The European Psychoanalytical Federation (EPF) is a federation of 43 psychoanalytic societies that belong to the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) and are mainly located in the European region, but some are geographically located outside Europe. At first sight, this composition might appear strange, but the reason is not only related to the structures of the IPA but also to an understanding of European Culture. Authors like Edmund Husserl or Jorge Semprun suggested that the idea of Europe is extra-territorial and more of a spiritual figure, so that in this sense the very nature of the EPF constitutes a dialogical nature that includes the recognition of differences within its own organization. It is exactly this dialogic nature of the EPF that maintains its unity.
The EPF has an internal relationship to the IPA insofar as all individual members of the member societies of the EPF belong to the IPA. But there are two important aspects that differentiate the EPF from the IPA:
- the IPA is an organization of individual members, the EPF is a federation of psychoanalytic societies only. Of course, and nevertheless, all individual members belong to the EPF through their members societies.
- the IPA is a political association and regulator of training standards whereas the EPF is a scientific federation. Its aim is to serve as a forum for the mutual scientific exchange of Europe´s psychoanalysts – in order to maintain but also to develop and promote psychoanalysis as it was founded by Sigmund Freud.
The EPF has a history of over 50 years. It started with a prelude in the years between 1945 and 1964. In this period, European psychoanalysis had to be rebuilt after its almost total destruction as a consequence of WW II. Amongst other issues, the topic of psychoanalytic training and education in Europe was already central to all restructuring and newly evolving societies. The first Conference on Training Standards took place in Amsterdam 1960. After a preparation period between 1964-1965, the foundation period extended over nearly three years between 1966 and 1969. The EPF was founded at an inaugural meeting in Paris in 1966 which was a training conference. In the years up till 1969, the necessary organizational structure, including a Constitution, was worked out, and on 28 July 1969 a General Assembly of the EPF was held in Rome, at which the Constitution was ratified. Two days later, at a business meeting of the IPA in Rome on 30 July 1969, the European Psychoanalytic Federation was formally approved without reservation.
Since that time, the EPF has significantly evolved. It is beyond the scope of this introduction to provide details of the entire history. Rather, some crucial achievements will be highlighted. There were phases of crisis followed by survival. Nevertheless, the year 2000 became very important. Without neglecting all previous efforts and scientific contributions, the millennium brought a New Scientific Policy with a Ten Year Scientific Initiative. This project led to a new style of conference with a much broader participation of psychoanalysts in scientific and clinical exchanges. Different group structures were formed, that is, Ad Hoc, Forums and research-oriented Working Parties. The aim was not only to offer a space for scientific-clinical exchange, but also to establish a solid structure for scientific psychoanalytical publications.
Besides this, clinical working groups that had been founded in former years still continued their work being integrated into the structure.
This atmosphere of clinical exchange and scientific work in different forms is crucial and characteristic of the EPF up until today, and it has deeply influenced other regions of the IPA, like North America and Latin America, and the shape of the IPA congresses as well.
Another important development was the integration of Eastern European psychoanalytic societies into the EPF. Initially, this had started with the foundation of the Psychoanalytic Institute for Eastern Europe (PIEE) by the EPF in connection with the IPA. The institute was modified to the European Psychoanalytic Institute (EPI) which came to an end in July 2023. This end does not mean that all integrative work has already been done. But in the meantime, the Eastern European psychoanalytic societies have fortunately developed in a way that they can continue psychoanalytic education autonomously. Nevertheless, the EPF will provide further help in offering seminars and conferences that include analysts-in-training from all regions of Europe.
A decisive step was also made in the year 2015 when the up to then ‘nomadic life’ of the EPF came to an end. Until that year, all big and small conferences of the EPF had to be organized in ever changing cities of Europe. But in the year 2015, the EPF acquired a space of 400 square meters in Brussels which is now available to European analysts, and which is called the EPF house. Here, the EPF holds several of its small conferences, not only inviting groups of European analysts, but also groups from other regions of the IPA and interested university students as well.
The scientific life of the EPF today is characterized by the following activities:
- The annual conferences that are also accessible for interested guests in alternating cities of Europe.
- In connection with the annual conferences, the EPF edits the yearly EPF Bulletin which contains all keynote lectures and selected other presentations of the conference. The Bulletin is a rich source for scientific life and serves also as a precious archive for the EPF.
- The mainly internal, annual conferences in the EPF house, such as the Newly Qualified Analysts Seminar (NQAS), the Newly Qualified Training Analysts Meeting (NQTAM), the Forum on Education, but also the European Psychoanalytic Conference for University Students (EPCUS).
- The organization of Symposia in which psychoanalysts work on a specific topic with intersections to other scientific disciplines. After a first symposium in Berlin 2015 on the topic ‘Psychoanalysis in 2025’, the EPF organized a ‘Symposium on Time’ in the house in Brussels in 2022. Besides psychoanalysts, there were a physicist, a neuroscientist, and a historian who gave presentations that could be discussed in dialogue with psychoanalysts. The EPF house offers the opportunity to continue with these kinds of symposia in the future, and besides the internal development of psychoanalysis they will serve to increase and secure the visibility of psychoanalysis in the international scientific world as well as with the general public.
On our website, we invite you to learn more about the current scientific activities of the EPF and its member societies. As a member of an EPF or IPA society you can have access to all articles of the EPF Bulletin over the years and once registered, you can learn more about the internal structures of the EPF and also about its connection to the IPA. Our website serves the aim to inform about present activities of the EPF as well as to offer mutual exchange between member societies and their individual members, thereby always keeping the history of the EPF in mind while looking towards its potential projects in the future.
Dr. Heribert Blass, EPF President