Busch, PhD, senior psychoanalysts from around the world offer personal reflections on their own training, what it was like to become a psychoanalyst, and what they would like most to convey to the candidate of today. With forty-two personal letters to candidates, this edited collection helps analysts in training and those recently entering the profession to reflect upon what it means to be a psychoanalytic candidate and enter the profession. Letters tackle the anxieties, ambiguities, complications, and pleasures faced in these tasks. From these reflections, the book serves as a guide through this highly personal, complex, and meaningful experience and helps readers consider the many different meanings of being a candidate in a psychoanalytic institute.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction by Fred Busch (USA) 2. Arthur Leonoff (Canada) 3. Michael Diamond (USA) 4. Roosevelt Cassorla (Brazil) 5. Eric Marcus (USA) 6. Cláudio Laks Eizirik (Brazil) 7. Theodore Jacobs (USA) 8. Paola Marion (Italy) 9. Otto F. Kernberg (USA) 10. Stefano Bolognini (Italy) 11. Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau (USA) 12. Abel Fainstein (Argentina) 13. Jay Greenberg (USA) 14. Heribert Blass (Germany) 15. Elias de Rocha Barros (Brazil) 16. Elizabeth de Rocha Barros (Brazil) 17. Daniel Jacobs (USA) 18. Eike Heinz (Germany) 19. Alan Sugarman (USA) 20. Paola Golinelli (Italy) 21. Allannah Furlong (Canada) 22. Barbara Stimmel (USA) 23. Abbot Bronstein (USA) 24. Cecilio Paniagua (Spain) 25. Ellen Sparer (France) 26. Harriet Wolfe (USA) 27. Maj-Britt Winberg (Sweden) 28. Arlene Kramer Richardson (USA) 29. Gohar Homayounpour (Iran) 30. Ines Bayona (Colombia) 31. Donald Moss (USA) 32. Virginia Ungar (Argentina) 33. Arnold Richards (USA) 34. Ellen Pinsky (USA) 35. H. Shmuel Erlich (Israel) 36. Bent Rosenbaum (Denmark) 37. Fredrick Perlman (USA) 38. Claudia Borensztejn (Argentina) 39. Jane Kite (USA) 40. Gabriela Goldstein (Argentina) 41. Eva Schmid-Gloor (Switzerland) 42. Adriana Prengler (USA, Venezuela) 43. Rachel Blass (Israel) 44. Donald Campbell (England) 45. P.S. (Fred Busch)

Below are the excerpts from the letters, selected and edited by Fred Busch:

Arthur Leonoff (Canada): As much as I have felt the need at various points to reflect on my analytic training, to revisit its valuable teachings, I have also had to work through experiences of disillusionment. I also understand better now why analysts work well into their old age and sometimes through it. There is the excitement in being an analyst – the capacity to help people deeply, to inch them towards deeper change, to learn what has been previously unknowable, all the while further refining one’s analytic capacity that continues to grow. It is hard for me to imagine giving this up as long as there are patients willing and eager to work with me and profit from what we as a group of committed clinicians have to offer.

Claudio Eizirik (Brazil): A suggestion to you: try to participate in the meetings of your Institute and Society, dare to ask questions and make comments at the seminars, don`t accept anything without raising your doubts, when it`s the case. If you think a concept is strange, unjustifiable or even ridiculous, share your ideas and ask for clarification. One of my colleagues recently told me that when a paper fails to portray extensively Freud´s main concepts, there are always colleagues who consider themselves the guardians of the cathedral, and sometimes react as inquisitors. Do not feel intimidated. Freud was not like that, he was always able to question, change and discuss. The wish to change from one analyst or supervisor to another was something unthinkable, when I was candidate. In fact, I do not remember a single situation of the kind. I do not think it is an easy process, but it is seen as a possible thing today, and a necessary one, when the analytic couple does not work well together.:

Daniel Jacobs (USA): Your analytic education is an exercise in uncertainty—and in learning to tolerate that “not knowing.” Not knowing what your analyst really thinks of you. Not knowing how you will pay off your educational loans. Not knowing whether you will have an analytic practice after so much effort, an effort that leaves youwondering if you should be at home with your family instead of at seminars. Uncertainty is the rule of candidacy. Competing psychoanalytic theories can also confuse as much as they clarify. And how about the lack of clarity as a beginner in how to analyze? How does one even get to do analysis, find a patient who is willing to undergo intensive treatment? It seems to me that many of youmay be taking classes and discussing theory and technique without having an analytic patient, without perhaps having been in analysis long enough yourself to appreciate the process. That makes it hard for some of you to have the necessary conviction that a patient could benefit from an analysis. Without personal knowledge springing from your own experience, it is hard to convinceanother of its value. And if one has an analysand, that raises uncertainty as to whether he or she will stay in analysis long enough to provide the needed credits toward graduation. 

