How to become a psychoanalyst

How to become a psychoanalyst
Freud and other psychoanalysts : (left to right seated) Freud, Sàndor Ferenczi, and Hanns Sachs (standing) Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, and Ernest Jones
This is a WORK IN PROGRESS. If you would like to contribute any information or you see something incorrect, please reach out to me at my Contact page or by emailing me at samsara[at] Thanks!

I'm putting together this resource as I embark on my journey to train as a psychoanalyst in the United States. My hope is that this page would become the resource which I wish I could have had when I first started to research this path.

Some background on me: I live in California, and my aim is to train with the Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis in Berkeley, CA. While I considered completing a master's degree to gain entrance to a doctoral program and apply to the Lacan school's training program to move towards a research analyst license (I talk about that more below), I've made the decision to pursue a masters in counseling psychology to attain licensure as an LPCC in California, and that will allow me to enter the analyst training program right away.

I'm a husband, a father, a writer, and actively involved in my church, so I had to do a lot of research to find a way to pursue this path in a way that aligns with my current values and commitments. Right now, the Western Institute for Social Research looks like the best path for me. Their affordable, fully online, and self-paced program which leads to licensure in California checks all my boxes and works with my lifestyle, so I'm hoping to start that program this fall to move towards licensure and gain entrance to an analyst training program.

I recently joined the board of the Sacramento Psychoanalytic Society after showing up to some events and getting involved. I recommend checking out your local psychoanalytic society, if you can find one!

This page "How to become a psychoanalyst" was born from my own research, including searching the internet and talking with colleagues, so it's possible that I've gotten some things wrong or missed things, so please take this as a starting point for your own research, and be sure to verify with others what you hear me saying. Nonetheless, I hope that this resource is helpful for you!

Okay, but what actually is psychoanalysis?

"Psychoanalysis is essentially a cure through love" – Sigmund Freud

There are many definitions of psychoanalysis, but at its most simple – psychoanalysis is a method of healing which assumes the existence of unconscious processes in the human mind, and aims to work through the repressed conflicts of the unconscious by bringing them into speech.

The patient speaks whatever comes to their mind in order to weaken their inhibitions and to dredge up whatever unconscious material is operating within their psychic system. While the patient speaks, the analyst listens with the aim of noticing the gaps, breaks, and callbacks in the patient's speech. Ultimately, the analyst serve as the other towards whom the patient begins to re-enact these unconscious conflicts in order to work through them in the clinic (called 'transference').

Historically, psychoanalysis predates the modern practice of psychotherapy and counseling. In fact, it was psychoanalysis which first pioneered this "talking cure" wherein patients speak about their dreams, their feelings, and their experiences in order to begin to encounter them and heal through that encounter.

Where much of the debate about psychoanalysis comes is in its historical twists and turns (How closely must one adhere to Freud and his methods? is the Oedipus complex sexist?) and in its particular theories about the psyche (what is the unconscious? how do we work with the ego? what are the importance of dreams?) On these (and more), psychoanalysts have broken into different camps. Some maintain an uneasy alliance, while others have been ostracized from the community.

Here is a recent video I recorded with two colleagues recently where we discussed some of the features that make psychoanalysis unique in comparison to other forms of psychotherapy practiced today:

[Video link]

Do I need a license to practice psychoanalysis in the US?

Yes, you do need a license to practice psychoanalysis in the US, although, as best as I can tell, there are TWO primary ways you can obtain this licensure. Both routes require you to train at a psychoanalytic institute (see the list below), but they differ based on whether you must become a licensed mental health professional or not.

Necessary Licensure

The only licensure which actually matters at the legal level is state licensure. There are many psychoanalytic professional organizations (which I talk about more below), but membership with or certification through these organizations is not a legal requirement to call one's self a psychoanalyst or to perform psychoanalysis.

Voluntary Licensure

The American Board of Psychoanalysis (ABPsa) provides a second-order and voluntary certification process which adds a layer of certification beyond the completion of a training program or licensure to practice psychoanalysis in one's state or territory.

The American Board of Psychoanalysis require that:

Professional Organizations in Psychoanalysis

Many psychoanalysts join the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsA) which is one of the largest professional organizations uniting American psychoanalysts.

However, the APsA is simply a professional organization, and thus membership does not confer any level of licensure or certification. Further, the American Psychoanalytic Association is not the only professional organization in the United States for psychoanalysts to join.

You can also join the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis, or the Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies.

Many states and cities also have their own local societies and institutes where you can engage with colleagues in your immediate area. These are especially good for students and early-career clinicians to meet people in their region (I am on the board of my local psychoanalytic society). Many of them are small and convivial, so you will likely find many opportunities to both learn and lead.

