Psychoanalysis is about powerful ideas and vivid individual stories that help stimulate creativity, identify opportunity, and ultimately reduce suffering. Beginning in nineteenth century Vienna it has often embodied bold ideas. From the start, it offered humane alternatives to an era with limited treatments for emotional and mental illness (e.g., asylums for the insane, lobotomy, intentional overdosing with insulin). Fully aware that contemporary psychoanalysis could not look like its nineteen-century progenitor nor its rigid, medical school-based training programs of the 1940s and 1950s, the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis (NYU Postdoc) opened its doors in 1961. NYU Postdoc’s mission was to provide a more progressive and humanistic psychoanalytic education infused with intellectual freedom and theoretical pluralism, with innovative education practices, and has never stopped adapting, evolving, and revolutionizing.
Unlike most psychoanalytic training programs, which remain independent, freestanding institutes akin to technical trade schools or monasteries, we have enjoyed remarkable success in the NYU setting. NYU Postdoc has not only led the field in psychoanalytic scholarship, recruitment, and impact, but we are now receiving validation from conservative organizations and programs for our far-ranging and cutting-edge curriculum, our internationally acclaimed adjunct faculty, and our stellar student body. As an education center with deep scholarly and humanistic values, we are poised to be the international leader in psychoanalytic education.
Recent global and national events -- the COVID pandemic, racial injustices, the rise of authoritarianism, climate change, extreme wealth inequality, and a rampant mental health crisis (take your pick!) -- have underscored the need to apply psychoanalytic ideas to social, as well as clinical problems. Our program has a tradition of engagement with these issues, and we are poised to have even more of an impact at this critical time if given the right opportunities and tools.
We do understand that in the past, NYU had eliminated its once leading doctoral programs in clinical psychology, community psychology, counseling psychology, and school psychology. Today, many psychology doctoral programs across the country are seriously lacking in intellectual diversity. It is rare to find programs that provide more than minimal training for graduate students in varied therapeutic interventions and community mental health work. This, coupled with contemporary psychiatry’s troubled search for the biology of emotional suffering and mental illness, has led to slanted practice and narrowed science.
In contrast, the Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis has continued to flourish. Moreover, it has come to be recognized by the Accreditation Council for Psychoanalytic Education, the nation's foremost evaluator of psychoanalytic training programs, as a leader in its field. For decades now, we have provided both didactic courses and intensive clinical psychoanalytic training for doctoral-level mental health practitioners and now have more than 600 graduates. We have an internationally recognized faculty, noted both for their clinical acumen and for their scholarship, and the publications of our faculty and graduates rank among the most cited worldwide, as determined by PEP-Web (Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing Web), an online collection of psychoanalytic publications that tracks their usage.
The Program is one of the very few university-based psychoanalytic training programs in the world. Its academic perspective is evident in its curriculum, which provides for exploration of the several often competing theoretical approaches that characterize contemporary psychoanalysis as a theory and a clinical practice. It is in this way unique among most other psychoanalytic training programs, which tend to emphasize a particular theoretical perspective. It remains a matter of principle that students are never to be required to declare allegiance to one or another point of view but to be free to explore without prejudice the various offerings in the program as a whole. While NYU Postdoc comprises several theoretical schools, we are united in one very important respect: fundamentally, whatever the theory under scrutiny, we are in essence, first and foremost, a humanistic program.
Our humanistic values are evident in all quarters of the Program. For example, we are engaged in human rights work with asylum seekers and Afghanistan survivors of the Taliban. To this end we are affiliated with Physicians for Human Rights, the NYU School of Law, and the American University of Afghanistan (in Kabúl). Moreover, diversity, equity and inclusion are a priority. Since 2002, we have held two conferences on race with an emphasis on the clinical and the social. As part of our curriculum, we regularly offer courses on race led by our BIPOC faculty. We also conduct a special race seminar with faculty presenting their work. Titled “Race in Clinical Practice” this seminar is open to all members of NYU Postdoc our community. Our ongoing Clinic Symposium features numerous meetings around race. We have a special interest group, the Committee on Ethnicity, Race, Class, Culture and Language whose mission is to raise awareness of diversity issues throughout the entire Program. And in early 2020, we established an Intersectionality Task Force to also assist us as a Program.
Vision and Mission
Our vision is to be a model for a vital, engaged, multifaceted psychoanalysis based on humanistic values, scientific rigor, and academic excellence. Our mission is to maintain our current excellence in training psychoanalysts and to continue to recruit outstanding faculty who are leaders in the psychoanalytic field. Further, we recruit outstanding candidates who will be future contributors and leaders. We aim to provide a rich and diverse learning environment that supports the evolving legacy of psychoanalysis and its value for addressing 21st century challenges.
Spyros D. Orfanos, PhD, ABPP
New York University
Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis
240 Greene Street, Third Floor
New York, NY 10003