The EPF/FEP: Policy and Objectives for the next four years
At its recent meeting in London the EPF/FEP Council agreed a set of principles and organisational strategies for the next four years. At the heart of these ideas four working groups will be constructed.
This document is divided into two parts:
A. A background discussion of the priorities for scientific policy.
B. A discussion of some of the organisational steps adopted by the Executive and the Council for achieving the proposed scientific policy.
A. Means to achieve scientific progress.
This section of the document aims to provide some background ideas as to the likely principles that will be applied best to facilitate achieving scientific progress in Europe.
A.1. General aims:
Working in Depth. Psychoanalysis as a discipline has tended to have some difficulty accumulating a deepening core of ideas and techniques about which there is consensus. Too often we seem to need to return to clarify what ought to be basics. There are some hopeful signs but there is also evidence in the growing pluralism that followed the breakdown of the previous authoritarian orthodoxy that the field may be disintegrating into superficially organised sub-groups with little in common but their aspiration to be called psychoanalysts,creating significant difficulties for clarity within the profession and in the interface with other professions. These difficulties are felt in the complex and rich cultural context of Europe as they are world-wide. But an aspiration we might have in Europe is that we have the clinical and intellectual resources to address them, if we can create the conditions to work rigorously together in depth. The ideas below, which focus on ways to increase the depth and rigor of our scientific activity, are intended to facilitate this potential.
Learning from each other. A major purpose of international meetings is to exchange ideas in detail and to learn from each other. It follows that these meetings should be organised to maximise the amount of careful preparation that takes place before meeting and the amount of time actually spent listening to each other discuss matters in depth. Listening in a European context means making sure we have the mean to communicate – high quality translation between the main languages whenever possible. We also want to be assured that those we chose to listen to are chosen on merit and are well prepared.
Developing motivation and rigorous self-sustaining initiatives. Original and creative work is unlikely to arise out of an invitation or opportunity to attend a casual conference session or two on a changing theme. Such meetings can stimulate a beginning but originality and creativity requires colleagues willing to worry away at issues and to develop thoughts at depth over sustained periods of time. Ideas need to be tested with data and also need to be capable of being noticed as wanting and so modified or rejected. By elaborating and fine-tuning ideas, and coming back to them again and again in a process of internal struggle and external debate, they become refined and deepened. Several colleagues working separately and together on common problems, comparing findings, constitute a self-sustaining workshop or group and have a higher chance of advancing thought and practice.
Small Groups. In order to move forward it seems likely that it will be necessary to share ideas and findings in such a way that difference can be adequately understood and addressed. A way to do this effectively might be to get small groups of colleagues from different contexts working together so that their understanding and appreciation of each other other’s ideas can grow over time. Work can be shared at a meeting, further refinement and development can take place over weeks and months and then there can be further sharing, etc. We want European colleagues to form productive cross-country and motivated interest groups, working rigorously and in depth.
Setting and monitoring objectives (research). We might judge the outcome of our meetings to be successful if, over time, we can see signs that our mutual understanding has developed so that it is demonstrably greater than now. We should set ourselves indicators of this and try to be ruthless with ourselves when we assess whether we have met them. Have we got beyond the old arguments, do we actually feel we have understood others better or got something more straight ourselves? We might also expect to see subsequent publications in peer-reviewed journals. We might also hope that future presentations or clinical work would be more profound and more thoughtful, demonstrably benefiting from the opportunity to make ideas more rigorous that arises from discussion with colleagues with different perspectives.
Peer Review and Publication. In most disciplines publication following rigorous cross-national peer review indicates that “new” work has occurred, judged to be so by colleagues. Rigorous cross-national peer review protects against “insider” prejudice and complacency. Work is put in the public domain to spark further work. Scientific events should have objectives and assessable outcomes that include the idea they will eventually facilitate new peer-reviewed publications. Ideas developed in small working groups over time should be worked out sufficiently rigorously to meet the tests of peer review and publication. They will then be subject to a wider review process with the possibility of further development. Similarly, ideas about different training methods or clinical innovation should lead to some form of implementation and systematic feedback about its effects.
IN SUMMARY: An EPF/FEP scientific policy should aim to encourage rigorous and sustained work between European colleagues in the member societies based on: working in depth; the encouragement of small well-motivated groups; continuity and assessment.