You can find many of these societies through the APsA website, but I've found that internet searches turn up others which are not listed. [At some point, I'll probably put together an up to date Google Earth map of the location of all the societies and institutes, with some labeled attributes.]

Finally, you can find professional organizations for the application of psychoanalytic principles within a particular sub-field, such as the American Association of Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work or the Center for Christianity and Psychoanalysis, to name two of such groups.

How can I train as a psychoanalyst if I am already a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health professional?

The first way to practice psychoanalysis in the United States is to obtain state licensure in one of the mental health professions – counseling, social work, psychology, psychiatry – and then to complete an analyst training program at a state-approved psychoanalytic training institute.

There are many ways to become a licensed mental health professional, although each of these licenses are regulated at the state level. Many states have some variation of a license for social workers, mental health counselors, or marriage and family therapists. These master's level roles differ from psychologists, who have a PhD or PsyD, and psychologists are different from psychiatrists, who have an MD.

All of the professionals enumerated above are permitted to perform psychotherapy, but only psychologists can administer psychological testing, and only psychiatrists can prescribe medication (except in a few states where a psychologist can take special training to be licensed to prescribe medication).

Once you have obtained a valid license as a mental health professional in your state – which basically means that you can legally advertise yourself as performing psychotherapy – you are ready to apply to a training program at a state-approved psychoanalytic institute.

There are a number of accrediting bodies which accredit psychoanalytic institutes, including the American Psychoanalytic Association (list here), the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis (list here), and the American Board for Accreditation in Psychoanalysis (list here).

The APsA's list of approved training programs is more restrictive than the actual number of training institutes in the US. There are schools which are approved at the state level to lead to licensure, but which are not recognized by the APsA. So, be sure to check the state sections below to learn about all your training options.

Can I train as a psychoanalyst if I don't have a degree in counseling, social work, or psychology?

There is another path which some states provide to obtain licensure to practice psychoanalysis. Currently, I've only been able to confirm that California offers this route, but I've heard rumors that New York and Texas provides something similar, and I'm doing research to uncover the rules around this in other states. Stay posted for more.

This second pathway is called the "research analyst" and simply requires that one (1) have or are pursuing a terminal degree in one's field (typically a PhD) and (2) is engaged in some sort of full-time work teaching or engaging in research.

In California (which I know best), these requirements can be a bit vague, ranging from having a job at a state-accredited institution of higher learning all the way to "spending significant time producing research" (which seems to include some sort of independent scholar type?).

However, the catch with these is usually that you can't perform psychoanalysis for pay for more than 1/3 of your total working hours. So, there are some restrictions on how much you can practice, such that it cannot be your full time job.

Are there different types of psychoanalysts? Will that affect my licensure?

There are different schools of psychoanalysts, although this doesn't really affect your licensure. To the general public, you will simply be a psychoanalyst.

Your specific orientation of psychoanalysis will influence a number of things though. For instance, the institute you choose to train at, as well as the type of training you will receive at that institute, and which professional bodies you will gain access to. Some institutes are more eclectic in their approach, while some are more focused on a particular orientation. You should research a particular training program's orientation ahead of time as you discern where to study.

  • You'll find some straightforwardly Freudian schools like the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute.
  • You'll also find 'Object Relations' schools such as the Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute, which follow after the British tradition of psychoanalysis.
  • You'll encounter schools which follow the theories of Jacques Lacan, such as the Lacanian School in Berkeley, although these are rarer the US.
  • You'll also find various institutes where you can train as an analyst in the Jungian orientation (also called the Depth, Archetypal or Analytic).

There are other orientations as well, and I'm working on documenting the history of these figures and their theories over at my podcast Psycho-Babble on Substack (coming soon!).

Are there downsides to choosing a particular psychoanalytic orientation?

Despite being devoted students of the human mind and people deeply interested in the pathologies of both individuals and groups, psychoanalysts can be a surprisingly divisive bunch. Please be aware that training at certain institutes can brand you a certain way, or that picking a specific psychoanalytic orientation can make you unwelcome amongst certain groups.

In particular, choosing a Lacanian or Jungian orientation can affect how others view you, as well as your ability to be a member in certain societies, as some groups might not recognize these orientations or their schools. Choose wisely, and talk to those around you. If you don't want to lock yourself in, you can always look for the more eclectic institutes (peruse their curriculum on their website before applying) in order to pick and choose from a breadth of theorists.

Click here to view the official list of all the training institutes and component societies of the International Psychoanalytic Association, which is the largest and most official international organization which represents and governs the psychoanalytic community.

What does the licensing process look like in each state in the US?






