Psychoanalysis is a therapeutic process that focuses on an individual’s unconscious and deep-rooted thoughts. Developed by Sigmund Freud, it takes the view that our current behaviour, thoughts, and feelings are directly influenced by our childhood and past experiences. Over time these can become repressed and may manifest themselves as depression or other negative symptoms.
Psychoanalysis is typically delivered long-term, intensive treatment, requiring time and a level of commitment from the client. You would usually be required to attend regular sessions for several years, depending on your needs and circumstances. It is this delivery time frame that sets psychoanalysis apart from psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapies, which share similarities with this approach but are generally short-term.
Four key assumptions guide the process of psychoanalysis. These are:
- Psychological problems are rooted in the unconscious mind.
- Manifest symptoms are the result of latent (hidden) disturbances.
- Unresolved issues or repressed trauma are typical causes.
- Treatment is designed to bring the repressed conflict into consciousness, so a client can make the necessary changes to overcome them.
The treatment process also relies heavily on other factors including a strong relationship between client and therapist. This relationship will help to facilitate a core process of psychoanalysis, which is called “transference”. Transference takes place when the client freely talks about his/her feelings and thoughts towards important people in their life – essentially living out his/her unconscious dynamics through the connection to the therapist.
The psychoanalyst will employ a range of techniques during therapy including:
- Dream Analysis: Freud believed that all people learn through myths, jokes, fairytales, poems, and so on. Dream analysis involves the interpretation of these symbols in our dreams to understand the unconscious mind and indicate any areas of trouble that need to be investigated.
- Word Association: This involves the therapist giving a stimulus word, to which you must reply with the very first thing that comes to mind. This enables unconscious thoughts to enter the conscious in preparation for further investigation later in therapy.
- Projective tests: This involves the psychoanalyst presenting you with a series of abstract images and inviting you to explain what you see, or to create a story based on the images. A commonly known projective test is the inkblot test, also known as the Rorschach test.
- Para Praxes: This is also known as the ‘Freudian slip’. It is thought that unconscious thoughts and feelings could transfer to the conscious mind through slips of the tongue or pen. Psychoanalysts take the vie that every slip is significant and can reveal something important.
Psychoanalysis is a highly individualised therapy and thus can help to treat a range of psychological disorders and self-destructive patterns of behaviour that may be impacting the quality of life. The therapy can help clients of all ages and can even benefit those who are simply curious to know a bit more about themselves and how their mind works. Essentially though, it is for people who have concerns that interfere with the way they want to live their lives.