THE CAPS EXPERIENCE
(Excerpted and updated from the original article) by STANLEY GOODMAN
Former Director of the Center for Advanced Psychoanalytic Studies at Princeton and Aspen
"CAPS offers a space for reflection, far from the bustle of daily practice and psychoanalytic politics. Colleagues come together to think about clinical and theoretical issues and to explore the challenges of being an analyst."
— A Note from Daniel Jacobs, M.D.
CAPS President, 2003 - present
Excerpted and edited from the Newsletter of the International Psychoanalytic Association, Summer 1993,
Ethel Spector Person, M.D., Editor
Some groups have now been meeting for more than forty years; the most recently constituted will begin in the fall of 2016. And although gradual changes do occur in the composition of the groups, it is noteworthy that many of them still include members who have participated for decades. New, usually younger partici-pants are added to a CAPS group when older members leave.
A different kind of group collaboration, “Psychoanalytic Studies at Aspen,” began to evolve in 1970. Also created on the initiative of Drs. Guttman and Gardiner and the Advisory Board of CAPS, it was intended to provide an intensive psychoanalytic collaboration over a short period of time.
Small groups of invited participants (not necessarily CAPS Princeton members) meet for 10 days, two and a half hours every day. These intensive groups are convened every other year in Aspen, Colorado (those years when the IPA is not meeting). As with the groups in Princeton, the agenda is decided by each group in an ad hoc manner, but the focus is always on the presentation of clinical material.
Colleagues who have been to the CAPS-Aspen particularly appreciate meeting in an informal setting to share ideas and clinical observations with colleagues from other Institutes and other parts of the country. Participants’ families often accompany them to Aspen because of the recreational opportunities of the area.
The long-term affiliation provided by the Center for Advance Psychoanalytic Studies in its relatively stable groups Meetings at Princeton twice a year, and the intensive short-term experience of Psychoanalytic Studies at Aspen, offer distinct but complementary rewards for participants.
The Center (CAPS) was founded in 1960 by Samuel A. Guttmann and Muriel Gardiner. They began, with the help of an Advisory Board, to organize study groups for experienced psychoanalysts. The Center has no formal affiliation with the APsaA, although most of the participants are certified members of that organization. The CAPS membership has now expanded to include colleagues who are members of other psychoanalytic organizations. The CAPS Advisory Board — now the Trustees - extends invitations to analysts who have demonstrated continuing involvement in clinical practice and who are also active in psychoanalytic education or research.
The number of CAPS groups at Princeton is 14. There are, however, many more colleagues who wish to join us in Princeton than we can currently accommodate. Each group has a maximum of 16 participants who meet twice a year for a long weekend of informal but intensive discussions. Although some of the groups originally met with guest analyst-moderators such as Rudolph Loewenstein or Robert Waelder, all of them soon became self-moderated and discovered that peer exchange of clinical experience and evolving conceptual views made the discussions even more open and productive.
Groups vary in the way they set the agenda for their Friday afternoon through Sunday morning meetings. Some of them choose the topic or topics for a future meeting so that participants can prepare for the discussion. Others consider ad hoc suggestions for topics at the beginning of the weekend and pursue them to the extent of the interest of the participants and the consensually experienced productivity of the Group’s response at the time.
Several factors seem to have contributed to the generally acknowledged value and success of the CAPS project. It is created entirely outside any official professional association and thus is not subject to the same administrative constraints and political pressures.
The minimal administrative structure of CAPS is dedicated entirely to facilitating rather than regulating the meetings of the Groups and the experience of the participants. The ability of the members in a group to select from a number of applicants adds to a sense of group cohesion.
The relative stability of the CAPS groups is a very important element in the gratifying experience reported by the CAPS participants. That stability is supported by several factors. There has been a remarkably low turnover among each Group’s participants. A high attendance rate is encouraged, primarily by the shared dedication to the group’s pursuit of psychoanalytic excellence. Long-term scheduling of the regular spring and fall meetings is planned to avoid, as much as possible, any conflict with participants’ other organizational commitments. A single location for all meeting, with rare excep-tions, at the Nassau Inn in Princeton, is another contributing factor. That site has proven to be a good choice through the years; it is relatively accessible, reasonably comfortable, and not so exotic or resort-like as to divert groups from their primary purpose. Most CAPS groups have a travel pool to evenly distribute the travel expenses among all the participants, many of whom come from distant parts of the country.
Although, obviously, individual participants might emphasize the value of other aspects of their CAPS experience, most of us share a strong appreciation for the opportunity for new and continuing professional and personal relationships outside of our local analytic communities, the freedom from administrative or “political” considerations in our discussions of theory and practice, and the evolving atmosphere of mutual trust within the groups, allowing a level of collegial sharing of clinical data that is often not possible at home because of the need to protect confidentiality.