The Candidate’s Voice

The Candidate’s Voice

On October 14, 2017, The Candidate Journal hosted an event at the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis (NPAP), “The Candidate, or, The Candidate, Barred,” as part of a series of panels on the topic of the candidate’s voice.

There, contributors to Issue 7 of the journal – myself included – as well as other psychoanalytic candidates and early-career clinicians, discussed “some of the themes brought up in the issue relating to questions of psychoanalytic training and institutional psychoanalysis: transference within the institute, matters of pedagogy, the transmission of psychoanalysis, the evaluation of candidates, the role of the state in psychoanalytic training, the training analysis and its place in the birth of an analyst. The goal, most broadly, was to provide an arena for candidates and early-career clinicians to theorize the candidate’s position, as well as to articulate something of the problem represented by the speaking candidate.”

It was my distinct pleasure to participate in this panel alongside peers from the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies (CMPS), Washington Square Institute (WSI), Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR), Contemporary Freudian Society (CFS), and Toronto Institute of Psychoanalysis (TIP).

I made the following remarks in response to my own contribution to Issue 7, “The Making of Meaning in the License Qualifying Candidate: Some Experiential Reflections on Training,” and the issue as a whole. I am sharing them here on MIP’s Analysis Now blog in the hopes that we can continue the dialogue about vital issues of candidacy and training, within the Manhattan Institute and beyond.


I feel nervous to speak here today.

The irony isn’t lost on me. I’m an analytic candidate anxious about speaking on a panel devoted to an exploration of the candidate’s voice. Seems fitting, doesn’t it?

I’m never totally comfortable speaking in public. I get stomach flips, flushing, some shaking – the usual. But it seems noteworthy that I’m more nervous, more anxious, more insecure, to appear here today as a candidate than I would be if I were sitting on a panel about, say, how to write a book. I’m a writer and a writing coach. This was my professional identity, plain and simple… until I entered training.

Which seems like a lifetime ago, though it’s only been two years. That’s when I began to reevaluate who I am, what I do, and why I do it. I began to form a new identity, as a therapist, an analyst-in-training, and as a special category of candidate: the license-qualifying candidate. I began to grapple with that title and all that it carries, much of which I’m still discovering, some of which at this very moment.

All analytic candidates are engaged in a process of identity formation; this is an innate and necessary aspect of training. However, the LQ candidate, who enters training with no experience in a mental health-related field and therefore no identification as a provider of mental health, comes to this identity in a very different way than a traditional certificate candidate might. I would argue that this fundamental difference between candidates goes largely unattended.

After Issue 7 of The Candidate Journal came out, I heard from many readers who resonated with one particular moment in my paper where I suggest that “Our training does not yet and needs to encourage and facilitate a layering of identity and meaning (a message that sounds something like, in my case, ‘You are a writer and an analyst-candidate both’) rather than a substitution, one for the other (‘You were a writer; now you are an analyst-candidate’) — a position that is innately privileging, negating, and ultimately damaging.” One member of my institute, a social worker, shared with me that his experience of seeing his first-ever patient was akin to mine: in a word, panicked.

I appreciated his comments, and couldn’t help but wonder why I hadn’t heard anything like it before. I thought: Now you tell me! What a difference it would have made at the time to know that as an LQ candidate, I wasn’t alone in an experience that worried me precisely for that reason: I write, “As a writer by trade and identity, only a few short months into training, I was terrified of what [my] inexperience — my perceived and felt un-analyst-ness — might mean about me… now and in the future.”

We haven’t yet made up our minds about the relationship between who our candidates were and who they’re training to be. Maybe we never will. But in the meantime, this institutional ambivalence can make it so difficult, so nerve-racking, for an LQ candidate like me to speak about her experiences, and for existing members of the field, like my social worker colleague, to speak up with comparisons to his own. I suspect that if the LQ candidate’s voice is unsure, it’s because the field is unsure of it.

In this work that requires so much of ourselves, this work that in a very real sense is ourselves, the question we ask ourselves throughout training expands to take on new and important meanings: candidates start out asking “Who am I” and end up wondering “Who does the institution of psychoanalysis need for me to be?”


