Kernberg’s got ‘Street Cred’ by Nathan Szajnberg

Otto Kernberg’s got street cred: a former President of the IPA, one of our more accomplished researchers, prolific author, training analyst and faculty member of the Columbia Psychoanalytic Center. So, when he has something substantive to say about psychoanalysis, about our discipline, attention should be paid.

And Kernberg has much to say. He spoke on “The Twilight of the Training Analysis System,” at the January American Psychoanalytic meeting and an abbreviated, yet pointed version is in TAP (Spring/Summer 2013). (Link below).

He is not a Johnny-One-Note. He critiques the TA System: “..fostering idealization, submissiveness, a paranoid atmosphere, splitting, mechanisms, rebelliousness…infantilization of candidates, dogmatism, fearfulness and lack of scientific development and creativity.” He argues articulately each of these phenomena in this and previous articles, but many psychoanalysts can confirm his findings from our own experences, or from Kirshner and others accounts of Institutes.
He also articulates our internal problems: “multiple theories without any methodology to assess their true value, professional isolation and an uninspiring educational system. Wallerstein adds that our candidates are trained too late in their careers and in too late evening classes.

Further, Kernberg describes negative reactions to institutional psychoanalysis in other countries, in addition to the acrimonious, unproductive US bopping between BOPS and the APsa Executive Council (and many members).

We may not agree with all of Kernberg’s proposed solutions, but read them, think and let’s pursue a more productive path towards vibrancy of our discipline.

Click Here to Read:  Twilight of the Training Analysis System by Otto Kernberg in The American Psychoanalyst Volume 47 No. 2, 2013, pp. 3-4,

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4 Comments on “Kernberg’s got ‘Street Cred’ by Nathan Szajnberg”

  1. Henry Lothane Says:

    I strongly agree with the accolades given to Otto Kernberg’s passionate call for reform of the training system and appreciate Dr. Szajnberg’s and President Pyle’s positions in support of Kernberg. I have contributed to this debate in my article ETHICAL FLAWS IN TRAINING ANALYSIS published in: Psychoanalytic Psychology, 24(4):688-696, 2007.

    I would like to call attention to two issues in my paper that should be spelled out more clearly and forcefully than in Kernberg’s “Twilight of the TrainingAnalysis System”:

    (1) the ethical conflicts in an institutional analysis that has the dual goal of treatment and tranining;

    (2) the fact that the standards of APsaA are in conflict with other models of training endorsed by the IPA.

    No less thorny a problem is finding the consensus, energy, and resources needed for establishing an externalizing certification body on the model of certification adopted by the various certifying boards in medicine and psychiatry, let alone the still murky issue in NY State of certification by APsaA and the State Education Department in Albany.

    Henry Lothane

  2. Leon Hoffman Says:


    There is a profound difference between an authoritarian structure and an AUTHORITATIVE stance. It was interesting when Kernberg and other Columbia leaders spoke at APM a few months ago, they decidedly stated that authoritative=authoritarian in clinical education.

    Perhaps that is why Kernberg believes that the TA system is part of an authoritarian system rather than a part of an authoritative system.

    Every university, every organization has a system with a ladder structure and an authoritative system. Of course, there may be abuses. But, IMO, abuses can and do occur in a supposedly “democratic” system because sooner or later decisions and choices have to be made and, without an authoritative system, ad-hoc decisions based on cronyism are more likely.

    Where Kernberg is correct, and, as I wrote in a recent JAPA review about his most recent work, the lack of systematic research has been a huge problem, preventing the advancement of psychoanalytic ideas and practice.

    Kernberg is the one major theorist who has attempted to integrate clinical findings and systematic empirical findings.

    For that he must be heartedly congratulated. And, we must try to follow his lead.

  3. Tamar Schwartz Says:

    Comment from Henry Friedman:

    In the McCarthy era I learned a song that went “whose gonna investigate the man who investigates the man who investigates me”. This applies to our current system of screening for suitability to be a TA beyond certification and experience with patients. When we go there it has little to do with selecting the best and brightest, rather those in power select those who look and feel like them insuring not quality or reliability but insuring that those in the TA circle will reproduce themselves. Perhaps it is time for a book, “The Reproducing of Training Analyst(ship)” that will emphasize the way in which psychoanalysis is made reproducible at the cost of creativity. When the selection process allows those in power to select those who compliment them, are their favorites, or simply look like them we guarantee that ossification of the field is a likely outcome.


  4. Tamar Schwartz Says:

    Comment from Jane Hall:

    With all due respect to those responding to Otto Kernberg I can only say that as psychoanalysts we should be able to realize that the quest for power is the root of all these problems. We are enacting a childhood game and forgetting that as adults who have been analyzed there are other ways to diminish and to assuage anxiety. Civility seems beyond us as we run to the court to determine who gets the power prize. To think that we keep missing and disguising that fact may mean that psychoanalysis is a failure after all. Thought collectives have become a grown up way to distinguish teams. And we keep on playing and competing instead of cooperating as we fade into the sunset. Is this a clear sign that psychoanalysis really doesn’t work after all? Or is it that archaic theories and techniques become engraved in the minds of training analysts whose need for power keeps the profession in the dark, deprived of the light necessary to growth. I have heard too many stories about the need for second analyses. It is time to question finally just what a training analysis accomplishes. How many can honestly say that anything changed due to this kind of analysis? Wilhelm Reich warned that the negative transference had to be dealt with – but instead we keep on acting it out.


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