Date, venue, registration

The New Members Seminar (NMS) 2017 of the EPF (European Psychoanalytic Federation) will take place from 18th to 21th of May in the EPF House in Brussels. To understand the working method and structure of this seminar please read the following report about the 2016 seminar. If you are a relatively "new" associate member and are interested to participate please contact the president of your EPF society which may support your projet by contributing also to your travel expenses.


Report about the 2016 seminar

This year’s New Members Seminar (NMS) of the EPF (European Psychoanalytic Federation) took place from June 2nd to June 5th. Mirjam Wäffler (Zürich) and I (Bern) were invited as representatives of the Swiss Society of Psychoanalysis. I received the invitation in mid-April, that is, at quite a short notice. I had acquired the associate membership mid-March, and up to then, I had never been aware of the NMS. Nevertheless, it was immediately clear to me that I must participate, this being a unique opportunity to study and to socialize in an open European environment. As candidates, both Mirjam and I had been able to collect valuable experiences within the framework of the IPSO (International Psychoanalytic Studies Organization). Thus, we had already savoured the international “nectar”; and as you know, whoever has had of taste of it will be reluctant to give it up!  Thus, we were ready for a sequel on a membership level. Incidentally, let me note that many countries in Europe are not familiar with the status “associate member”, and only distinguish between the two categories “member” and “training analyst”. Therefore, on the European and international level, our “associate membership” is equal to a full membership.

The concept of the seminary was quite simple: 24 participants from 13 countries (Europe, including Israel) were divided into four groups, each doing clinical work with a supervisor – simultaneously or by rotation. The groups were deliberately mixed, i.e. they included representatives from as many different countries as possible. Hence, we Swiss participants would only meet during our leisure time; nevertheless, communication on a national basis was not missed out. The four supervisors were Anna Ferruta from Italy, Eva Schmid-Gloor from Switzerland, Christoph Walker from Germany (DPV) and Franziska Ylander from Sweden. Each participant provided a psychoanalytic case and made it available to the group and the supervisor for clinical work during 90 minutes. I myself worked in a group with a male participant from Great-Britain, a Lithuanian and a Belgian female colleague, a Frenchman and a German. The working language was English, or, as Eva Schmid-Gloor termed it, “EPF-English”. All told, each group worked with each supervisor for six 90 minutes sessions.

The intensity of our work did not interfere with our full-scale enjoyment of leisure time. We all resided in the same hotel close to the new EPF house, which hosted the seminar. The hotel had a beautiful garden, abundant with birds, attuning us to the European polyphony in the early morning, when everybody would meet and converse freely at breakfast. Because, interestingly, national group formations were scarce, English was the preferred language. Each participant claimed his own working group to be the “best catch”. On two evenings, the organizers planned a fine dinner at a special restaurant for all of us, and one afternoon was reserved for a tour of the city. On the first evening and for lunch most participants would eat at a restaurant in the neighbourhood. Our  psychoanalytical “hunger” for “other equals”, a tremendously exciting blend of the familiar and the unfamiliar, was palpable.

We found it amazing that, considering the fact that most of us had quite a clumsy command of the English language, we had no problems in making ourselves understood – even the subtleties of the psychoanalytic sessions we presented to one another were easy to impart. In my opinion, having to negotiate linguistic meanings did not impede our work – on the contrary. Nevertheless, I would like to hold on to the fact that  good mastery of the English language is a prerequisite for a satisfying participation at the seminar.

As presenters, we greatly benefited from the group and the supervisor. The supervisors took pains to promote group collaboration, thus allowing for a working process. Occasionally, at the beginning of the seminar, the heterogeneity of the group did prove to be an impediment. But after a short time, the hurdles became bridges, enabling a common structure.

Another – perhaps more unfamiliar – type of learning which we were able to experience was learning from others. Needless to say, our rather unrefined clichés were confirmed after quite a short time: The French colleagues rarely intervene, and if so, preferably in a “primary process-like” manner – and rather briefly. The German speaking colleagues take the liberty of frequent intervention, and at times they stick closer to their emotions, but, by their manner of formulating, they risk reaching deadlock within the secondary process. The British colleagues, for their part, are mostly engaged with the here-and-now of countertransference, and remain sceptical towards the recourse to the past,  often perceiving it as a kind of resistance, and moreover, they are likely to keep silent as often as the French, etc. The confirmation of these caricatures was, of course, far less important than our ability to sense the processes and reflexions which were at the basis of such differences. We thus had the opportunity to observe from a close range how analysts from other cultures work, and, resting upon these experiences, we were able to reconsider our own work-style, to experiment with a new style, to maintain or to relinquish what was familiar. This fact became quite obvious in the subsequent exchange of emails, which would continue after the seminar: While one participant might, upon his return, pay closer attention to his formulations, the other would reconsider his or her use of keeping silent or speaking, etc. All writers continued to feel invigorated by the group when they were back home, or, to use a colloquialism, they felt “backed by them”. This learning method truly differs from individual supervision. Of course, we also use the same method in groups of our own institute, but in a culturally diverse group it becomes more pronounced and tangible. We see ourselves with the eyes of the other. While this may be a painful process, once we are ready to expose ourselves to it, it will prove to be very beneficial.

To conclude, I would like to add a little example, which illustrates the above-mentioned process. On one of the evenings, after an ample meal, some of us met at the hotel bar for digestive drinks. The British participants suddenly expressed their astonishment: What, you really shake hands with your patients at the beginning and at the end of the session? It appears that British persons consider shaking hands to be something greatly more intimate and thus, compared to other Europeans, it is not really customary in Great Britain. What is the meaning of a handshake for us? I wasn’t even aware of shaking hands with our patients. Now that I am, I am able reflect upon it. This is EPF! With this final handshake we would like to give our heartfelt thanks to everyone who made this seminar and this experience possible for us. Correspondingly, we hope we have succeeded in inspiring and encouraging future “New Members” to participate.