Justine Duhr, MFA,  is a candidate in the license-qualifying program at the Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis. She is co-editor of the Analysis Now blog and chair of SCOOP, MIP’s Student Cooperative. She owns and operates WriteByNight, a writers’ service dedicated to helping people achieve their creative potential and literary goals.




11 Responses to The Candidate’s Voice

  • Blair Casdin says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful talk!

  • Stefan Zicht says:

    I appreciate your openness in engaging us in this important topic about the development of psychoanalytic selfhood.

    • Justine Duhr says:

      Thanks, Stefan. I agree that it’s an important topic deserving of attention and further exploration. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts and experiences from your work with license-qualifying candidates.

  • rcolan1965 says:

    Justine, I really appreciate your courage to tackle the ongoing struggle of the LQ candidates and the relationship with the institutes. Cleary ours is not the only institute struggling with this issue.
    I suspect that everything new and different (in our case the LQ program) always generates many different emotions which span from excitement and welcoming to mistrust and fear.
    To adjust to something new requires a lot of thinking, conversations and confrontations about aims and how making it happen. It requires a project management which has to take in consideration different needs and different situations. I feel the LQ program just landed on the top of the analytic institutes which were not prepared to deal with. Most of the institute’s effort focused on how to apply to the program and how to deal with the “craziness” of New York State of Education which was continually changing and making up rules about the LQ program. There was very little time and effort to really think about what was going to happen when a Psychoanalytic Institute structure to provide training for selected categories (but mostly social workers) would have to welcome and train a completely different category of candidates. I walked in the Institute without a clue of what I should do or what and how I want to achieve my goals. As a candidate I expected the institute to clarify all my doubts and taking care of me. I did not take any responsibility in the process. On the other hand, the institute was unable to adjust to a different population, with different needs and demands. It is very important to me to have an opportunity to share my feelings and experiences as an LP candidate and this blog provides this opportunity. I wish we have more. Thank you

    • Justine Duhr says:

      And I yours, Roberto. The more we talk about our experiences, the more we open ourselves up to the possibility of change, both at the individual and institutional levels.

      I’m very interested in what you say about your participation in your relationship with the institute: “I walked in the Institute without a clue of what I should do or what and how I want to achieve my goals. As a candidate I expected the institute to clarify all my doubts and taking care of me. I did not take any responsibility in the process.”

      I wonder if that’s a common experience among candidates, LQ and traditional. I wonder how different kinds of candidates approach their training, with what preconceived notions, expectations, wishes, etc. I wonder what might be done going forward to attend to such experiences.

      Are we talking about transference to the institute, which might be relegated to a candidate’s training analysis, or are we talking about something else entirely?

      • Roberto Colangeli says:

        As in the consultation room there are 2 people in the
        candidate experience there are 2 entities, the candidate and the institute. The relationship between two people or entities, the tranference/conter transference is all there.
        The question if (for me) to be able to take responsibilities, to be as clear as we can’t about what we like and what we don’t. To open a conversation which involved everybody. I have been very vocal in all this years about many of the things i did (and stilll don’t) about the institute. Failures never belong to one person (or entity) is always a share responsibility.

        • Justine Duhr says:

          Agreed. As in the consultation room, we’ve gotten ourselves into something (we the candidates, we the institutes, and we the field/institution of psychoanalysis) in which we all participated. Now we can finally get curious about what’s been going on and together find a way to work our way out of it. Into exactly what remains to be seen.

          • Roberto Colangeli says:

            Yes, that exactly right, we are in the position to use our experience, our voice as LP candidates.
            It remain to been seen if an option to explore, learn and change is available.

  • Steve Kirschner says:

    Thank you for sharing this Justine. Analytic training has always been a disorienting and challenging process but I think you do a great service in highlighting the particular challenges that LQ candidates face. We are all in this together, those of us who are teaching and supervising LQ candidates need to listen to, learn from and reflect on their experiences.

    • Justine Duhr says:

      Well said, Steve. In a sense, the LQ candidate’s experience is nothing new — as you rightly point out, training is a challenge no matter what or who — and in another sense, it’s a world apart. It might be this very paradox that makes the issues feel elusive and the differences so hard to pin down.

      I’ve asked a few supervisors about the experience of supervising LQ versus traditional certificate candidates; they’ve all said it’s the same, which is very striking to me.

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