Vamık D. Volkan, M.D., DLFAPA, FACPsa.

Vamık Volkan, M.D.
As I finish my tenure as president of the American College of Psychoanalysts, I would like to share with the members an overview of the organization’s initiatives this year and some personal thoughts about the College and about psychoanalysis. Serving as president gave me an opportunity to know our Board members well and to appreciate their dedication in maintaining the College as a home, away from politics, for scholarly-oriented psychoanalysts with a medical background. I am also very pleased that the College has continued, under the leadership of Ralph Beaumont and David Edelstein, Chair and former Chair of the Program Committee, to prepare an excellent scientific meeting.
During our last Board meeting one key topic was to make the College’s available funds more secure in order to feel comfortable about the College’s future. I appreciated the treasurer and former President Phil Lebovitz’s efforts and Board members’ careful considerations in this area.
Our efforts to maintain and build membership continue. Jerome Blackman, as the head of our Honors Committee, has begun a new process of keeping close contact with the former Laughlin Fellows, encouraging them to continue their interest in psychoanalysis and in the College. Diane Birk worked diligently as the new Chair of the Membership Committee to recruit new members. Also, in order to increase collegiality and communication among the members, we considered more creative utilization of our website and the Newsletter. David Edelstein recently joined Dean Brockman as co-editor of the College Newsletter, and they have already started a new effort to improve dialogue among College members. They have published, in this Newsletter edition, brief statements by two members, myself and Fred Levin, on current topics of interest along with an invitation to other members to send responses.
We have decided to open the morning plenary sessions during our annual meetings to nonmembers and younger colleagues in training and will do so for the fi rst time during our next annual meeting in New Orleans. I like this development very much since it will give us an opportunity to build bridges with other psychoanalysts and mental health professionals and introduce them to the College’s role in providing leadership that explores a wide range of current psychoanalytic subjects. In the afternoons we will have colloquia that will be open to members only, so they have time to interact among themselves. Of course, our traditional reception and Gala banquet in the evening will include honoring the Laughlin Fellows as well as psychoanalysts and other scientists who have made significant contributions to further understanding the human mind.
Often in recent years, the Board has focused on the fact that the nature of the College has been changing, primarily because of the decline in the number of psychoanalysts with medical backgrounds serving as chairpersons or faculty members in the ranks of psychiatry departments. Also, the College members’ attendance at our annual scientific meetings has declined. Partnering with other organizations and arranging joint panels were ideas considered and carried out to increase the attendance at our annual meetings. I suspect that such endeavors will continue. On the other hand, during my presidency, I sensed that the College became more interested in keeping its “independence.” The Board searched for new ways to increase the members’ enthusiasm for our annual meetings and interactions between member colleagues. Besides changes in the Newsletter and website and the initiative to contact the past Laughlin Fellows, we also made a point of including members and honorary members from overseas in our organization. Most of these new members will join us in New Orleans and one of them, Prof. Işıl Vahip from Ege University in Izmir, Turkey, will present an interesting paper that will hopefully open a discussion on how cultural, historical and religious factors enter into analyst-analysand relationships. I hope that this development will bring a new vitality to our organization and that we will soon find other distinguished foreign psychoanalysts with a medical background whom we can ask to join us.
Ralph Beaumont is interested in continuing to explore the intertwining of external cultural, historical and religious issues with psychoanalysis during our future annual meetings with the help of members from different countries. Elise Synder, a former president of the College, is now a Professor at the University of Szeuchuan in Szeuchuan, China. We will hear about her efforts to develop psychoanalysis in China when we meet in May. This will be a significant contribution to our efforts, illustrating not only how psychoanalytic ideas are fi nding good reception in new parts of the world but also how psychoanalytic ideas are evolving in different cultures. Psychoanalysis is keeping up with the positive aspects of globalization. I am informed that soon the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) will publish a book as well as a special issue of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis celebrating the centenary of the founding of the IPA and highlighting the expansion of psychoanalytic communities in many parts of the world. I believe that the College is a relevant place to examine and discuss, with member representatives from various countries, this contemporary world-wide excitement about psychoanalytic ideas.
The relevance of psychoanalysis in international relationships is also being recognized more and more. For the last three years, two members of the College, Edward Shapiro, the Medical Director and CEO of the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, MA and I, have joined other psychoanalysts and persons from different disciplines and countries such as Israel, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Germany, Great Britain, and USA to examine world affairs from a psychopolitical angle and share our findings with political authorities when asked. Such efforts have been very useful in developing new psychoanalytically informed theories about ethnic, national, religious or ideological large groups composed of thousands or millions of persons. I was pleased to respond to David Edelstein’s and Dean Brockman’s request to write a brief essay on this topic that will be published in the Newsletter to open a discussion among our members. I hope that Dr. Edward Shapiro will share his ideas with us on psychoanalysts’ collaboration with persons from different disciplines and different countries in understanding world affairs.
We will welcome Carol Nadelson as the College’s new President. We look forward to benefiting from her rich experience, including her presidency of the American Psychiatric Association. Her extensive relationships with various organizations in the mental health fi eld will encourage the College to continue discussing and examining the integration of research knowledge coming from biological and psychological studies. This, along with the College’s recent investment in exploring the cultural and historical factors of the human mind, will keep us proud of our scientific gatherings.
During our last Board meeting we did not have time to discuss in detail the idea of extending the future College presidents’ tenures from one year to two years. I believe that two-year terms will provide the necessary time not only to initiate, but also crystallize Presidents’ endeavors that have been approved by the Board and that will benefit the College. I believe this proposal will be discussed in future Board meetings.
In my first President’s Note I wrote that being the President of the College energized me professionally. I am happy that I completed a long book entitled Psychoanalytic Technique Expanded: A Textbook on Psychoanalytic Treatment that will be published by Özler Aykan (Oa Publishing) soon. Keeping the College’s principles in mind, I was careful not to get involved in controversies and politics of psychoanalysis while writing it, but integrated knowledge from different points of view.
I look forward to seeing many members in New Orleans and thanking Frances Roton Bell in person for being very kind in helping me to carry out my responsibilities.
Copyright © Vamık D. Volkan and Özler Aykan 2007.
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Last modified on: Apr 20, 2016