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Position Statement on Psychoanalytic Research

We believe that research is critical to the field of psychoanalysis. Thus, we endorse the following benefits:

  • exploring and learning more about the human condition;
  • advancing the understanding and refinement of existing psychoanalytic theory;
  • discovering and expanding new theory;
  • reinforcing the efficacy of established psychoanalytic treatment;
  • expanding the range of options for treatment;
  • identifying when psychoanalysis might not be the best treatment option;
  • responding to arguments from critics of psychoanalysis; and
  • supporting advocacy efforts with policy makers and the public that promote psychoanalytic treatments.


Psychoanalysis employs a diversity of research methods

A diversity of qualitative and quantitative methods has traditionally been employed in psychoanalytic research, including various anthropological and observational methods such as assorted approaches to the single case study, qualitative interview studies guided by psychoanalytic concepts, and quasi- and classical experimental methods.

Empirical research in psychoanalysis bears particular importance

Empirical research embodies rigorous methods that have been developed through concerted effort to produce valid results. These methods have been elaborated and documented, are replicable, and can be learned.

Empirical research employs a range of qualitative and quantitative methods. It is distinguished from other research methods by its emphasis on:

  • systematically obtained and analyzed data;
  • openness to alternative explanations of empirical phenomena, especially those that challenge preexisting beliefs;
  • effort to evaluate alternative explanations; and
  • critique by other researchers in a process that reveals weaknesses in theories and studies and leads to improved research.

Psychoanalytic research should be ethically conducted

As described in the Belmont Report of April 18, 1979, published by the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, and further elaborated in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 45, Part 46, Protection of Human Subjects, research involving human subjects should abide by specific principles in order to be considered ethical.

Psychoanalytic research should protect human subjects

Participants in empirical research must freely consent to participation in the research, fully aware of potential risks and benefits. Participants have a right for their privacy and confidentiality to be preserved.

Psychoanalytic research should strive for validity

Validity is improved through the careful use of research designs that have been tested and critiqued by other researchers. Research should be conducted by those who possess knowledge and expertise in empirical research.

Psychoanalytic research should be accurately reported

Findings should be reported as completely and honestly as feasible by reporters who are knowledgeable about and competent at interpreting such psychoanalytic research. Accurate reporting includes acknowledging the limitations of the research.

Psychoanalysts should remain aware of current developments in the field as demonstrated in the research

Psychoanalytic research has produced a plethora of important findings since the inception of psychoanalysis over 100 years ago, and continues to do so. The responsible psychoanalyst will remain abreast of such developments and contribute to their dissemination.

Psychoanalysts should be equipped to read, understand, evaluate, and appropriately report on and represent research in the field

Psychoanalytic training should provide adequate instruction toward the appropriate respect for and use of empirical research in the practice of psychoanalysis. This includes, at minimum, the ability to read, understand, evaluate, and accurately report on psychoanalytic research. Such instruction may also include training toward the conduct of effectively reliable and valid psychoanalytic research.