The Origin and Development of the IPA

Freud referred more than once, with considerable nostalgia, to the ten years of "splendid isolation" during which psychoanalysis was developed by him. No doubt he felt that this period began when his collaboration with Breuer came to an end in 1894, leaving him to continue his work alone in the absence of any colleague with whom he could discuss it. But since the publication of Freud's letters to Fliess, we know that they carried on a very lively correspondence in which Freud used Fliess as a sounding-board for his developing ideas; and we know further that some of these were certainly stimulated by Fliess's own theories. Moreover, the two men met on numerous occasions for what Freud jokingly referred to as their "congresses". This word was a portent of things to come. To this extent, then, Freud was not totally isolated in his work, though it is true that he had no collaborators in Vienna, Fliess being a Berliner.

In 1902, probably on the initiative of Stekel, who had been his patient, Freud invited four men (Stekel, Adler, Kahane and Reitler) to meet him in order to discuss his work, and they formed what they called the Psychological Wednesday Society, since they met every week on that day. By 1908 there were 14 members and the name was changed to the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society; it was in this year that Ferenczi joined it. Besides the members, there were some guests who later became important for psychoanalysis; these included Eitingon, Jung, Abraham and Jones, each of whom later became President of the IPA.

IPA Film

Film with historical scenes, oral history interviews and comments, created for the IPA in 2010 by Lee Jaffe,

produced by Nadine Levinson and moderated by Leo Rangell


In 1907 Jones visited Jung in Zürich. Jones had not yet met Freud, though he had made himself very familiar with his writings and had been practising the psychoanalytic technique with his patients in London since the end of 1906. It was Jones who suggested to Jung that an international meeting should be arranged to bring together colleagues from various countries in order to discuss their common interest in psychoanalysis. In view of this, it may be claimed that Jones was the man who first put forward the idea that eventually gave rise to the IPA. Freud welcomed the proposal, and it was he who chose Salzburg as the best place for the projected meeting. Jones wished its title to be "International Psychoanalytical Congress", but Jung decided to call it "First Congress for Freudian Psychology". However, this very informal meeting is now reckoned to be the first International Psychoanalytical Congress, although the International Association had not yet been founded.

It was during this meeting in Salzburg, on 27 April 1908, that the idea of an International Association was discussed and agreed upon. Apart from this momentous decision, the most notable event at Salzburg was Freud's presentation of the case of the Rat Man; this aroused so much interest that he was persuaded to extend it to more than four hours The next Congress was held at Nuremberg in March 1910, and it was at this Congress that the International Psychoanalytical Association was founded. Freud had first met Ferenczi only a very short time before the Salzburg Congress, but their friendship evidently ripened rapidly, and after Salzburg Freud asked Ferenczi to make proposals designed to bring analysts closer together in some kind of bond. This Ferenczi did at Nuremberg; he insisted that Jung should be President of the new Association, and that its official centre should be Zürich. Freud too thought both these proposals to be very important for several reasons. First of all, he had an extremely high opinion of Jung. For at least a year he had viewed Jung as his spiritual heir, to whom the future of psychoanalysis could most safely be entrusted. Freud also believed it to be of the utmost importance that psychoanalysis should no longer be identified in the public mind with Vienna, neither should it be regarded as something specifically Jewish. And so Jung, as a Swiss and Gentile, seemed admirably suited for the role of leader, and was elected the first President of the IPA, the central office being in Zürich, as the place of residence of the President.

During the next few years, the affairs of the IPA were managed by Jung, with Riklin as his Secretary. In June 1911, Adler resigned from the Vienna Society, together with some other members; he set up his own organization of Individual Psychology. This left Stekel to run the Zentralblatt. Freud found this unsatisfactory and eventually, in October 1912, Stekel too resigned from the Vienna Society.

Meantime, the third Congress had taken place at Weimar in September, 1911. At this time, it was reported that there were 106 members of the IPA. The Congress accepted both of the newly founded American Societies - that of New York and the American Psychoanalytic Association. The Zentralblatt became the official organ of the IPA, but its place was soon taken by the Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, founded by Freud in January 1913 and edited by Ferenczi, Jones and Rank. This journal continued publication until 1941. In addition, Imago had been started in 1912 as a journal devoted to applied psychoanalysis. At Weimar Jung was re-elected as President, and it was arranged to hold the next Congress in Munich, in 1913.


