First CAPA Graduation Held in China


When Chinese psychoanalysts look back at the beginnings of what may be a vigorous psychoanalytic movement in China, they will remember October 2010.

The following originally appeared on PsychiatryTalk

Report From Beijing

In the future when Chinese psychoanalysts look back at the beginnings of what may be a vigorous psychoanalytic movement in China, they will remember October 24, 2010 when The Chinese American Psychoanalytic Alliance (CAPA) held the first graduation ceremony of it’s psychoanalytic training program at the Mental Health Institute of Peking University. I had the pleasure and the honor of attending that graduation.

Elise Snyder, M.D. Driving Force Behind CAPA

The creative and driving force behind CAPA is a New York psychoanalyst by the name Elise Snyder. It all began several years ago when she was visiting China with her husband Michael Holquist who is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Yale University and was attending a conference there. Dr. Snyder met several Chinese mental health professionals who were very interested in learning more about psychoanalytic theory and practice. This led to a series of visits to China by Dr. Snyder where she gave lectures, held various meetings and did some consultations. She returned several times and also became very involved during a subsequent major earthquake where she was helpful in advising about mental health services.

Dr. Snyder was encouraged to set up a training program for Chinese therapists and students interested in learning about psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy. She began to involve American colleagues and utilized Skype an Internet Video Conferencing tool. This evolved into a program which was training Chinese psychiatrists and other mental health professionals in 4 different cities. There would be 4 hours of classes per week via SKYPE. Each class would be an hour taught by an expert mostly in the United States, although psychoanalysts in Canada, Australia and France also were recruited as teachers. In addition the students were required to have one hour per week of a supervisory session for their own clinical work also done by Skype with CAPA instructors. Many students chose to have their own psychoanalysis or psychoanalytic therapy mostly via Skype.

CAPA is Non Profit but Students Pay a Fee

CAPA is a nonprofit organization. The students do pay a tuition, the equivalent of about $1500 /year, which goes towards administrative expenses. The teachers donate their time for teaching classes and supervising students. Those students, who are being treated, pay very modest fees in the range of $5-25/session, which means that most of the therapists are essentially donating their time. The students themselves are usually employed as mental health professionals. Some are psychiatric residents working in a hospital or if graduated may be working in mental health clinics or a few may be in private practice. There are even medical school faculty members in China who have chosen to get the credential as a CAPA graduate. Others are psychologists, counselors or other mental health professionals who may be working in clinics, hospitals or other settings.

I was asked to participate in in the CAPA teaching program about one year ago. I subsequently have taught classes in Wuhan and Shanghai, both via Skype. I am now supervising a young psychiatrist who is in Shantou, an eastern coastal city of China. There is a 16 hour difference between China and Los Angeles where I am located. So for example, on Tuesday evening at 11pm I sit in my office and fire up my computer and will be viewing my supervisee and chatting with him for his supervisory session on Wednesday at 3 pm in China. While I was in China with the recent CAPA tour I meet with him in person.

CAPA has caught on in China and in the United States. There are over 200 faculty members who donate their time to the training of psychoanalytic theory and therapy in China. Approximately 30 students were graduated in Beijing in October. There were also informal graduation ceremonies for another 20 students in Shanghai and Wuhan. This means that this nascent organization of Chinese and American professionals has close to 350 members and counting. In Beijing and in other cities where I traveled as part of the three week CAPA tour, I met Chinese professionals and professional students who were eager to learn about CAPA. Many were preparing themselves for a career in the mental health professions and were anxious to get training through CAPA.

Prior to the historic graduation and the handing out of diplomas, there was an academic program for the CAPA students, the faculty and for other guests from the Mental Health Institute at Peking University. The moderate size auditorium was quite filled. First, there was a case conference, which was led off by Dr. Ba Tong, one of the graduates who presented a clinical case in which she demonstrated her knowledge of transference and countertransference. Dr. Cecile Bassen, a psychoanalyst form Seattle, sensitively discussed the case. We later met Dr. Ba Tong who came across as a very capable young woman who showed us pictures of her new private office, which she will be sharing with a colleague as they start their private practice in Beijing. The second part of the academic program was a presentation by Dr. Shari Thurer from Boston who gave a lecture on Sexuality and Gender identity in which she reviewed homosexuality, transgender sexuality and transsexuality. There was a very interested response from the students in the audience some of whom told of their clinical experience with patients.

The program concluded with a few words from Dr. Snyder who is now seeing her “baby” coming to fruition. She seemed quite proud, as she should be as she called the graduates to the podium. There were also many beaming faculty in the audience. Dr. Snyder announced that there would soon be an advanced additional two year segment available in the CAPA training program, making a total of 4 years of training being provided by CAPA. I later asked Dr. Snyder what she was thinking as she saw the graduates come up to the podium to shake her hand and receive their certificate. She said, “I felt overwhelmingly moved. I felt happy. I started to cry and couldn’t believe it was happening.” She want on to explain how proud she was of the students and the faculty. She viewed this event as an historical moment . She ended by saying “This is really the beginning of an interest in psychoanalytic therapy (in China) that arises from the bottom rather than from the top down.”

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