What Is It?
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is a powerful approach to mental and emotional development having its roots in both psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic theory and practice.
In psychoanalytic psychotherapy, the therapist meets regularly with the client or patient once, twice, or more times a week over an extended period. The therapist makes themselves available in the appointments, listening carefully to the conscious and unconscious processes that evolve in their meeting, with a view to finding the ways they can be of most use to this individual in their therapy.
Where Does It Come From?
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy developed out of Freud’s method of investigating unconscious phenomena known as psychoanalysis. It emerged along its own path and now has a long history as a distinct discipline with its own body of research, theory and practice. It is constantly evolving and draws on contemporary psychoanalytic discourse, psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy.
How Does It Work?
Mental and emotional health is laid down on what is inborn from birth by a course of development, both internal and through emotional contacts with external reality. Patterns are formed and, although the human mind, brain and personality remain extraordinarily plastic, once these patterns are unconscious, they can be hard to change – making the personality rigid in ways that are difficult and painful.
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy uses the relationship between the therapist and patient or client to investigate the structure of the latter’s personality. The therapy itself – the process, environment, and meeting of therapist and patient or client – becomes significant in ways that allow the personality to possibility of change. Together we are able to make use of our remarkably human ability to allow one thing to stand for another, and over time the client or patient can make use of the therapy to radically transform themselves.
In psychoanalytic psychotherapy the therapist allows the client or patient to set the agenda, listening carefully to what is being said and how it is presented. The therapist avoids imposing their own view and invites the individual to see the anxiety this can bring as fruitful to investigate.
After an initial meeting to assess the best way to proceed, the therapist and patient or client will normally agree to meet on a regular basis over an extended period and for an agreed fee.
Most psychoanalytic psychotherapists offer a choice between sitting face to face or using a couch to lie down which can sometimes be helpful.
What Can It Help With?
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy can be used in a wide variety of conditions in which people have emotional or relationship difficulties and is not aimed at specific disorders. The wish for self-understanding, the willingness to tolerate uncertainty, and the readiness to consider another point of view, are some of the necessary ingredients.
People benefiting from this form of therapy often have difficulties in relationships or in handling the pressures of everyday living. Some people also have disorders such as depression, eating disorders, and psychotic conditions or are struggling with self-harm. Many have additionally been affected by psychological, physical or sexual abuse.
There is evidence that psychoanalytic psychotherapy is effective in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and particularly in the treatment of borderline personality disorders.