A.2. Some Specific Aims for Activity:
If we are to move forward rigorously and to develop ideas and practices it may help to focus ourselves on what we are trying to achieve. In discussion, based on the work that was concluded in the Council Meeting Lisbon in November 1999 and what we have been accustomed to attempt, we have found four specific preoccupations which might help us to focus our activity when deciding what to talk to each other about in European-wide meetings in the next few years:
1. Improved clinical work. We can expect to innovate and to achieve more secure and more effective clinical work by presenting what we do to each other and sharing findings so that we gain mutual confidence in them. There is an urgent need to clarify what are the core features of (a range of) effective psychoanalytic techniques and settings - for instance, for particular diagnoses (psychoanalytically or otherwise defined), for particular periods, at particular frequencies, for particular age groups, etc. We need to be clear both about what we think and the evidence we believe we have for thinking like that. All this includes clarifying what might be the differences between so-called psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy and the psychoanalysis of different mental states (neurotic, borderline, more psychotic, etc) or of different developmental phases – child, adolescent, and adult.
2.Improved educational activity. We can expect to innovate and to achieve higher standards of education by presenting how we achieve our results to each other and sharing findings and achievements. There is an urgent need to be clear and to assemble knowledge about what aspects of current training seem to be effective in achieving what particular objectives in particular circumstances and to establish the evidence for our thinking on these topics.
3.Theoretical clarification. We should seek to achieve greater clarity in our understanding of our different theories and their relationship to each other. In part this is a matter of language and all the assumptions that come with different conceptualisations and paradigms. The present pluralism in theory and the potential for weak or confused links between theory and practice runs the risk of great confusion and the loss of an identifiable “psychoanalysis”.
4. Linking our discipline to problems, concepts and structures in the wider world. We need to ensure that psychoanalysis is enriched by developments inhuman understanding in related disciplines. We must also ensure that the distinctive and core insights and practices of psychoanalysis, as a discipline and therapeutic endeavour, enrich and are understood in the wider society and culture. Our efforts to relate to neighbouring disciplines, to government, to university departments or psychiatric and other clinics, and to develop psychoanalysis (in Eastern Europe or in parts of Western Europe where few psychoanalysts are engaged) all depend on our own confidence that we have a solid core of scientific and clinical understanding to relate and develop. The work of clarifying our own theories and establishing secure parameters as to the essence of psychoanalytic clinical work, will be tackled in the work just identified above. A second requirement, however, is that we need to develop secure ideas about how to disseminate and diffuse psychoanalysis both as an area of intellectual and scientific endeavour and as a therapeutic activity. To achieve this goal we need to think through and to develop a good understanding of the efforts that have been attempted to disseminate psychoanalysis in new areas and regions, to develop links with other disciplines and institutions, and to discover and use its insights both therapeutically and intellectually. We have an urgent need to understand these aspects in relation to policy in Eastern Europe and relations with universities. Moreover, psychoanalytic understanding of social and political issues may help us with practical questions such as how, rigorously, to protect our own discipline and the freedom of thought on which it rests from some of the attacks that are often launched upon it.
IN SUMMARY: An EPF/FEP scientific policy might be focused on encouraging rigorous and sustained activities, securely backed by evidence, aimed at boosting improved clinical work, improved educational activity, clarification of theoretical positions and understanding of how best to try to diffuse our core discipline in the wider world.
B. Organisational implications and recommendations.
To implement the scientific policy objectives set out in section A the following practical steps have been agreed:
B. 1. The EPF/FEP will now create and monitor four steering groups as “think tanks”. Their task would be to assist the Council to monitor rigorously our efforts and to try to help to achieve a Europe-wide scientific programme based on the principles above – that is one which allows working in depth; the encouragement of small well-motivated groups; continuity and assessment.
Some ideas about these new working groups, which will need to be worked out in practice, are:
* The working groups would not be permanent and in time could be replaced by others on other topics. Their mandate would be renewed annually in the context of assessing their success.
* Each of the working groups would have a mandate with defined objectives and reporting schedules and would be asked to pay particular attention to identifying areas we need to discuss and research. They would have the task of suggesting topics, speakers and events for the EPF to organise and would pay particular attention to determining what work needs to be done to assess the support for particular ideas or procedures in the psychoanalytic field.
* The working group co-ordinators would be selected on the basis of their expected (practical) capacity to help the group manage their mandate. This would include the capacity to be sufficiently neutral on controversial questions to ensure they are addressed in an even-handed way.
* The members of the working group (best size 6 and maximum 9) would be selected on the basis of ability for the task and so that they were representative of different ideas and theoretical orientations.
