Classroom teaching at Columbia emphasizes the importance of both a solid grounding of classical theories and the development of each candidate’s ability to think critical about psychoanalytic principles. Exposing our students both to the history of psychoanalytic knowledge as well as the current frontiers of knowledge, we hope to train analysts who understand the diverse points of view and controversies within psychoanalysis, grasp the common ground from which divergence proceeds, and have a theoretical and clinical basis to integrate concepts as well as to discern differences among them.

All adult candidates take our core curriculum lasting 4 ½ to 5 years, and have the opportunity to choose among electives beginning in the third year of study.

Curriculum Components

The key components of our curriculum are:

Psychoanalytic Theory

This four-year series of year-long classes begins with a full-year study of the writings of Freud. Second-year theory covers the major schools of psychoanalytic thought, from Anna Freud to the present, including blocks on early ego psychology, Klein, the British Independents, Attachment Theory, American Object Relations Theory, Self Psychology, Relational Theory, the Contemporary Kleinians, and Lacan. Third-year theory revisits each of these schools of thought, but rather than the perspective of intellectual history used in the second year, these thinkers are studied from the perspective of how their ideas are currently being used. Fourth-year theory draws on the work of those in allied fields, such as neuroscience and infant research, to help the candidate place their theoretical knowledge in the broader context of mind science.

The Theory of Technique

In each of the first three years, all candidates take a course that focuses specifically on the understanding of psychoanalytic technique. Topics such as transference, countertransference, resistance, and interpretation are explored through the lenses of numerous theoretical perspectives at increasing levels of depth and sophistication over the three years. 

Psychoanalytic Process

Over the five-year training program, candidates participate weekly in a full-year process seminar. These seminars, divided into 8 week blocks, focus on one candidate’s work with one patient. Sessions are presented to a senior faculty member, with discussion centering on specific elements of the clinical work depending upon the focus of the process class. Over the five years, candidates will move from process segments that focus on early work in analysis to mid-phase and termination.

The following courses are the additional essential components of our five-year curriculum:

  • Child Development - A full-year course tracing development from birth through adolescence taught in the first year
  • Evaluation of Patients for Analysis - A seven-week course for first year candidates on the assessment of patients and the indications for psychoanalysis
  • Psychopathology - A full-year course  taught in the second year examining the major categories of character disorders and mental disturbance from an analytic perspective

Critical Thinking Curriculum

Taught in numerous short blocks throughout the entire five-year curriculum these classes explore areas of convergence and divergence among the various metapsychologies and theories of technique covered in other classes.

Psychoanalytic Case Writing

Taught in yearly segments for the first four years of the curriculum, these classes help candidates build the skills they will need to capture psychoanalytic process in writing, essential for publication and communication with other analysts about their work.

The writing course takes place in a workshop format where each candidate gets the opportunity every year to present their longest-running case in a process summary. Class size is kept to a minimum to allow for unrushed individual attention to each others' writing efforts. We create an atmosphere of positive support and open exploration of the writing process.

Each curricular year builds in a layering fashion on what was taught the prior year. In the first year, writing countertransference is taught. In the second year, candidates gain the skills to incorporate microprocess , which often includes countertransference. In the third year, microprocess is embedded in the developing macroprocess in case summaries. In the fourth year, all the elements are pulled together so that the write-up gives a comprehensive view of the rich analytic process that evolves with the arc of the transferences and countertransferences. In the fifth year, there is a senior case colloquium in which each candidate expands on that fourth-year incorporation, resulting in a detailed report of a case often near termination.


Offered beginning in the second half of the third year of study.