Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis take as a basic premise that there is something to gain from talking regularly with someone whose perspective, training, skills, and experience allow for a kind of listening and understanding not typically available in everyday life. Not only is it thereby possible to work through specific problems and personal concerns (e.g. depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, relationship problems, self-esteem deficits, career issues, creative blocks, sexual difficulties, eating disorders, or identity questions) but also to gain insight into parts and functions of the mind which operate outside of awareness. These unconscious features of ourselves have tremendous influence over our thoughts, feelings and behavior, and—left unexamined—can contribute to suffering of all sorts.

While psychoanalysis and this kind of psychotherapy are very much concerned with the present, they also concern themselves with the ways in which current events, interactions, and perceptions are shaped and influenced by past experiences and early relationships. In the pursuit of a greater understanding of a person’s life and mind, everything—feelings, beliefs, memories, dreams, even seemingly irrelevant passing thoughts, and especially the relationship that develops between therapist and patient—is considered a worthy object of shared curiosity.

Psychoanalysis is the more intensive form of treatment. Sessions take place three, four, or five times a week, rather than once or twice weekly as they do in therapy. The situation differs, as well, in that while therapy usually occurs with the two parties sitting face-to-face, the analytic patient generally lies on a couch with the analyst sitting in a chair outside the patient’s line of vision. Freed by this arrangement from certain social conventions, the patient is enabled to turn his or her attention more fully inward and to speak more comfortably about all that comes to mind.

There is no single type of person or problem for which psychoanalysis is the preferred approach, but when difficulties are of a more long-standing nature, and therefore likely to be more deeply rooted and integrated into an individual’s personality and ways of being in the world, the intensity of analysis is often indicated. Psychoanalysis can be the treatment of choice for those who have had unsuccessful attempts with briefer, less intensive therapies as well as for those who, having begun with therapy, feel the need or desire to deepen the work. It is sometimes the case that more frequent sessions make a person feel more supported, better understood, and freer to reveal their most troubling thoughts.

Both therapeutic endeavors—psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis—involve a unique setting, circumstance, and partnership through which remarkable personal development is possible. Self-awareness can flourish; psychic pain and conflict can be reduced; coping, decision-making, and interpersonal skills can each grow flexible and strong. And crucially, through analysis or therapy, the capacity can be developed to achieve far greater satisfaction and pleasure from work, love, and play.