Diversity and Inclusion

July 7, 2020

APsaA Statement on Racism

The American Psychoanalytic Association affirms its support of Black Lives Matter and will strive to become an antiracist organization. In the words of Ibram X. Kendi, "The only way to undo racism is to constantly identify it and describe it-and then dismantle it." We are committed to this effort.

Looking back, we recognize our previous efforts have been inadequate. The Position Statement of Race-Based Violence and Racial Profiling adopted in 2014 following the killing of Trayvon Martin was important, but not followed by a systemic and intentional antiracist strategy. Here we are in 2020 reeling yet again from multiple instances of racial violence. While we have taken some steps nationally and locally to address racism, the current national uprisings are a call for us to renew and intensify our efforts in order to really make a difference.

We strongly support and join with our constituent psychoanalytic institutes, societies and centers that have declared their intentions to be antiracist. This is hard work, and requires unvarnished honesty, difficult and sensitive conversations, at-times painful introspection into our own conscious and unconscious racial biases, a willingness not only to change behavior but policies and procedures that have racist aspects, and the awareness that overcoming internalized and institutionalized racism requires constant vigilance and openness to discovery–of self and of other–through dialogue.

As psychoanalysts, our values, theories, and clinical practice are based on respect for and deep curiosity about individual differences. We seek emotional truth and self-awareness, empathy and listening, we strive to understand the role of individual and collective trauma, we value diversities, and we affirm fundamental human equality. While these shared values are never fully realized, they are always worth striving for, both in our work as analysts and in our lives as citizens.

In addition to looking inward – at ourselves as individual members and collectively as a professional organization of psychoanalysts – we also commit to encouraging our training programs to address these issues, and applying our training, experience and values to addressing racism in society. While APsaA is not a civil or human rights organization per se, we share many values common to such organizations. In partnership with other disciplines, our particular expertise may prove helpful in addressing the unconscious determinants of racism in individuals and in society at large, especially if we couple these efforts with ongoing self-inquiry. At their best, psychoanalytic perspectives applied to racism can help unlock an understanding of racism's persistence and resistance to change, despite the efforts of so many to combat it over the years. We stand in solidarity with those who pursue antiracism as we embark on this journey towards a more just society.


William C. Glover, PhD, FIPA

President, American Psychoanalytic Association



Message from the CFPS President, Felecia Powell-Williams

Dear All CFPS and HPS,

During these unprecedented times we have been exposed to both traumatic and unspeakable events. Although we are facing new threats and challenges due to COVID-19, we continue to witness the long standing, destructive and painful pandemic of racism. The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor were horrible crimes, and has caused us to pause and reflect over the prolonged years of systematic oppression, and racial injustices we have seen happen too many times. Now and again our minds manipulate us to present a false sense of being, but we are only traumatically awakened to horrific reminders that our fantasies of an open system of love and equality aren’t as readily available as one might believe. The country is currently experiencing protests and marches ranging from peaceful demonstrations of unity and social courage to civil unrest and disobedience as an angry and grieving nation seeks justice for these crimes and those committed throughout our history. As psychoanalysts we have the opportunity to provide a safe space for people to explore overwhelming emotions of fear, anxiety and confusion. I often hear the powerful words of James Baldwin saying, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” , which speak strongly to the resistances and defenses we experience with the patient in our consulting rooms. It is important to listen, learn, share, and speak out against racial injustice. As an organization we must have more relevant discussion of race and diversity, so that we do not remain trapped inside the rigid boundaries of complacency. I challenge each of us to listen to the pain and anguish that enters our offices, and skillfully create a better holding environment to help patients understand and identify ways to effectively communicate the pressure of their emotions.

During this movement let us be reminded of such African American Psychoanalysts as Margaret Morgan Lawrence, Sandra Walker, Kirkland Vaughn, Ellis Toney, Kimberlyn Leary, Dorothy Holmes, Carlotta Miles, Samuel Wyche, and I encourage our CFPS community to learn from their rich contributions to psychoanalysis, in supporting a stronger curriculum of diversity. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” As we struggle with making sense of our own feelings let’s remember our power in sharing our experiences and not falling victim to the toxicity of silence.

Felecia Powell-Williams

President, CFPS Board of Director

APsaA Statement -Racism Needs to Be Heard and Addressed

June 2 – 2020 – New York, NY -- Following the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) calls for not only recognizing, but substantively addressing the profoundly destructive cycles of racial hatred, violence, and trauma in the United States.

