The CAPS Experience

DR. LEO RANGELL

Learn more about CAPS with Dr. Rangell's interview recorded for the CAPS 50th Anniversary Celebration

​A founder of CAPS and an American psychoanalyst and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California
CAPS interview with Leo Rangell
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CAPS History & the CAPS Experience 

 

The Center for Advanced Psychoanalytic Studies (CAPS) was founded in 1960 by Drs. Samuel A. Guttman and Muriel Gardiner. With the help of an Advisory Board, these New Jersey pioneers began to organize study groups of experienced psychoanalysts who could meet regularly and over time, to discuss their clinical work as well as other matters pertaining to the life of the practicing psychoanalyst. It was their specific intention to “create an organization which was independent of existing organizations, institutes or societies with an atmosphere which could foster an open and honest exploration with a minimum of structure and organizational politics.” (Rowntree,1988). CAPS began with one group in 1961 and grew to 11 groups by 1988; it now has 16. Each group has between 13 and 16 members. CAPS current total membership is 191 consisting of 93 men and 98 women. While CAPS has grown over 60 years, its Mission, as defined by Dr. Guttman, has remained constant; “to choose members who are likely to make continuing contributions to psychoanalysis and who are felt to have a genuine investment in the future psychoanalysis” (Rowntree, 1988).

 

This Mission has guided the selection of CAPS members over the years. While all original members were board certified psychoanalysts, predominantly training and supervisors from APsaA Institutes, in recent years new members are found in IPA and other independent psychoanalytic institutes. They are primarily psychoanalytic clinicians, but the membership also has researchers and scholars in psychoanalysis. For all, CAPS provides a confidential atmosphere in which to share clinical and scholarly work with experienced psychoanalysts, in a way that is not possible in their home psychoanalytic communities. For this reason, most CAPS groups try to avoid having members from the same institute. What has not changed over time is that heart of the CAPS experience continues to be the open, collegial and strictly confidential sharing of clinical psychoanalytic work.

 

Historically, board certification in psychoanalysis was taken for granted as a requirement for acceptance into CAPS. It is only in recent years that the value of certification itself has been questioned by some. Nevertheless, it continues to be the position of the Board that, given that the central activity of all CAPS groups is to write about and discuss clinical psychoanalytic work with other analysts who may have different theoretical and technical perspectives, certification demonstrates the willingness and ability of a prospective member to fully participate in the CAPS experience.  Moreover, at a time when CAPS is accepting applicants from more and more diverse backgrounds without personal interviews, certification (a form of peer review) becomes for us, an important measure of applicants’ analytic capacities. It also demonstrates applicants’ willingness to reveal their work to colleagues and so participate fully as a group member. Certification for psychoanalysts is now granted by the American Board of Psychoanalysis (ABPsa) rather than the American Psychoanalytic Association. It is, therefore, open to psychoanalysts from any accredited Institute who seek it.

 

For many CAPS members, the CAPS experience begins with an invitation to Aspen, Colorado to participate in Psychoanalytic Studies in Aspen. An offshoot of CAPS proposed by Dr. Muriel Gardener in 1970, CAPS Aspen was originally a two week-long biennial summer event that has recently been shortened to eight days. Although separate from the CAPS meetings held in Princeton, its central activity is the same. CAPS members and Trustees meet with analysts interested in membership or who simply wish to discuss their clinical work with experienced analysts. An invitation to Aspen is limited to graduates of a psychoanalytic training program, but board certification is not required to participate in a confidential group of 6 to 8 analysts. Keeping with the mission outlined by Guttman and Gardiner, the goal of the Psychoanalytic Studies in Aspen is to engage and encourage early and mid-career analysts to develop and share their own work with those who also have a deep investment in psychoanalytic practice. Many who participate in CAPS Aspen return or go on to apply for CAPS membership.

 

Once accepted into CAPS, new members join their Princeton Group twice a year in Princeton, New Jersey. With Board approval, CAPS groups may periodically choose to have a meeting at an alternate location, often in other countries to discuss their work with international analytic colleagues.  As Guttman advised, “groups are free to function as they choose, exploring many areas of interest” (Rowntree, 1988). At the same time, clinical psychoanalysis is always at the center of the discussion, explicitly or implicitly. One of the primary benefits of CAPS is the longevity and cohesion of the groups. Some CAPS groups have been meeting for nearly sixty years and a few have an original member or two. Since the constitution of the groups is naturally intergenerational, the richness and depth of group discussions enables an opportunity for old, new, and ever essential psychoanalytic ideas to be integrated by all. As an added benefit, CE and CME credits are offered.

 

In founding CAPS, Guttman had an expressed wish for our organization:

“To pass on to the next generation the best as possible - as apolitically as possible”.  For the most part, Guttman’s wishes have been fulfilled. When the members of CAPS were asked formally by the Board of Trustees whether CAPS had helped them in their work as analysts and in their writing and creative thinking, all gave a positive response” (Rowntree, 1988).  As the founders hoped, CAPS continues to offer an “island of stability” for many psychoanalysts who are interested in focusing upon the continued development of psychoanalytic ideas and practice.

"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