Psychoanalysis seeks to bring troubling unconscious forces into conscious awareness. With the insights gained during analysis, the patient can work on improving relationships and productivity, interrupt self-defeating or self-destructive patterns, and perhaps even unlock creative potential. Analysis also helps patients understand and cope with the effects of early trauma.
Analysis begins with the therapist's gaining a thorough knowledge of his or her patient's history and current circumstances. The goal is to identify features of the patient's personality and behavior that may be due to past events - especially those that involve physical or emotional harm-and to explore what therapeutic options are available for each patient.
Once the relevant history has been gathered, the psychoanalyst discusses it with the patient in order to gain an accurate picture of the problem being treated. The psychoanalyst may then propose various interpretations about the origin of the patient's issues and possible ways of dealing with them. Sometimes a number of these interpretations will seem plausible; other times there will only be one clear winner. In any case, it is up to the patient to choose which interpretation he or she finds most convincing and useful.
After this preliminary phase, the psychoanalytic process itself consists of three main stages: exploration, transference, and resolution.
Psychoanalysts assist clients in accessing their unconscious minds in order to retrieve suppressed emotions and deep-seated, often forgotten memories. Patients get insight into the underlying motivators that drive their thoughts and behaviors by having a greater grasp of their subconscious brains. The goal is for them to be able to use this knowledge to improve their emotional well-being.
In addition to counseling patients individually, psychoanalysts also work with groups. They may help people who have similar problems process their feelings together. Such gatherings are called "analysis sessions" and they can be useful for those who struggle with specific issues such as depression or anxiety. Psychoanalysts also conduct research studies to better understand how the mind works and apply what they learn toward improving patient care.
Clients usually see a psychoanalyst for several months-or even years-as needed. During these sessions, the therapist seeks to unravel the past experiences that may be influencing how the client thinks and acts today. He or she may also suggest strategies for managing future problems by examining old patterns of behavior that may need to be changed.
It is important to remember that the psychoanalytic process is a long one that may require many sessions over a period of time. It is not something that can be finished in just one session!
Psychoanalysts assist patients in finding and accepting the effect of the unconscious mind on their life so that they can work through their challenges. Psychoanalysts do this by exploring memories from early childhood that are influencing current behavior.
They also help patients understand and process emotions, including anger, fear, guilt, and shame. The goal is for patients to be able to identify and work through traumatic experiences, as well as learn to regulate their emotions so they don't act out their problems.
In addition to counseling patients, psychoanalysts conduct research into the effects of the unconscious mind and study how the brain functions.
They also write about their findings and make suggestions about treatment strategies that other therapists may use with their patients.
Finally, psychoanalysts teach graduate students and junior faculty members about the role of the unconscious in emotional development and behavior disorders such as anxiety and depression.
What is the difference between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy? Psychoanalysis is a long-term treatment where the psychoanalyst helps the patient discover what influences caused certain feelings and behaviors and works with them to change problematic patterns of thought and action. Therapy is focused on the here and now and tends to last for fewer than 25 sessions.