During the intervening period, the relationship between Freud and Jung had deteriorated owing to serious differences, both of a scientific and of a personal nature. At the beginning of 1913, their personal relationship came to an end by mutual consent. Nevertheless, Jung continued as President of the IPA and presided at the Munich Congress in September, 1913. There was much dissatisfaction; Abraham suggested that those who disapproved should abstain from voting when his re-election was proposed, and 22 out of 52 did in fact abstain. However, following his election, Jung soon recognised that his position was untenable and resigned as President in April, 1914; the Zürich Society withdrew from the IPA in July. Thus, the last link was severed between Jung and psychoanalysis.


Freud suggested that Abraham should be interim President pending the next Congress, which was planned for September, 1914; but the outbreak of war in August led to its abandonment, and there was no further Congress until one was held in Budapest in September, 1918. Almost all who attended came from Austria or Hungary, with three from Germany, two from Holland and one from Poland, so that it was hardly international. Ferenczi was elected President, but owing to the chaotic condition of both Hungary and Austria following their defeat, he found it impossible to carry out his functions; he therefore asked Jones to take over provisionally, and this he did.


The First World War produced a hiatus in the activities of the IPA. The purpose for which it was founded was the formation of a bond between psychoanalysts in various countries. The means to bring this about consisted in the organization of International Congresses at which scientific exchange was encouraged; the publication of a Bulletin in one form or another in which information about the activities in the various Societies could be conveyed, and the foundation of scientific journals, which eventually crystallized into two, the Internationale Zeitschrift and Imago.


In 1912, when Adler and Stekel had formally defected and Jung was showing clear signs of going the same way, Jones organised a secret Committee of colleagues who could be fully trusted to adhere to Freud and to the major tenets of psychoanalysis. It consisted originally of Jones as chairman, Ferenczi, Rank, Sachs and Abraham. Eitingon was added in 1919. Each member of the Committee pledged himself not to make any public departure from the fundamental tenets of psychoanalytic theory before he had discussed his views with the others. Thus there would be a much more acceptable form of the safeguards recommended by Ferenczi at the Nuremberg Congress; they would be limited to the "Old Guard" represented by the Committee, and would be in their own hands rather than in those of the President of the IPA. Since in 1912 this meant Jung, whose departure from psychoanalysis was already predictable, there was clearly a gulf between the secret Committee and the official activities of the IPA under Jung's leadership. Jones tells us that the Committee functioned satisfactorily for ten years. It was important for what it did not only to promote unity during that period but also, it may be conjectured, for creating a tradition of what might be described as oligarchy (or should one say meritocracy?) in the IPA itself.


Over a period of several years in the nineteen-twenties, serious difficulties developed in the relationship of Rank to the other members of the Committee. He left the Committee and his place on it was taken in 1925 by Anna Freud.

However, the Committee was finally dissolved in 1927.


After the war, in 1920, a Congress was held at The Hague; this was more international than the Budapest Congress of 1918, and it brought together again colleagues who had been separated perforce by the war. 62 members took part. The British and Swiss Societies were formally admitted, and Jones was elected President.


The Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, an independent publishing house, had been set up by Freud in January 1919, with the aim of independence for psychoanalytic publishing; a very considerable amount of money had been promised by von Freund of Budapest, but he unfortunately died in January 1920. Insuperable difficulties arose and the bulk of the money never became available. Rank worked extremely hard for the Verlag, and Jones too was very active, especially with regard to publishing in England. Eventually he set up the International Psychoanalytical Library and founded the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, the first number of which appeared in 1920.


The seventh Congress was held in Berlin in 1922, and it was agreed there that Congresses should be held every two years. Jones was re-elected President, with Abraham as Secretary - a break with the precedent that the Secretary must belong to the same Society as the President.


The next Congress took place in 1924 - like the first, in Salzburg. It was reported that there were 263 members of the IPA, contrasting with the 22 at the first Congress. The following Congress, at Bad Homburg, was a particularly important one. Abraham presided. There was a preliminary conference to discuss training and the proposal to set up an international training organization in order to promote uniform standards. Delegates of Societies had been invited; Ferenczi was Chairman. Eitingon introduced a number of important principles. Training was not to be left to the private initiative of individuals - instead the different countries should provide training institutes, and regulations for training in these institutes should be laid down authoritatively by the IPA. The training should include "instructional analysis" and the analysis of patients under supervision. Anyone who wished to practise psychoanalysis must have completed his training before becoming a member of the IPA. It was resolved that each Branch Society must elect a Training Committee of not more than seven members, and that these committees should combine to form an International Training Board (later renamed Commission - ITC). This Board would be the central organ of the IPA for all questions concerned with psychoanalytic training. Eitingon was appointed the first President of the Training Board.


