History of the Psychoanalytic Research Consortium

 

In May 1986, one of the leaders in scientific study of recorded psychoanalytic sessions, Hartvig Dahl, came to the Committee on Scientific Activities (CSA) of the American Psychoanalytic Association, in order to discuss his concern about the ultimate disposition of tapes of psychoanalyses and other related materials which had been collected for research purposes. He felt that such tapes, including the ones in his possession, were a valuable resource to our field, but that individuals had nowhere to leave such materials either upon their deaths or retirement from active professional activities.

Within the CSA, Sherwood Waldron Jr., M.D. led an effort to explore how to conserve this data from recorded treatments, in view of his interest and prior experience in collecting and presenting taped analytic material for scientific purposes. The matter became more urgent when the health problems of another major researcher in the field led him to turn to the CSA as well for suggestions as to the ultimate disposal of his recordings. The committee concluded that an independent, Psychoanalytic Research Consortium (PRC) would best be established to manage this problem. Thus, the PRC was formed with eight directors, Alice Brand Bartlett, Robert Galatzer-Levy, Leonard Horwitz, George Klumpner, Lester Luborsky, Nancy Miller, Sherwood Waldron Jr. and Robert Wallerstein. Five were members of the CSA during the initial deliberations, and three others were invited to join.

Since then, in addition to regular operations meetings, the PRC has met annually at the American Psychoanalytic Association mid-winter meetings. The American Psychoanalytic Association’s Fund for Psychoanalytic Research provided a grant to the PRC in 1989 for organizational costs in collecting and safeguarding recorded materials. The PRC was incorporated in Washington, D.C. in April 1989, and bylaws were established. Tax exempt status as a public charitable organization was provisionally approved in September 1989 and granted permanent status in 1994.

In 1994, the Board of Directors decided that the PRC should extend its involvement to all aspects of psychoanalytic research. The Directors felt this broadening could be accomplished if the PRC were directed by psychoanalysts who were actively pursuing the use of tape recorded sessions to study how psychotherapy works. To this end, the Board joined forces with a related, Analytic Process Scales (APS) Research Group. The APS Research Group had already spent eleven years developing the APS rating scales. These scales could be used to make sense of recorded psychotherapy sessions, by reliably identifying crucial dimensions of the treatment process: some specific to what the patient said, and others specific to what the psychotherapist said.

In past studies of how psychotherapy works, either experienced analysts were not employed, samples of the treatment were too short to truly understand what might have been helpful, recorded materials were not representative of the actual work carried out, or insufficient or unreliable scales or other methods were used to make sense of the treatment and its progress. The PRC thus sought to correct these problems in our understanding of how psychotherapy works. Initially, the PRC was directed by senior analysts, each with more than 25 years of clinical experience: Sherwood Waldron Jr. M.D., Robert Scharf M.D., Anna Burton M.D. and Stephen Firestein M.D. Since then, the composition of the board and officers has shifted several times to accommodate new goals and new research interests. In addition to using the aforementioned APS scales, the PRC utilized data from recorded psychoanalyses to create the Dynamic Interaction Scales (DIS), a series of ratings on how psychotherapist and patient interact with one another.

The PRC continues to provide access to recordings to interested and qualified research groups around the country, and will, if resources permit, support the use of its materials to study how to enhance the effectiveness of psychotherapy. It also provides materials to teachers of psychoanalysis and related psychotherapies to use with students.

 


  1. Classified by the IRS as a public charity, under IRS section 501 (c) (3), (type 509 (a) (2)).