A History of the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis 

Schism and Reunification 



The roots of the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis (WBCP)  run deep in American psychoanalytic history. The original group, the Washington  Psychoanalytic Society was founded in 1914 and was centered at the Government Hospital for the Insane, which was soon renamed St. Elizabeth’s. Dues were 25 cents a month and lay members were welcome.

In 1920 a group of analysts from the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Baltimore joined the Washington Psychoanalytic Society. Ramifications from World War I led to a temporary disbandment of the society followed in 1924 by the revitalization of the group, having changed its name to the Washington Psychoanalytic Association. 

In 1930, a new organization, the Washington Baltimore Psychoanalytic Society was given provisional status as a training program by the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA);  following on the heels of New York, Chicago, and  Boston. In May of 1940 provisional status was lifted and the Washington Baltimore Psychoanalytic Institute was founded. Unlike its European counterparts, training programs in the USA were limited to only physicians. This policy did not change until 1988, when APsaA, in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Psychological Association, began to allow non-medical therapists to be trained. 


In the 1940’s, theoretically diverse perspectives began to  become increasingly more apparent. Jenny Waelder Hall, a traditional Viennese-trained analyst came into conflict with Harry Stack Sullivan a non conventional analyst. As the historian, Donald Burnham (1978)  stated,”it is tempting to view Waelder Hall and Sullivan not only as eloquent spokesmen but as a literal personification of Vienna orthodoxy and American eclecticism and of the difficulty, if not impossibility, of reconciling the two” ( p.102). Serious differences of opinion arose regarding the  following: the importance of sexual and aggressive drives, conflicts regarding classical techniques as versus techniques which had as their scaffolding a more interpersonal theoretical perspective, and the use of these interpersonal techniques with more widening scope patients. These contretemps regarding theory and technique worked to camoflouge the personal enmities between the two groups. The clashes  become more intense and frequent and eventually rose to a crescendo  resulting in 1948 in a traumatic schism. At this point The Washington and The Baltimore became two separate societies. The Institute remained formally intact until 1952 when the Baltimore Group wishing to maintain and develop classical psychoanalysis applied to APsaA to be recognized as a separate Maryland-D.C. Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. 

As  the years went by, the emotional chasm deepened and a sense of hostility and disapproval of “the other” intensified. These long held beliefs about the rival institute in the area were perpetrated by their transmission to future generations of analysts. One organization was seen by the other as rigid and unbending, and the other organization perceived its rival as lose and unappreciative of boundaries. Sadly, a group of very like-minded analysts developed little cohesion with each other;  as a matter of fact, very few people in either  group even had collegial contact with members of the other group. The fault lines became increasingly more clear as the two separate histories for the two separate organizations began to unfold. Here we will diverge and chapters III and IV will summarize the parallel yet disconnected journeys of the two local groups: The Baltimore Washington Psychoanalytic (BWP) and the  Washington Psychoanalytic (WP) 


Following the break-up, most of the members of the BWP resided in Baltimore, but over the years the balance shifted toward Washington. Although the main administrative office remained in Baltimore more and more classroom space was secured in Washington. In the early 1970’s a group of analysts from Florida became involved and training for that group was begun under the aegis of the BWP.  The Florida candidates commuted north every other weekend for classes until 1992, when the Florida Program became emancipated. 

Since early in its inception the BWP has had a robust and enduring emphasis on child and adolescent programming which began in the 1940s under the leadership of Waelder Hall, who had studied in the 1920s and 30s with Anna Freud. In 1962 the Child Division was established at BWP. 

As time went on, and traffic patterns between Baltimore and Washington changed, it became clear that commuting the 45 miles from one city to the other for various meetings and classes created unrealistic time demands. As a result, in 1987 the building in Baltimore was sold and the headquarters of the organization was moved to Laurel, Maryland, an historic town exactly halfway between Baltimore and Washington. For many  years, both the adult and child programs flourished. It was during this time, in 2000, that  the organization received a substantial endowment ($5,000,000) from the estate of Paul Mellon, an American  philanthropist who had been a patient of Jenny Waelder Hall. 

