The Institute for Relational Psychoanalysis of Philadelphia


In keeping with our belief that dialogue and mutual influence should be central to psychoanalysis, we view a Relational curriculum as a manifestation of both core principles and continual change.  Each new cohort brings different life experiences and cultural contexts, and new insights and strengths, as well as differing needs in terms of clinical training.  Faculty themselves are hopefully engaged in lifelong learning and professional development, thus developing new perspectives and fresh ways to approach the material, and we continually engage additional instructors.  

Thus, we see the curriculum as a flexible, though thoughtfully constructed framework--a living document, necessarily responsive to particular cohorts, cultural contexts, and shifts within the field; as much a continually evolving series of questions to be engaged as an attempt to confer a grounding in ethical, thoughtful, and theoretically and culturally literate practice. The essentials of our prototype curriculum appear below:

Beginning with classes admitted in the Fall of 2019, we will be introducing a revised training model.  Years One and Two can be taken as a stand-alone program in working relationally in multiple and varied contexts.  We anticipate that those with differing amounts and kinds of experience, as well as with differing professional training would be able to come together to create a learning environment that would be adaptable, responsive to the particular composition of each group.  In these first two years, we will offer a grounding in both theory and praxis of relational work with adults and children and their families, and interrogate together how multiple aspects of social, cultural, and clinical contexts influence the intersubjective field of the therapeutic engagement. 

At the conclusion of Year Two, candidates may: 

  • Complete a third and final year in the Intensive Child and Family Track (with clinical and personal therapy requirements, as noted); 
  • Continue with full analytic training (minimum of two additional years of classes, in addition to other requirements, as noted); or
  • Combine both programs.  

Those candidates who are not continuing in one of the formal tracks will be eligible for certificates of completion of the two-year program, and hopefully thereafter will participate in ongoing workshops, supervision, and/or study groups within IRPP.

The following is an outline of what we anticipate offering.  Please note that this is an evolving process, and we may make modifications to what is listed here.

Year One, Fall:  Relational clinical practice, in social and cultural context

Didactic coursework:  We will focus on how we engage those with whom we work, keeping in mind the multiple, intersecting aspects of this developing relationship. How do we see our roles, as therapists, and how do we understand how this may be helpful? How do we make use of theory? More broadly, how do we participate meaningfully through complex and unpredictable enactments that emerge in the course of the work?

Topics to be discussed include:

  • Persons in context – age, culture, gender and sexuality; social location and intersectional identities in patient and therapist
  • The therapist’s participation and self-reflection – necessary but complicated (this is the focus of the clinical practice portion during this semester)
  • Empathy - - not just supportiveness
  • Diagnostic questions – utility and problems of diagnostic thinking
  • Working with trauma
  • Ethical issues in clinical practice
  • Introduction to Relational ways of working

Clinical Practice: We will use discussion of work brought in by both faculty and students to engage questions including: How does a two-person model change how we use ourselves in the treatment? How do we deepen capacity for self-awareness and reflection, attending both to how we are affecting the other, and what the other is invoking in us? How do we understand the treatment process differently from a thoroughgoing Relational perspective? What does it require of us? How do we respond to those challenges? 

Year One, Spring:  Relational clinical practice, Focus on Development, Work with Children and Families

Didactic: Readings on development of children and adolescents, keeping multiple contexts in mind.  Focus will include influence of cultural and social contexts of children and families, gender and racial identities. Within this, there will be a unit on Attachment theory, including research supporting the central role of attachment in development.

Clinical Practice: Working with patients in a variety of contexts: Agency, counseling center, private practice: adults, children and families – integrating material from the first semester (basics of clinical practice, self-reflection and awareness of the patient’s experience of the therapeutic relationship), as well as the developmental focus of the current semester.

Year Two, Fall:

Didactic: Revisiting psychoanalytic theory through a relational lens; and revisiting relational theory through an increased focus on social and cultural contexts

Clinical: Continuing to discuss ongoing cases in the clinical work of candidates

Year Two, Spring:

Didactic: Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma in work with Adults, Children and Families

Clinical: Continuing case discussions, with some particular focus on trauma

Adult Analytic Training, Years 3 and 4:

Coursework, in addition to continuing the conversations from years 1 and 2, would include:

  • Evolving thinking about the Analytic Frame
  • Comparative Psychoanalytic Theory; and 
  • Different understandings of the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis

Child Relational Work, Year 3:

Focus on deepening work with children and families, especially use of Play as central to the therapeutic action


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