Heribert Blass (Germany): This leads me to the question of anxiety in psychoanalytic education. I think anxiety is unavoidable. Of course, I was also anxious about how I and my psychoanalytic work would be assessed by my supervisors and my fellow candidates. And I was also worried if I could understand my patients well enough. I still have this worry every day. But I would like to distinguish between anxiety asa helpful signal of never being too sure and anxiety as a fear of disapproval and exclusion. The latter paralyzes one’s own feelings and thoughts. So, I would like to encourage you to be anxious in a caring sense, but not anxious in the form of submission. Be open to your teachers, but do not follow them blindly. Rather dare to discuss difficult analytical processes with them and hopefully findcommon solutions instead of either submitting or superficially agreeing and then doing something else. This includes dealing with mistakes.

Abel M. Fainstein (Argentina): I am fortunate to have been trained in and to have been part of an institution that has been around for seventy-five years and has for the last forty-five years had a system of educational and academic freedom. Following the ambition of Angel Garma, one of the institute’s founders, this has allowed for programs to be open to the interest of each colleague in training and to all those who desire to teach. I recommend the experience, and if the institute in which you train does not have the aforementioned system, you can complement your teachings with people and topics of your interest at any time outside of the institute, even while looking for analysts for reanalysis or supervisors. I think that my three personal analyses over many years has been the pillar of my own training. However, from my point of view, this is something that cannot be imposed; it should come from the motivation of anyone who feels a vocation toward our work.

Personally, I fulfilled the institutional requirement. Afterwards, however, I searched for a renowned analyst, although I did so outside of the institutional framework. I recommend that experience, also for supervising clinical cases. Our training, as I said before, filiates us. However, we should be aware of the weight of imaginary identifications that, far from training us, create prostheses or false selves if we do not work permanently on disidentification. 

Roosevelt Cassorla (Brazil): The other day, you told me euphorically that one of the assessors of your clinical report said: “Your text is perfect. I have no questions to ask and nothing to add”. You were proud and I know that you wanted to share your happiness with me. You found it strange that I didn’t seem pleased, and since we have a close relationship you asked me “what was the matter?” I am initiating this dialogue in writing, but I am sure that we will address this in greater depth when we meet. Your perception was correct. I felt affected and ill at ease and was unable, at that point in time, to put my thoughts into words. I shall explain: a “perfect” work of psychoanalysis, one which doesn’t raise any questions or problems, cannot be good work. Flawless analytical sessions and texts do not exist. I have encountered situations before when I have thought that the presenter has glossed over their own interventions. This gloss conceals, yet it also reveals. The psychoanalytically trained listener doubts the truthfulness of the account.

Ellen Pinsky (USA): When I was a candidate, my friends and I used to play a game that goes like this: Imagine that the entire psychoanalytic literature is destroyed tomorrow. Psychoanalysis vanishes, but you can bury a time capsule to be dug up after a few hundred years. Into that capsule you can put some papers—a handful of short works, or excerpts from longer works, ten or twelve brief pieces atmost, that people of the future might use to reconstruct psychoanalysis. What do you put in the imaginary capsule?In the process of creating, and re-creating, your capsule, you are not only tracking your own development as a psychoanalyst, you are also preserving the discipline. Perhaps most important, you are writing a letter you would send to future generations of aspiring psychoanalytic students, in this way connecting you to past and to future. (I think here of Freud’s melodic sentence in “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming,” about phantasy, or daydreams, and the function of a child’s play: “Thus past, present and future are strung together, as it were,” Freud writes, “on the thread of the wish that runs through them” [1908, 148].) 

Otto Kernberg (USA): Not knowing you, only permits me to answer some of the many questions you may have at this point, and to be cautious about unsolicited advice. To begin: it is well worth to become a psychoanalyst at this time, when psychoanalysis is widely being questioned and criticized – sometimes with good reason (more about that, later). Psychoanalysis, I believe is the most profound and comprehensive theory about the functions, structure, development and pathology of the human mind. It also provides a spectrum of psychoanalytically based psychotherapies, including the classical or standard psychoanalytic treatment, and several derived, empirically validated psychotherapies. And it is a unique potential instrument for research on the mind.

Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau (USA, Switzerland): You’ve made a great choice when you decided to go for psychoanalytic training! To work with the human mind is endlessly fascinating. No two patients are the same, even if they carry the same diagnosis. To trace the particular defense strategies of your patients’ ego when faced with challenge and opportunity, and to experience the emergence of their unconscious fantasies and infantile theories will always reward you with awe and amazement. As much suffering as a patient may put on your couch or chair, to eventually access and resolve together the unconscious core-conflicts and beliefs that are at its root, will enlighten both of you with pleasure. And not to forget: which other profession would allow you to linger on dreams, to look at their intricate layers of meaning, and enjoy the beauty, wit, and even the archaic bluntness of their imagery? Since this complexity is what makes psychoanalysis such an intriguing profession, it is obviously a daunting task to study it.