Jones remarks that it became evident at this Congress that serious difficulties were emerging between the Americans and the Europeans over the question of lay (i.e. non-medical) analysis. Both Freud and Ferenczi held that applicants for training should be actually discouraged from undertaking a medical education; whereas the Americans insisted that for them, at least, because of widespread quackery in America, a medical degree must be compulsory. Jones and Eitingon took up a middle position - medical training should be encouraged but not insisted upon. The Congress finally adopted a resolution directing the ITC to draw up a scheme of conditions for admission to training, and resolving that no action be taken until such a scheme had been drawn up. The committee that Eitingon appointed for this purpose consisted entirely of Berlin members, and its conclusions failed to please many Branch Societies. A new, truly international committee was appointed at the next Congress, with Jones as chairman. Its report was unanimously accepted at the Wiesbaden Congress in 1932; it recommended that rules for the selection of candidates, including lay ones, should be left to the discretion of each individual Society.


Abraham was re-elected President of the IPA at Bad Homburg (1925), but he died a few months after the Congress, and Eitingon took over his duties, Anna Freud replacing him as Secretary.


At Innsbruck (1927) Eitingon was formally elected President. The Committee ceased to exist as a secret organization; its place was taken by the Officers of the Association - namely, the President, two Vice-Presidents, the Secretary and the Treasurer, a body usually referred to as the Central Executive. In 1929, the Congress was held for the first time outside Continental Europe, in Oxford. Eitingon remarked that the Association was growing very slowly; he thought that this was because of the general insistence that members be analysed. He was re-elected President, and again at Wiesbaden three years later. The postponement from 1931 to 1932 was due to the internal situation in Germany, where there were severe economic problems. Eitingon reported that there were now seven training institutes, and that the newer ones were following the methods of training operating in Berlin, Vienna and London.


The new sub-committee on training made recommendations which reaffirmed that the sole authorities for admission to training and for training are the Training Committees; the rules relating to the selection of lay candidates are to be left to each individual Training Committee, but room should be left in the rules to permit exceptions. No one must claim to be a qualified psychoanalyst till his training is completed to the satisfaction of the Training Committee. Lay candidates must promise never to engage in consultative work, the consultant referring the patient remaining legally responsible. Training must last at least three years and include two years of theoretical studies as well as a training analysis by an approved analyst, and two "control" (i.e. supervised) analyses of at least a year each. Non-analytic studies in related fields are to be encouraged. Lay analysts need study and experience in clinical psychiatry and physiology, medicals in postgraduate work in medicine, neurology and psychiatry. In the case of candidates from foreign countries the approval of their home Training Committee is to be obtained. It will thus be seen that most of our present-day regulations were already laid down more than fifty years ago.


It was reported that there was marked progress in the USA and that some leading European analysts had been asked to help with the training there. Congress approved the reorganization of the APA into a Federation of American Societies, which would act as an executive body, organizing and supervision of the work of the Branch Societies; only on the recommendation of the APA would any further American Branch Societies be admitted to the IPA. The APA itself ceased to be a Branch Society; but its President was to have a seat on the Central Executive of the IPA, that is to be a third Vice-President.


Jones was elected President of the IPA (a post he was to hold for more than five years) while Eitingon continued to preside over the ITC. The 13th Congress was held at Lucerne in 1934, with a tribute to Ferenczi, the founder of the IPA, who had died. Congress noted that the reorganization of the APA had not been completed and hoped that its statutes would speedily be drafted and submitted to the Central Executive. This was in fact done, and the American Statutes were approved and ratified at the next Congress, Marienbad, 1936. It was resolved that any resolution passed by Congress relating especially to America is subject to veto by the APA. Thus a special position and considerable autonomy was accorded to America.


The last pre-war Congress was held in Paris in 1938. Jones reported the dissolution of the Vienna Society following the Nazi annexation of Austria - only some half-dozen members remained there. He reported a last-minute communication from the APA which proposed, among other suggestions, that the IPA should cease to exist as an administrative and executive body and resolve itself into a Congress for scientific purposes only. Jones proposed, and it was agreed, to set up a committee to confer with the Executive of the APA. In the event, however, although it seems that the European committee met, there was never any meeting with the Americans owing to the outbreak of the Second World War.


