Psychoanalysis-- What is it?

Psychoanalysis is a form of psychotherapy. The term "psychotherapy" covers all sorts of talk therapies intended to adress mental and emotional difficulties and can include DBT, behavioral therapy, Imago therapy, psychoanalysis, and many others.

Psychoanalysis is often called the "talking cure". Freud invented psychoanalysis and had many followers, such as Jung, Adler and Ferenczi to name a few. Although Freud has many detractors these days, he nevertheless changed the way we think about children and ourseslves; all the other therapies are, in part, influenced by his discovery of psychoanalysis as a method of treating the emotional and mental distress he saw around him in Vienna in the Victorian era.

Psychoanalysts are trained very rigorously. They must meet many academic standards and they study many years before they can be certified. Psychoanalysts are trained to understand ways in which the unconscious works. And they are trained to listen to and take into account the whole person, not just a person's symptoms or difficulties. Psychoanalysts are trained specifically in psychodynamics or the conscious and unconscious ways that we interact with ourselves and with others. iPsychoanalysts are interested in how we work; how we work in ways that we might not be so aware of at first. Psychoanalysis is the only form of therapy in the mental health field that requires that the therapist be trained not only academically and clinically; he or she must also have been through his or her own therapy (specifically psychoanalytic therapy) before being allowed to treat others. No other mental health professional has this requirement.

Psyschoanalysis, is, for those who gravitate in its direction, a deeply meaningful experience of self-discovery and symptom alleviation. It is not a quick fix. It is a process of getting to know oneself in ways that were often closed to understanding before. But while it is not quick, relief can begin quickly by virtue of the fact that there is now someone who will listen carfeully to what your needs and aspirations are. Perhaps most important, psychoanalysts believe in doing what would be most helpful to the patient or client Therefore, psychoanalysts can work in a variety of ways and do not have to work psychoanalytically if that is not best for the patient or client.

As with all therapies, a well trained clinician is very important, but more important, even, is the sense of rapport you feel with the therapist. So when looking for a therapist--a psychoanalyst or any other kind--it is important to try to read your own signals. Only you know what those signals are telling you. Most people come to therapy when they are feeling stressed and vulnerable, exactly when they don't want to have to rely on their own judgement. But your signals will usually tell you true even if you are in distress, if you just allow yourelf to trust what you are feeling. If you feel a sense of relief or rapport with the thereapist then you will probably work well with him or her and it is a good place to begin...

A Confusion of Terms:

How do you know what kind of therapist you are going to? There are so many terms it can get very, very confusing. Below are some common terms and a short explanation.

Psychotherpist /Therapist: A psychcotherapist is often called simply a "therapist." I use the terms interchangeably on this website. A psychotherapist is someone who works with people who are haviang difficulty in some part of their lives. Psychotherapists generally employ some sort of talk therapy but they may or may not be interested in the less conscious parts of a person. Therapists can be psychiatrists, psychologists social workers, counselors or psychoanalysts, with varying requirements for training and varying types of theory and technique. "Psychotherapy" is a broad term that applies to all forms of treatment aimed at provideing relief from non medical symptoms, such as anxiety or depression.

Psychiatrist: A medical doctor who can prescribe medication. Some Psychiatrists work as therapists with their patients but usually they advise seeing a separate therapist who will help the patient to talk about his or her life.

Psychologist: Someone trained in the underlying meanings of behavior. Psychologists can be psychotherapists or they can administer tests for schools or they can do research.Psychologists are trained in research and are granted a Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy) upon completion of their studies.

Psychoanalyst: Someone trained soley in how to work with people in a psychodynamic way, meaning in ways that take into account the relationship between patient and therapist (psychoanalyst), and the ways in which some behavior in all of us is motivataed by aspects of the personality that may not be fully conscious because of a need to protect the self. Psychoanalysts are also trained to be very supportive of the need to protect the self. They are trained to be careful not to be intrusive or disrespectful of the various ways we all have found to live.

How often is enough in psychoanalysis?

Some psychoanalysts require three to five times weekly. Others require less time. I generally believe in starting at once a week and adding more time if it is requested or if we both think it would be helpful.

Client or Patient?

There are many terms for the person who comes to therapy. "Client," "patient, "consumer," "analysand" and no doubt many more. When two people are engaged in the therapeutic relationship, however, none of these terms actually apply. I have no objection to any of these terms but don't generally use any of them