Stefano Bolognini (Italy): In short, if I compare my early situation as a Candidate with yours, I would say we had probably more grandiose idealizing illusions (such as being somehow “pioneers”, easily recruiting needy patients asking for being rescued via classical treatment, dealing with a univocal, undisputable theory all explaining, etc.) to be progressively reduced and realistically proportioned by experience; while you can have today more consistent and refined analytic instruments, a more advanced professional community and a different awareness of the contemporary psychoanalyst on how the human mentality, uses, interior organization and availability to invest are rapidly changing in the relational attitude of the subject towards the object.What instead remains substantially unchanged, in my opinion, is that analysts are in fact the only owners of the keys of the door to the unconscious, and the only possible guide for a patient needing deep and stable changes in his/her life.Isn’t this enough for motivating you to become such a specialist, exactly as it was 40/50 years ago?

Jane Kite (USA): And then there’s the central importance of your own analysis in this process. I firmly believe, based on experience, that in order to be deeply interested as an analyst in someone else’s story, someone else has to have been deeply interested in you. Some of us have had parents who were interested in us, and others haven’t. For those of us who haven’t, in particular, the analyst’s interest is crucial. And by “deeply interested” I don’t mean just liking; I mean being interested in raising the wreck – getting to the bottom of it. This is the job description of being an analyst. It is a form of commitment unlike any other. It is a process that is never complete, but having some idea that it’s possible, and how to do it, is essential. Your own experience of analysis is crucial in becoming an analyst yourself, with supervision as a close second. It has been said thatevery supervision is the chance for another analysis. The presence of the supervisor as a third term in your work with patients and often in your own analysis is vital. The combination of analysis and supervision offers (or should offer) infinite ways of refracting your own experience of being a person and an analyst, something that just doesn’t happen in “real life.” If you read the psychoanalytic literature carefully, you’ll find that the trajectory of any one analyst’s writing—in addition to its subject—maps the course of that analyst’s personal development. It is also helpful to go back into analysis with another as needed. You are never done, and there is always more to learn. I’ve always found this point to be uniquely reassuring. I think it’s safe to say that my interest in psychoanalysis could be described as a love affair. It has to start with an “other,”but with luck it will continue privately for the rest of your life.  

Michael Diamond (USA): What begins in candidacy will hopefully grow into a career-long project to develop your capacity to work with unconscious material and appreciate the life of the psyche. Yet, this will invariably test your ability to tolerate uncertainty, confusion, insecurity, and intense feelings, often in ways that entail considerable vulnerability.  Additionally, particularly through helpful supervisory experiences and your personal analysis, you must reckon with your ability to tolerate disappointment, responsibility, and manage narcissistic investment in your work, often in great inner solitude. Despite the intimacy within analytic space, we are unutterably alone in the deepest and most important aspects of our work. Your solitude as an analyst must become an anchor where you can eventually find your way, often amid turbulent and unfamiliar conditions that candidacy can help you learn to accept and even bear with curiosity. One way of maintaining its vitality is, in my opinion, to encourage ourselves to rethink, to question each and every one of its concepts in light of the epochal changes as well as contributions from other disciplines.

Rachel Blass (Israel): While psychoanalysis offers an understanding of the person that falls into the field of psychology, and a practice that could be considered a form of therapy, the unique nature of the psychological understanding and therapeutic practice that it offers also shapes a profound ethical vision. We can and should, in my view, be motivated by this vision. I consider this vision to be one regarding the power of truth and of love. It proposes that failure to know oneself, one’s inner truths, is what lies at the foundation of psychic disorder, and analytic cure is to allow the patient to come to know these previously unknown, unconscious, truths. Coming to know truth in this context is not simply an intellectual matter, but rather involves the integration of parts of ourselves; it means a lived experience of these parts. And it is also a motivated act, as is the failure to come to know. That is, we, in a sense “choose” to know and “choose” to deny and, in this sense, we are also responsible for our psychic suffering, and the suffering we cause others as a result. In other words, what I’m emphasizing here is that psychoanalysis provides the person with a way to know and be oneself—to choose to live truthfully, to take responsibility for whom one is and what one does. This is an ethical aim, and to become an analyst is to embrace it. Therapeutic relief through analysis, in this context, is only a derivative of striving toward this analytic aim—one of its important benefits. That is, to be an analyst, as I see it, is not to seek the best ways toward symptom relief but to be part of a search for the deepest integration of the patient’s unconscious mind, of the truths with which at bottom he struggles. 

