North American Psychoanalytic Confederation, or NAPsaC, was formed in 2003 to enable the North American Component Societies of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) to communicate with each other, to collaborate with each other on projects of mutual interest, and to facilitate scientific exchange among the three IPA Regional Groups: North America (NA), Latin America (LA), and Europe (EPF).
Although NAPsaC is composed solely of IPA Societies and Institutes (‘groups’), and represents the collective intentions of the North American component groups of the IPA, the Regional Groups of the IPA are no themselves component organizations of the IPA, that is, they do not operate as training or membership institutions. The Component Societies, Provisional Societies and Study groups serve that function. There is one exception, which occurs in North America. Via a special decree in 1939, the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) is considered a Regional Association by the IPA, and APsaA does function as a vetting and governing umbrella organization for 40 Affiliate Societies.
The North American Region (NA) consists of: Canada, which contains 5 Societies under an umbrella society, the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society (CPS); the United States, which contains the American Psychoanalytic Society (APsaA), and the Confederation of Independent Societies (CIPS), which is a confederation rather than a governing body, of the Independent Societies in the United States; two Asian societies: the Japanese Society (JPS), and the Korean Society, and three Study groups: the Taiwan, the Korean, and Vermont study groups. The IPA assigns these members to the NA Region. NAPsaC has undergone several attempts to organize and function among these organizations that are diverse in size and geography.
In 2003 the NAPsaC Board was made up of 2 representatives from Canada, 2 Representatives from APsaA, 2 Representatives from CIPS, and one representative each from PINC and one from what was then the New York Freudian Society; 8 Board members. No formal representation was made from Asia.
Then, since CIPS did not represent all the Independent groups, the CIPS Board withdrew from collective representation on the NAPsaC Board, and the Independent Societies began to represent themselves separately. The Asian Members were also invited to attend Board meetings regularly, at least by proxy, teleconference or videoconference, as available. As a result, the number of NAPsaC Board Members changed from 8 to 12. From that point on the NAPsaC Board was made up of 12 groups, each with one representative and one alternate, bringing the formal number of participating Board members to 24.
For most of its history, the NAPsaC Board operated under a consensus model. Nonetheless, for a long time the discrepancy in the size represented by each Board member was a problem when it came to voting on any issue that represented discrepancy. In 2017, after years of discussion at the Board and Society levels, NAPsaC initiated the ‘Two-Tier System of Voting’ for measures representing controversial issues that demand more than consensus voting.
The Two-Tier System operates on a model similar to the United States Senate and House: one vote per society for one tier; 1-3 votes per society proportionate to membership numbers for the second tier. A majority of each tier must be achieved to pass a measure. It is hoped that this system will help all members of NAPsaC feel heard and counted, and that NAPsaC move toward a viable partnership with the other IPA Regions.
From 2003 to present, NAPsaC routinely selected the members of IPA Regional Nominating Committees, selected members to represent North America on a variety of IPA work groups and conferences, mounted two websites, endorsed a lobbying effort to maintain licensing standards in New York State, and lent its name as a “co-sponsor” of a number of conferences, such as the NAPsaC-EPF Conference and the Emory Conference on Creativity. In 2008 the NAPsaC Board voted to support the development of IPA Working Parties in North America, and provided both publicity and modest funding to cover the initial administrative costs of the Working Party project. NAPsaC also had been able to function as an interface between North American IPA Groups and the North American Representatives to the IPA Board. Since NAPsaC’s formation, IPA Board representatives have been invited to NAPsaC board meetings to discuss IPA activities. In 2010, the NAPsaC Board decided that it would serve as a formal “link” group to connect all North American IPA Representatives with the North American community.
Nonetheless, NAPsaC has been in a constant state of transition, inspired by a common ambition to expand the scope of its organizational functioning. From 2003-2012, NAPsaC was not formally incorporated; therefore it did not have its own bank account nor liability insurance. Prompted by a collective desire to undertake a fuller program of scientific activities, including but not limited to the IPA Working Parties, in January 2010, the NAPsaC Board voted to establish a formal Steering Committee to manage a North American Working Parties project and endorsed a plan to organize a NAPsaC Scientific Conference, to feature both Working Parties and other study groups, originally scheduled for the fall of 2012.
The adoption of this plan necessitated a concomitant decision to develop NAPsaC as an organization so that it would be capable of carrying out the plan for the Working Parties. Accordingly, the board voted on a plan to incorporate NAPsaC to enable the organization to obtain a bank account and necessary liability insurances. In addition, the Board voted to draft bylaws including a viable system for organizational governance. Pursuant to these decisions, NAPsaC pursued incorporation in New York State and, at its January 2011 meeting, the NAPsaC Board took up the challenge of establishing by-laws. The ensuing discussion, however, exposed intense conflicts with regard to organizational governance and decision-making.
In the face of these conflicts, NAPsaC Board was hesitant to proceed with further planning for the Working Parties and the proposed NAPsaC Scientific Conference. Since the previous NAPsaC Board required consensus decision-making, all further action with regard to the Working Parties and the planned Conference was suspended.
Recognizing the need for bylaws, the Board appointed a bylaw committee (Leigh Tobias, David Falk, Steve Rosenbloom, and Fredric Perlman). In the ensuing months, the bylaw committee succeeded in producing a set of proposed bylaws, including three alternative systems for voting.
NAPsaC finally became incorporated in March 2012, and finally moved funds from its temporary housing in APsaA’s treasury into an independent NAPsaC account. At this time, however, no agreements had been reached with regard to voting; it was still difficult to begin any viable exchange efforts with the other Regions. The issue causing the most conflict was the amount of dues that would be set for NAPsaC members.
It must be emphasized that the recurrent problem with regard to voting, and by extension, dues-setting, was not a new problem for the NA Region. Since its inception, the component societies of NAPsaC had been divided with regard to governance and decision-making. This conflict arises because the component organizations of NAPsaC are of radically differing sizes, as well as geographically diverse. Therefore, the ability of all the Groups to participate, and feel the value of dues allocation, is challenging.
As a result, until the recent adoption of the Two-Tiered Voting System, NAPsaC has functioned primarily as an addition to other conference and initiatives, rather than implement an initiative or conference of its own. The dues are still very low; therefore it is quite challenging to operate as the other IPA Regional Groups do. It is hoped that as NAPsaC continues to be recognized for the several groups that it comprises, and if those groups decide to increase the collective dues, perhaps the value of NAPsaC will finally emerge as a cooperative Board within the NA Region, and an eager member with whom to exchange scientific projects.