“As psychoanalysts, we know that only when trauma can be spoken about, when it is truly heard, can it be healed,” said William Glover, president of the American Psychoanalytic Association. “The current protests and unrest are communicating a denied pain stemming from centuries of racism which has never been properly listened to or addressed.”

As Martin Luther King Jr said, "The riot is the language of the unheard," conveying a profound psychological insight into the meaning of social unrest. It may feel safer, and less threatening to the status quo, for persons or governmental leaders to ignore such language, or dismiss it as misguided, destructive nonsense. However, as a society we are likely to fare better if we strive to listen openly to the human pleas from which such riotous language emanates, even as we may reject violence’s apparent irrationality or destructiveness. And attempts at such listening can have direct impact on how the dialogue subsequently unfolds. Psychotherapeutic experience regularly demonstrates that when a person feels their words matter and can have power, that person will feel less inclined to act destructively.

Furthermore, research shows that when racial violence is acknowledged through fair, empathic, and recognizing speech it can initiate a process of restorative justice. On the other hand, however, when traumatic violence is denied (through misleading speech or silence), or when the targets of violence are cast as its perpetrators, a collective re-traumatization occurs, triggering states of helplessness, desperation, impulse-prone rage, and mental health consequences.

“We call on our leaders to express a sense of morality, fairness and commitment to equality, to publicly and explicitly denounce tragic and discriminatory acts when they occur,” said Glover. “But this civil unrest is a call to action for us all to listen, to speak out, and take concrete steps to address and reconcile our collective, longstanding, painful history with racism and racial violence.”

About the American Psychoanalytic Association:

APsaA is the oldest and largest professional organization for psychoanalysts in North America, representing 3,000 members, 33 approved training institutes, and 39 affiliate societies throughout the United States.

APsaA Message from President, Bill Glover and President-elect - Kerry Sulkowicz - APsaA and the Uprising

Many of our members are actively involved in the nationwide uprising against injustice and racial hatred. APsaA Centers/Institutes/Societies are becoming anti-racist organizations and issuing statements to that effect. There are calls for APsaA to further respond to the protests across the country against racism. We agree.

As leaders of APsaA, our primary duty is to support our members and our values. There is an emerging groundswell to take a stronger position on combating racism, both internally and in society. We heed this call and will be working with our Board in the coming days to develop an official position and plan for action. APsaA is a professional association that shares values with human rights and civil rights organizations. We believe that as psychoanalysts our shared values include tolerance of difference, seeking emotional truth, empathy and listening, understanding the role of individual and collective trauma, diversity in every sense of the word, and fundamental human equality. While there is healthy debate among us on many issues, we are united in striving to realize these goals both in our work as analysts and in our lives as citizens.

We are living in unprecedented times - a global pandemic, an existential climate crisis, political and economic instability around the world, and an abject failure of moral leadership in this country and in many other nations. Over the past two weeks we have been experiencing a convulsive political reawakening, prompted by the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, the racist threats against an African American birdwatcher in Central Park, and the alarming actions of a President who, rather than trying to unite us as Americans, instead appeals to the racism and divisiveness that exists in our society.

APsaA must work against racism and for social justice. We are heartened by and deeply supportive of the protests that have been occurring across America, which we see as a political awakening that is already having significant impact. We aim to meet the challenge of making the uprising an ongoing process of understanding and change in ourselves, our institutions, and our society.

As psychoanalysts, our training and experience give us access to a deeper understanding of both the conscious and unconscious forces that determine so much of the deplorable racist behavior that persists in society, and we want to do our part - individually and together - to examine our own internalized racism, so that we can contribute more meaningfully to addressing it in the world around us.

To that end, we invite all of you to join us at a special APsaA Town Hall on Sunday, June 14th at 7pm ET, where we will begin what we hope will be an ongoing conversation about racism. An invitation to this Town Hall is available at www.apsa.org/addressing-racism. This will be one part of an evolving series of activities within APsaA to focus on racism – in our own minds and institutions, in our patients, and in society at large.

The road ahead may be painful, uncomfortable, and unruly at times, but it is necessary, and we believe it will strengthen us as individuals and as an organization. Which is why we would like to invite all members who are not currently on our Members-listserv to subscribe today. Important conversations are taking place in our online communities that we encourage you to be a part of. To re-join our Members list, simply visit this link for instructions.

We hope to see all of you on Sunday at the Town Hall and in our ongoing efforts.

Bill Glover, President

Kerry Sulkowicz, President-elect