Despite the infusion of economic resources the, number of applicants for candidacy began to dwindle. In 2014, efforts were made to restructure the organization moving it from the traditional Institute/ Society model to a Center model; however, this undertaking did little to change the trajectory.  As is the case in most situations there were multiple determinants for this decline. The most obvious being population growth in the Washington Baltimore area which lead to significant traffic congestion making the commute to Laurel prohibitive for many. Secondarily, the BWP (which had historically fallen into the ego psychology camp) began to diversify, and as a result the difference between the BWP and the WP  become less significant. Potential candidates, in particular, in the Washington area, saw very little reason to undertake the commute since theoretical perspectives no longer seemed divergent. Meanwhile, at the Washington, innovative curriculum  changes which appealed to potential candidates were being undertaken, as they were simultaneously in the process of affiliating with the George Washington University Medical School-Psychiatry Program. 


Significant changes were occurring throughout these decades at the WP as well. In 1977, for theoretical and ethical reasons,12 disgruntled training analysts from the WP formed a separate organization called the Washington Association for  Psychoanalytic Education (WAPE). They applied for accreditation with APsaA.  The WP vigorously opposed their application and it was denied. Ramifications were felt throughout the organization for an extensive period. As the years went by, two other groups of analysts split off forming two other ( non APsaA affiliated) competing institutes.  

Although the WP eventually stabilized and reorganized from an Institute/ Society model to a Center model in 2005, financial problems dogged the organization and in 2002 they had to sell their beloved home and move into a suite of offices which, as serendipity would have it, had been the suite occupied by the BWP decades before. Perhaps this was some type of omen, a prediction that will soon be understood as Chapter V of the story unfolds. 

Following the above cited move, the WP struggled for a number of years with few candidates and continuous financial concerns. In 2009 some very innovative members of the WP, realizing the jeopardy they were in, began to design and eventually implement the Psychoanalytic Studies Program (PSP). The PSP is a two-year program which creatively combines three formally separate programs of the center: the psychoanalytic training program, the psychotherapy training program, and the scholars program. A psychoanalytic educational experience for the 21st-century was created! The PSP brought to life the mission of the Center which has been to create a community of psychoanalytic clinicians, scholars, and others who are interested in psychoanalysis as a treatment modality, a theory of mind and as a tool for  psychoanalytic research. This program has been amazingly successful in that it allows students the opportunity to dip their toes into the water of psychoanalytic training without having to immediately make the full commitment to analysis and multiple supervisions. This program which allows for a slow emersion has lead at least half of the PSP students to go on to pursue psychoanalytic training. As this program was being birthed; WP was joining forces with the George Washington University ( GWU) Psychiatry Department and eventually moved their offices to GWU.  The combination of the genius of the PSP coupled with the affiliation with GWU worked to breathe new life into a struggling organization. The PSP really made learning about psychoanalysis attractive to a wide range of individuals, including scholars and in fact, a number of the clinicians who became candidates had no intention of doing so when they first  began the program.         


In 2011, the directors of the child programs of the WP and the BWP began working together more, sharing classes and informally meeting. This collaboration served as a springboard and the leadership at both centers started to consider the possibility of immulating the example that the child programs had set.  A task force was formed and members of the two groups launched into a pattern of meeting regularly. Lo and behold they realized that the preconceived notions about “the other” were gross distortions and clearly unfounded. The similarities, sense of common purpose, and camaraderie trumped the messages from the past.  A number of members from the feuding groups that had been so adamantly opposed to one another were no longer with us, and admittedly this contributed to more reality-based perceptions about “the other.” Circumstances were right, the animosity became a phenomenon of the past, a bright future was ahead and the two groups were off and running.  During a year of negotiations which went smoothly,each group became familiar with the other’s programs, administrative structures, and financial circumstances. Following these negotiations, new by laws were developed, a vote was taken and the reunification was underway. The new organization, the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis (WBCP) is a thriving entity with over 50 students in the PSP and Psychoanalytic Training Program, 12 other robust programs, and a prospering clinic.  Time does indeed heal many a wound!!

Burnham, Donald, (1978) Orthodoxy and eclecticism in American psychoanalysis: The Washington-Baltimore experience. In J.Quen and E. Carlson ( Eds.) American psychoanalysis:origins and development
(pp.87-108). New York:Brunner Mazel.