Virginia Ungar (Argentina): Just one personal point: I started to attend local, regional and international scientific meetings early on and this opened up my mind in a way that only recently, in the position that I now occupy in the IPA, I realise was the start of the journey that brought me to where I am today. I don’t want to give an idealised picture of my training, however. Again, I say that there was a lot of effort and dedication in those years, and time scraped from wherever possible, especially family life. I had excellent teachers, and some not so. I had wonderful supervisors who were as generous as they were demanding. My colleagues said that I chose the most difficult ones, but from them I learnt during my clinical experience so much about psychoanalysis. Above all, however, and being faithful to Bion, I learnt through experience what it is to be dedicated to a task and to have a passion for psychoanalysis. 

Alan Sugarman (USA): It is important that you find an analyst with whom you feel comfortable being brutally honest about the workings of your mind as well as the ways you work with your patients. Unfortunately, this does not always happen in one’s training analysis. If it doesn’t, seek another analysis when you can. For me, my third analysis, when I was already an established analyst, is the one that truly helped me to know and master my deepest conflicts. As expected, my clinical work improved remarkably. For this reason, my parting words will be to remember Freud’s suggestion that we all be reanalyzed periodically. Do not shy away from another analysis if you find that you are getting in your own way at any point in your analytic career.   

While this book is geared toward candidates and those entering the profession, analysts at all levels might be inspired to think, once again, about this impossible but fascinating profession. 

Candidate Endorsements

“It is possible that you will be surprised and educated by what you find in this book. Determination, kinship, wisdom (and some heartbreak) walk hand in hand through its pages with a rousing breadth, unlikely to be available at a single institute. The writers of the letters have been generous with their experience. Agreements emerge: the profound value of personal analysis, free from artificial institutional requirements, and the necessity of steeping oneself in the literature. Another voice is also audible. Readers of Dante will hear: ‘Retain all hope, ye who enter here’––much hardship awaits you, as do human splendors.” ~ Charles Baekeland, I.P.S.O. President-elect

“As I have done, I strongly encourage you to immerse yourself in the pages of this book. The words—I mean the thoughts, the feelings, tales and experiences—here come as in a dream dreamt at night; once afar, now close. We want to hear what they want to say. More than that, deep inside some place of ours, we need to. Our psychoanalytic/symbolic fathers, mothers, those who walked the path a little ahead, before us, turn back and tell us a bit of what they saw. So here they come. As the I.P.S.O. current editor, I could not have hoped for more, than to tell you now: let’s go there together. I invite you, my colleague, to this chorus: Dear analyst, ‘Talk to me like the rain, I will lie here and listen,’ as the man in the play by Tennessee Williams would say.” ~ Cláudia Antonelli, GEP Campinas, Brazil

Dear Candidate is a truly moving book which brings to life the real and personal aspects of analytic training and life beyond training. Like a good analysis, the journey of reading through the letters stirs one up while at the same time provides encouragement and curiosity for the many conflicting emotions encountered during candidacy. Unlike any work thus far in analytic literature, this book is a guide on how to have compassion for one’s internal and external world as a candidate and future analyst. A powerfully rich book that every candidate should read at the beginning and end of candidacy. Dear Candidate will surely prove to be a comforting companion to candidates around the globe during psychoanalytic training for years to come.” ~ Angela Vuotto, Secretary of the American Psychoanalytic Association Candidate Council

“I enthusiastically read this compendium of analyst letters to candidates,hailing from the three I.P.A. regions (Latin America, North America and Europe), assimilating the work not as institutional missives but rather as personal communiques with building thematic overlays. I was impressed by their overarching tone of compassion and generosity of spirit. The letters are instructive to the current generation of candidates, emphasizing the evolution of analytic teaching and thinking. Many letters highlight the vital need for candidates to gain analytic exposure and training outside their institutes or societies, as being foundational and invaluable to their growth as analysts, with some letters emphasizing the crucial role of active involvement with the I.P.A.’s candidate organization, I.P.S.O. (International Psychoanalytical Society Organization).” ~ Kathryn McCormick, I.P.S.O. President

About the Editor

Fred Busch, PhD, is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. He is the author of many important books: The Analyst’s Reveries: Explorations in Bion’s Enigmatic Concept (2019), Creating a Psychoanalytic Mind (2013), Rethinking Clinical Technique (1998), The Ego at the Center of Clinical Technique (1995). Click here to listen to Fred Busch’s discussion of Dear Candidate on the IPA “Talks on Psychoanalysis” podcast recorded on Jan 21, 2021.

Members and partners can borrow this and other books by Fred Busch from the BPSI library.