Psychoanalytic therapy is a form of talking therapy based on the theories of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic therapy explores how the unconscious mind influences thoughts and behaviours, intending to offer insight and resolution to the person seeking therapy.
Psychoanalytic therapy typically looks at the client’s experiences of early childhood, to see if any events have had a particular impact on their life, or contributed in some way to current concerns. This form of therapy is considered a long-term choice, and sessions can continue for weeks, months or even years, depending on the depth of the concern being explored.
Psychoanalytic therapy is insight-driven, and therefore looks to foster change by helping you understand your past and how events from your early life could be affecting you now. The therapist will listen to your concerns and look out for patterns or certain events that may hold significance. In this type of therapy, it is believed that our unconscious feelings and certain childhood events play a key role in mental distress.
As well as listening, the therapist may use other techniques to help you understand and identify potential causes for your concerns. These techniques include:
- Free Association: which involves you talking about whatever comes into your mind without censoring or editing the flow of memories or ideas.
- Therapeutic transference: Transference relates to the way you may be transferring thoughts or feelings connected to influential figures in your life (for example your parents or siblings) onto your therapist.
- Interpretation: A key element of psychoanalytic therapy is interpreting and ‘reading between the lines’. While your therapist is likely to stay relatively quiet and allow you to talk freely, they will occasionally interject with thoughts or interpretations of the topics you discuss.
Psychoanalytic therapy can be used by those with specific emotional concerns, as well as those who simply want to explore themselves. Understanding why we are the way we are often brings with it a sense of wellbeing and a strong sense of self. Some believe that due to the nature of therapy, psychoanalytic work is better suited to more general concerns such as anxiety, relationship difficulties, sexual issues, or low self-esteem.
Psychoanalytic therapy can also be applied in a group setting. This is called group analysis. This form of therapy brings together psychoanalytic techniques with interpersonal functions.