Towards the end of the Second World War, there was a meeting at Maresfield Gardens (London) between a few leading American analysts and some members of the British Society. As Jones had been running the IPA since 1932 (with the assistance of Glover and then of Anna Freud) he was personally under attack from the Americans; he finally succeeded in convincing them that he was not really a reincarnation of King George III. Later, when the war was over, there was a more official meeting at the Savoy Hotel, reported by Jones at the subsequent Congress. On this occasion, in 1948, there were seven representatives from America and six from London. It was agreed that various alterations needed to be made in the Statutes of the IPA. There was no longer any mention of the ITC, which in fact had ceased to exist. A gentleman's agreement was reached whereby the Presidency should oscillate between America and Europe, though this was not incorporated in the Statutes. Consequently, when Jones resigned his office after 15 continuous years, an American President was elected, Leo Bartemeier, and Jones was made permanent Honorary President. This occurred at the first post-war Congress, held in Zürich in 1949. This was also the first Congress after the death of Freud in 1939.


1956 marked the centenary of Freud's birth, which was widely celebrated in a number of ways, including a series of lectures by Jones. At the Paris Congress a new category of organization was created for the APsaA. A Regional Association was to have local autonomy in all matters of training; the local American Societies would be affiliated to the APA, but only those American analysts who were members of the APA would have membership in the IPA. Thus the difficulties which had for many years beset the relationship between Europe and America seemed to be satisfactorily solved.


The Copenhagen Congress of 1959 was the first since 1910 that had not been attended by Ernest Jones, who died in 1958.


In 1951, the Sigmund Freud Archives had been incorporated in the State of New York, Kurt Eissler being Secretary. Its purpose was to collect all material relating to the biography of Freud and to his scientific interests. For many years, reports on the Archives have been made to Congress by Eissler or his deputy, often recording very important donations of letters and other material.


At the Copenhagen Congress in 1967, note was taken of the completion of the Standard Edition of Freud's Psychological Works.


The 1971 Congress was held in Vienna: this was the first time that a Congress had been held in the birthplace of psychoanalysis; it was also the first time that Anna Freud had visited Vienna since 1938. The President, Leo Rangell, marked the occasion with a presentation to her.


At the Paris Congress in 1973 there was an immensely long debate on the Ritvo Report regarding training in child analysis and the status in the IPA of those who had received such training without full adult training. Finally, the Report was rejected by Congress, which meant there was no change in the status quo - only those satisfactorily trained in the analysis of adults were to be eligible for membership of the IPA. Anna Freud was created Honorary President, replacing Heinz Hartmann who had died in 1970. Miss Freud remained Honorary President from 1973 until her death in 1982.


In 1979, the IPA went to New York to hold the first transatlantic Congress. It was announced there that the membership of the IPA was around 5,000 and rising; further, that the Sigmund Freud Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies and Research had been established in Jerusalem, with a Chair at the Hebrew University there. There was also a report on the Sigmund Freud Gesellschaft in Vienna, housed at 19 Berggasse. It had been active since its foundation in 1968, collecting a library and archives, publishing a bulletin, and housing a museum. It was opened officially at the Vienna Congress in 1971.


Since the 1980s, the IPA has seen the addition of Latin America as a third administrative region, with the first Congress on South American soil taking place in 1991 in Buenos Aires. The Presidency also revolves through this third region, with the first Latin American in that office, Horacio Etchegoyen, active between 1993 and 1997.


It may be agreed that the holding of Congresses is one of the principal activities of the IPA, and that various Presidents have played a vital role in its development. But an enormous contribution to the work of the IPA has been made by others, notably by the Secretaries and Treasurers, and over the last three decades by the central office. The Association has not only increased its membership steadily over the years, reaching over 12,000 members at the end of 2009; it has also become far more active between Congresses, especially in providing aid and advice to developing groups in various parts of the world. After the fall of the Berlin Wall collaboration grew between the IPA and the European Psychoanalytical Federation for the development of new societies and study groups in post-communist countries which led to the creation of the Psychoanalytic Institute for Eastern Europe. In 1997 the IPA Committee on United Nations was created and in 1998 the IPA was granted Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.


Born in 1910, the IPA has now reached full maturity and is more essentially international than ever before. 2010 saw the first psychoanalytic conference to be held in China which explored psychoanalytic evolution and change within an Asian context. 2010 was also an important year for the IPA, celebrating the centenary of its founding. A number of events took place on a global scale focusing on 100 years of psychoanalysis and the challenges for the next 100. 

Adapted from an article by William H. Gillespie, 1982


Main Sources:

  • Ernest Jones: Sigmund Freud, Life And Work
  • Ernest Jones: Free AssociationsZeitschrift für Psychoanalyse
  • International Journal of Psycho-Analysis