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What Is Psychoanalysis?

The principles of psychodynamic theory were first developed by Sigmund Freud. Learn how psychoanalysis can treat many mental health conditions.

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Understanding Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is used during psychotherapy treatment to treat long-term mental health issues.

What Is Psychoanalysis?

The psychoanalytic method involves regular treatment sessions with a mental health professional, where the therapist encourages the patient to speak freely about whatever comes to mind. The therapist will spend a lot of time listening to understand what is going on in the client’s mind, what they are struggling with, and how to find potential solutions.1
Psychoanalysis theory was originally created by Sigmund Freud. The psychoanalytic approach to psychology involves unlocking repressed thoughts in the unconscious mind, allowing patients to speak openly about their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.2

What do Psychoanalysts Do?

Psychoanalysts spend much more time listening and analyzing than the typical therapist. The main role of the psychoanalyst is to provide a deep analysis of the patient’s unconscious thoughts and come up with a solution to internal struggles and turmoil.

History of Psychoanalysis

The term psychoanalysis was first coined by Freud in 1896. Freud conducted many case studies while treating patients and using psychoanalytic treatment methods. After Freud’s death in 1939, psychoanalysis continued to be developed by other psychological professionals, which created modern psychoanalysis treatment methods.3

What is psychoanalysis

Psychoanalytic Techniques

Many common techniques will be utilized during psychoanalytic treatment; these will be detailed below.

Free Association

Free association is the most common technique during this form of treatment. The therapist asks the patient to freely share their thoughts and feelings, then listens and analyzes the subconscious thoughts of the patient to try to find solutions to their struggles.

Dream Analysis

Freud believed that dream analysis was one of the most key techniques used during psychoanalytic treatment. Therapists may ask patients to explain their dreams to give deeper insight into the unconscious mind.

Resistance Analysis

Analysis can also be done when clients show resistance to sharing certain areas of their thoughts and feelings. Where the most resistance is shown is often where the most profound problems may lie.

Transference Analysis

Transference is a technique where you transfer your feelings about another person onto the psychoanalyst. You then interact with them as if they were the other person. This can help your psychoanalyst better understand how you interact with others and what you are struggling with.

Other Procedures Used in Psychoanalysis

There are numerous procedures used during psychoanalysis treatment that can be helpful for many mental health conditions. Psychoanalysis typically consists of procedures such as:

  • Assessment of cognitive and emotional functioning
  • Regular appointments
  • Attention to boundary issues
  • A consistent frame of treatment
  • Investigation of significant present and past relationships
  • Attention to the analyst/patient relationship
  • Systematic integration of insights
  • Use of empathy and active imagination

Psychoanalysis Example

Psychoanalysis can be applied to many people by using various methods. To give a clearer picture, here is one example of psychoanalysis in action:

A woman is struggling to find a long-lasting relationship. She says she has trouble trusting me, and has been in several short-term relationships that ended because her partners said she was too controlling. She would often check her partner’s phones without their permission out of fear of being betrayed or hurt.

Moment of Clarity

Upon digging deeper, the therapist discovers that her parents had a stressful marriage where her father would periodically abuse her mother. The father eventually abandoned the family when she was 7, and she fears that all men will be like her father and eventually hurt her in some way. After learning this, the psychoanalyst can create a unique plan to work through these underlying fears so that the client can have healthier relationships moving forward.

Pros and Cons of Psychoanalysis

While psychoanalysis can be an effective treatment method, there are pros and cons that come with it. Understanding both the strengths and weaknesses of psychoanalytic theory will help you better understand if this type of treatment is right for your needs.4

Strengths of Psychoanalytic Theory

Strengths of psychoanalytic theory include:

  • Provides an alternative treatment method for long-term and persistent mental health issues when other treatments haven’t been effective
  • Provides insight into the unconscious mind and thoughts through different psychological techniques
  • Studies have estimated that 60-90% of people will see benefits from this type of therapy5 
  • Long and intensive forms of treatment typically produce better results

Weaknesses of Psychoanalytic Theory

A major weakness of psychoanalytic theory is that it takes a significant amount of time to complete this type of treatment, which can make it ineffective if a patient gives up too quickly if they don’t see results right away. Other weaknesses of psychoanalytic theory are:

  • Some theorists and psychologists believe Freud’s theory overemphasized the unconscious mind in determining what someone is struggling with. 
  • Concepts proposed by psychoanalytic theorists can be hard to measure or quantify. 
  • Most of Freud’s ideas were based on case studies and observation, rather than hard scientific proof.

Commit to Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis treatment often requires intensive effort over a long period of time. Typically, psychoanalytic sessions last between 45-50 minutes and therapists will meet with their patients between 3-5 days per week. Treatment usually takes between 5-6 years to have a full effect and for patients to see the full results, so this form of treatment requires patience.

Due to this extensive time commitment, psychoanalysis is usually only used when someone has struggled with serious mental health problems for a long period of time and when other treatment methods have not been successful.

What is psychoanalysis

Importance of Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is important because it provides alternative treatment for those with persistent mental health concerns. The psychoanalytic approach helps tap into the unconscious mind, which other forms of psychological treatment don’t always cover. In turn, it provides a different level of treatment than other methods available.

How to Find Psychoanalytic Treatment

Psychoanalysis is a less common form of therapeutic treatment, so it can be more difficult to find psychoanalytic services.

Reach Out for Healing and Support

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health concern and you think psychoanalysis may be a good option, talking to your doctor or contacting a treatment center for an evaluation is a good first step. If a medical professional thinks psychoanalysis may be helpful, they will provide you with resources and give recommendations on how you can get treatment.

Additionally, if you or your loved one would like further clarification or support, our professional and compassionate staff at Great Oaks Recovery would be happy to help pave a way for long lasting recovery.

Questions About Treatment?

Our knowledgeable team is ready to discuss your situation and options. Your call is confidential with no obligation required.