One of the lesser known facts about ACAP is that analytic training is available to people who do not live in ACAP’s immediate geographic area. I live in Washington State and completed the entire course from there, graduating in October, 2015. I was the first to complete analytic training in this manner at ACAP but most likely I will not be the last as other distance students will be graduating soon.
Most students at ACAP live no further than 30 miles from the campus, while I am living thousands of miles away. So, the model of distance training in psychoanalysis seemed atypical, indeed. I want to share a little bit about my experience and illustrate how it is possible to become a psychoanalyst and bridge the distance gap.
First of all, how does one even find an institute that offers distance training? In the 21st century all casual research seems to begin with a Google search and in this way I found a website for a psychoanalytic training institute in New Jersey that boasted distance learning. After a brief interview and participation in one of ACAP’s summer conferences, I was hooked and I decided to enroll.
At the first ACAP conference I attended, I learned about the unique style of teaching that essentially models analytic methods. Because this model is based on emotions and feelings, it was inherently satisfying to be at the conference and in workshops. I could hardly wait to start my first official class. While this type of training does not follow a mainstream educational pedagogy, for me it was educational and effective. Class readings were related to the topic and the syllabus reflected a certain frame but the actual time in class was spent in whatever meandering free associations that a group of students could conjure. Personal reflection in the form of class logs submitted to the instructor necessitated a recapture of the class in the mind of the student and with it, the associations to the readings. Sometimes it seemed helter-skelter, but it worked. Of course papers were required, and with those, a further opportunity for synthesis of knowledge and evolving emotional congruence.
My first classes were just over the phone with speaker phone technology but this was quickly eclipsed by video conferencing with better and better high speed and high resolution connections. When I started I could only hear the class; by the time I graduated, I could see them and they could see me. However even in the beginning and probably because of the skill of the analysts who were the instructors, I found a way to feel part of the class and felt like I had a presence and an impact. Nowadays, if someone wanted to train as a modern psychoanalyst through ACAP it would be already in the video conferencing medium – see and be seen, just like real life.
Besides the classes this training has two practicum components that had to be negotiated from a distance. The first is an externship where a student learns to understand the concept of emotional communication with a chronically mentally ill patient. The second practicum consists of working with several ambulatory patients under clinical supervision with two supervisors. One of the patients becomes the subject of an extensive treatise that is the exploration of a clinical question around motivation and psychic structure. I did it all successfully from nearly 3000 miles away!
I began psychoanalytic training and graduate work in psychology at the same time. While getting my masters’ degree in psychology, I became connected to a large mental health center that also had residential treatment. The staff there were quite welcoming to have me come and spend several hours a week with some of their residents. What a fantastic experience to apprehend the inner emotional state of people locked in their mind. Once through that training and by then also becoming a licensed mental health counselor, I began a part-time private practice and began to meet with some patients that served as my clinical training patients.
Throughout the training, the truth of the aphorism, “life is a journey – not a destination” became evident. As such, it is an odd feeling to have arrived at my destination. The program was full of challenges and satisfactions and the results are that I now feel very rewarded by the whole experience. I have a rich view of the human condition and a sense of my own capacity for emotional growth. ACAP’s distance learning option is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in psychoanalytic training who may not live near a training institute.