* The working groups would work by email and post but would meet both at EPF events and, hopefully, at special “retreat” meetings.
* The working groups would seek to pose the key questions for debate and investigation in their specific activity area and would also be referred questions to consider by Council.
* The working groups would try to construct a list of relevant contemporary publications, research efforts, and issues in their specific area and would monitor what EPF supported work was resulting in peer reviewed publication.
* The work of the working groups would be made public both through the activities of the Bulletin Editor (including new methods) and through public meetings at main conferences. The results might be of particular interest to training institutes or for further dissemination.
* The working groups would seek to collect and co-ordinate information about the various meetings taking place all over Europe (organised by enthusiasts, societies, the EPF, IPA, etc) and be informed about and seek to disseminate information about their achievements.
* The Council, with the help of the Executive, would monitor the functioning of these groups.
* Working groups might be a place where the expertise of past and present Council members will be utilised, as discussed in Lisbon.
B. 2 The EPF/FEP will hold a main conference in 2002 and this should be the first of a new style conference which would most likely become an annual event held at the same fixed time of year (this time is currently under investigation) thereafter. The conferences would be new in the sense that they would involve a number of parallel themes and sessions in an attempt to implement the Policy objectives just discussed. (It is not yet finally decided that each year's meeting will be of the same format but there will be some kind of meeting at the same time each year.).
* A specific objective of the new style main conference is to provide a regular, enjoyable and exciting setting for meeting and learning from each other in small groups on a very wide range of topics.
* The small group and discussion panel work previously addressed in events like the Scientific Symposium, the Conference for Training Analysts, and the Conference and Colloquium for Child and Adolescent Analysis would become part of the main conference. New proposals for adolescent meetings (or other speciality topics) could be integrated into the meeting, as recommended by the Scientific Policy report and decided in Lisbon.
* The new style conference would permit a core group of European colleagues working in focused groups to get together regularly. There will thus be a number of parallel themes with colleagues working in a number of different areas seeking to develop Ideas In depth.
* The new style conference would allow both closed meetings of working groups (such as the new working groups - ref B1) and public ones augmented by whomever else from the membership wishes to come.
* Candidates and Colleagues from member societies and study groups in Eastern Europe (or in other places where psychoanalysis is newly developing) will be encouraged and enabled to play a full part and efforts would be made to create any necessary financial support in the budget for the main conference in addition to the existing efforts.
* Part of the logic of one meeting every year is that by concentrating several meetings into one allows financial resources and time to be concentrated. It may have some disadvantages but it would make the subsidy of participation by Eastern European colleagues more practical and effective. (It is cheaper on travel to meet less frequently for longer. Also fewer more regular conferences at a regular time may allow colleagues Europe wide to make a regular commitment to attend.)
B. 3 The Programme Committee will try to include some new elements in the 2001 Main conference to be held in Madrid (April 5-8).
* Arrangements are in hand for a clinical pre-congress at the headquarters of the Madrid Society and with their generous support.
* Arrangements are in hand to build in some events not necessarily connected to the main theme and to provide at least two time slots for additional meetings of small groups, the four working groups (if set up), etc.
B. 4 The EPF/FEP should encourage official and unofficial groups to meet locally and in inter-society meetings between Main Conferences.
B. 5 The Executive, if the new working groups work as hoped, will be able to be more creative and well informed in organising the meetings and to raise questions and see issues that need to be addressed. It will also be easier to assess the Executive’s work.
* The Executive is necessarily not able to have detailed scientific knowledge in different areas nor to spend much time investigating. It will, without working groups, and whatever its intentions inevitably tend to rely on personal knowledge and acquaintance. Very often Executive members cannot attend events because of other duties and will rarely be able to report in depth about them to each other. With four working groups, the Executive will be able to draw on their suggestions, albeit keeping a close eye on the merit and support for their suggestions.
* As the Executive will now have fewer events actually to manage it will have more time to be able to think about scientific issues. It will be able to concentrate on creating the conditions for the new working groups to get established, to help them develop questions and objectives, and to facilitate the evaluation and implementation of their ideas. This is consistent with the way the Executive function has been developing except that the Executive (as a group) might henceforth do less selecting of participants and topics. It will be able to consult with and monitor the working groups and might sometimes meet “in retreat” with them.
* The Executive would regularly report to Council on the progress each of the four activity working groups is making.
June 12th 2000.