Link to licensing requirements in California

Analyst (Clinical)

Research Analyst


To become a psychoanalyst in the state of Colorado, you must first become a licensed clinician – You can read their state's requirements here. If you are completing a graduate program, check with your admissions counselor to understand whether they have successfully gotten their graduates licensed in CO. You could even reach out to CO alumni to understand that process better.

You will need to train at an accredited psychoanalytic institute. Currently, there are two within Colorado itself, although you can train at one outside CO.

  1. The Denver Institute of Psychoanalysis is located in Colorado. Find out more about their training programs here. They are accredited by the APsA.
  2. The Colorado Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies is located in Colorado. Find out more about their training programs here. The CCMPS is currently accredited by the NAAP.

As far as I can tell, Colorado does not currently offer a non-clinical (research analyst) path to becoming a psychoanalyst.























New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota





Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota




Vermont - How to get licensed as a psychoanalyst in Vermont

The state of Vermont has a specific set of statutes regulating who can be licensed as a psychoanalyst, which you can find here, with some more resources here.

Summary of the requirements to attain licensure as a psychoanalyst in Vermont:

  1. To be eligible for certification as a psychoanalyst, an applicant shall satisfy the following requirements:
    • Have earned a master’s degree.
    • Have earned a graduate certificate or doctoral degree in psychoanalysis from a free-standing psychoanalytic institute that is chartered by a state or foreign government and accredited by a national psychoanalytic association.
  1. A student who is in training at a free-standing state or foreign government chartered psychoanalytic institute may practice as a psychoanalyst-in-training until issuance of State certification as long as that person is meeting the requirements for supervised practice of the institute at which that person is training. 

Vermont has two psychoanalytic institutes currently – (1) Vermont Association of Psychoanalytic Studies, which is a local chapter of Division 39 of the American Psychological Association, and (2) the Vermont Psychoanalytic Study Group. Neither of these societies seem to have a training program for analysts though, so you will need to train somewhere other than in Vermont.



West Virginia



How much money can a psychoanalyst make?

With only so much time in the day and only so many days in our lives, is psychoanalysis compensated well enough to warrant the education and time investment?

We live in a capitalist society where we have to earn money to purchase necessities. Our time is precious, so I don't think it's gauche or cynical to talk about money when it comes to the caring professions, such as psychoanalysis.

Most psychoanalysts work for themselves in a private practice where they procure and see their own patients, although some work in institutional or clinical settings. An analyst who has additional licensure in a mental health field can often work a part or full time job as part of a hospital or out-patient context, and then see a few patients on the side. The work can be flexible in this respect.

When undergoing an analysis, a patient will typically be on the couch anywhere from 3-5 times a week. What an analyst charges per hour session depends on where they live and the local market. One can usually charge in the range of $125-$150 in most suburban areas, and I've even heard of some charging upwards of $175+ in very large or international cities like New York City.

I do not have any experience trying to get insurance to pay for psychoanalysis, but I suspect that it's extremely difficult. One difficulty is that psychoanalysis does not provide a formal diagnosis in the sense that insurance expects. Further, an analysis will often go on for years, which is much much longer than insurance will be willing to pay for. Insurance will prefer that your patients see a therapist, receive a diagnosis from the DSM, and then go for approximately 8-12 sessions until they show enough improvement to warrant breaking off the treatment.

An analyst can do their patients a favor though by producing a "super-bill" (a large lump sum bill for all their services rendered) which patients can much more easily submit to their insurance provider for reimbursement. I know analysts who do this for their patients, and their patients are able to receive some funds from insurance.

However, returning to the question of an analyst's income, here is some quick back of the napkin math for you... Imagine you have 5 patients who you are seeing 4 times a week, for a total of 20 hours a week, and you charge a rate of $150 an hour. This would net you $12,000 or $144,000 a year, before taxes and business costs.

At these sort of rates, you could also afford to do a sliding scale, or even provide an affordable analysis for someone whose financial situation would normally make an analysis prohibitive. Also, it's customary to provide analysts in training with their analysis at a reduced rate. In this way, you can use the revenue from your wealthier clients to finance working with middle and lower class patients who are often neglected in psychoanalysis, as well as support analysts in training.

Keep in mind that, like any job where you work for yourself, work can be inconsistent – you may find it difficult to locate or retain clients. Perhaps they might skip sessions or break off their analysis prematurely. The money is by no means guaranteed. When you're in private practice, you work for yourself, which means you don't have a safety net to catch you when you fall. This can be scary, but also rewarding, depending on your personality and motivation. Regardless, the possibility to earn good money is there, and this money can be made on a flexible basis.

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