Relational Psychoanalysis is the term that has evolved in recent years to describe an approach to clinical work that attracts many practitioners in different parts of the world. Although not a hard and fast set of concepts and practices, one core feature is the notion that psychic structure–at the very least, those aspects of psychic structure that are accessible to psychotherapeutic intervention–derive from the individual’s relations with other people. This, of course, is intended as an alternative to the classical view that innately organized drives and their developmental vicissitudes are, at root, the basis of psychic structure. (For an extensive discussion of relational psychoanalysis, click on Relations: Introduction to the First IARPP Conference in the IARPP Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 1.)
To promote the development of relational psychoanalysis, a new international association, the IARPP, was founded in 2001. The association is conceived of as a professional and intellectual community of individuals–clinicians and non-clinicians such as academics– committed to developing relational perspectives and exploring similarities and differences with other approaches to analysis and psychotherapy.
The spirit of relational psychoanalysis has led us to form our new association in as non-hierarchical and as open a way as possible. We are committed to doing away with privilege and discrimination in our field, whether due to prejudices concerning age, citizenship status, color, disability, marital or parental status, national origin, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. In these ways, we hope to encourage the formation of a space in which an open and democratic community of creative thinkers and practitioners can flourish.
As an organization, our ethos reflects a love of healing and learning, not the consolidation of any particular professional interest or “line.” The IARPP is not in competition with other, similar bodies in the field, but seeks dialogue with them. Its international nature means that, for the first time, the world-wide community of those interested in relational psychoanalysis can be brought together. The association will sponsor a major annual conference – alternating each year between North America and wider global locations – as well as intercurrent smaller conferences, real-time and cyber colloquia and seminars, maintain a website, issue a newsletter, and offer its members various other benefits.
The IARPP maintains a close connection with several other organizations, each of which has an independent existence. The Stephen A. Mitchell Center for Relational Psychoanalysis was formed by a group of “relational psychoanalysts” located in the New York area. Unlike the IARPP, the Center is not a membership organization but, instead, is comprised of small group of analysts who are well known in the field. The Center offers online and onsite educational opportunities for analysts both locally and nationally.
Psychoanalytic Dialogues, a Journal of Relational Perspectives, was founded over a decade ago by Stephen Mitchell and continues to be an extraordinarily rich source of papers bearing on the relational outlook in psychoanalysis. Along with the Relational Perspective Book Series (available again soon), it is published by The Analytic Press. Insofar as the IARPP, the CRP, the journal, and the book series, all owe their existence to Stephen Mitchell, it seemed very fitting to establish yet another organization, the Stephen A. Mitchell Scholarship Fund in memory of this astonishingly creative man. In keeping with Stephen’s love of teaching and his commitment to intellectual freedom, any student of psychoanalysis, regardless of theoretical orientation or geographical location who demonstrates intelligence, creativity and commitment to the field will be eligible to apply for this scholarship.