I have been a member of the IPA for many years and have found enormous benefits in belonging to such a prestigious international organisation. It has been and continues to be a deeply enriching experience for me on both personal and professional levels to actively engage with the IPA by immersing myself in the wide range of activities, meetings, committee initiatives and more. And, of course, these sorts of opportunities are available to all members of the IPA.

My involvement with the IPA spans more than 20 years, and in that time, I have held a number of different roles, each of which I have found enriching in wonderful ways. After graduating as a psychoanalyst in Caracas, Venezuela, I began to work as Secretary General of my local society and enjoyed learning about the institutional side of our profession. I then had a wonderful experience as Secretary General (Vice-President) of FEPAL, during Serapio Marcano’s administration, where I enjoyed working with colleagues from other Latin American societies and developed a real sense of internationalism. Then, from 2005 until 2009, during Claudio Eizirik’s administration, I was a Latin American Representative on the IPA Board. It was there that I really developed my interest in member benefits, which is something that Harriet Wolfe and I have continued to focus on in our administration. 

Since then, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the benefits that IPA membership provides and what being an IPA member means. There are the obvious benefits, such as scientific exchanges, access to information and resources, opportunities for career development and networking, research grants, advice and support, just to name a few. But there is perhaps another layer of benefits that we can access by becoming a more active and engaged member of the IPA. 

I organise this layer of benefits into four main categories, from which I have been greatly enriched during the course of my work with the IPA over many years and in different capacities. 

Having been born in Argentina, emigrated to Venezuela and many years later emigrated again to the United States, becoming an active member of the IPA has given me a stable professional identity. It is an identity that I am immensely proud of, that I have been able to carry with me from one country to the next, and from one society to another. Speaking metaphorically, it has almost been like an “IPA Visa” permitting me to move more easily from one country to another and practise my profession, receiving the same respect in my adopted country as the country I trained in. This has been hugely beneficial to me. This identity has been further developed by volunteering my time on IPA committees, sharing my experience and knowledge with other colleagues, and participating in IPA events and scientific meetings.

Being open to different perspectives
Through my involvement with the IPA, I have met and worked with many different people, from all over the world, with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Many of these working relations have become life-long friendships that I value dearly. This exposure to such a diverse group of colleagues has also had a profound effect on my personal and professional development. It has enabled me to be open to different perspectives in the realms of theory and clinical technique and has giving me new ways to approach my own academic and clinical work. For the continued growth and development of psychoanalysis, I think it is essential that we are able to share our ideas and experiences with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds.

Our internationalism is perhaps our greatest asset. It is what keeps psychoanalysis alive, helps to protect its integrity, and provides space for its development. Continuing to develop our discipline is only possible through interchanges between regions; and the greatest vehicle for doing that is the IPA, through its regional representation and interregional activities, as well as the vast networks of individual IPA members working together across borders and time zones. Being able to think and work internationally not only benefits us collectively as a discipline but also as individuals. It helps us to expand our minds and develop personally and professionally.  The IPA, as an international association also offers us institutional standing from which to engage the world in which we live and address its social problems by employing our unique knowledge base and clinical skills.

Becoming an IPA citizen
All of this leads to what I see as the significance of becoming an ‘IPA citizen’. We’re all very passionate about the work of our own local societies and our regional associations. But in addition to these, it is possible to also engage with our international association, the IPA, with the same pride, love, and engagement. This triple identification solidifies our sense of belonging to our local, regional, and wider international community of psychoanalysts. 

As a membership organisation, the vitality of the IPA depends on the participation of our ‘IPA Citizens’, those that share their valuable time with us to carry out our committee projects and activities, those that share feedback on the important decisions we need to make, and those that participate in our events and scientific meetings. Psychoanalysis can often feel like a solitary profession but coming together internationally as active IPA citizens can help to break the isolation, so common in our psychoanalytic work. 

The IPA faces several immediate and longer-term challenges, compounded by the cloud of uncertainty that lingers from the Covid-19 pandemic. The board is confident that we will rise to these challenges and overcome them, but the value of the support of our members in navigating these uncertain times cannot be understated. I’d like to encourage all members to immerse themselves in the activities we offer throughout 2022, to share their opinions on policy decisions with the IPA and come together collectively as IPA citizens. 

The best place to find out about current IPA activities and initiatives is the IPA website, where you will also find a wealth of useful information and resources. We also recommend keeping an eye on your email inbox for our monthly e-newsletter! 

I wish you all a very healthy, happy, peaceful, and productive year in 2022 and encourage you all to take advantage of the benefits of belonging and contributing to the IPA. 

If you would like to share your experience of being an IPA member then we are currently welcoming contributions for the IPA blog. We would love to hear from any member or candidate about their active involvement with our association, and how they feel this has benefitted them. To share your contribution, please email our Communications Manager, Matthew Grimley: [email protected].