What is Psychoanalysis?
Psychoanalysis is a specialized form of psychotherapy, made popular by the work of Sigmund Freud. Modern psychoanalytic work is based on the theory that by revealing the unconscious motivations that affect our behavior, we can change unwanted thought and behavioral patterns. These negative thoughts and behaviors can manifest as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, low self-esteem, lack of enjoyment in and any number of clinical diagnoses.
The word psychoanalysis comes from the root “psyche”, the Latin word for “soul.” This is a concept that many of us have trouble wrapping our heads around, but can be described as our deepest, most authentic, truest selves. It’s what’s left when we strip away all the expectations, anxiety, insecurity, disappointment or hurt we all experience. Psychoanalysis is a process of getting back in touch with your truest self in order to become more awake and present in our everyday lives.
Why do we need to go back to the past to deal with the present? Imagine an unwanted weed that was threatening to overtake your entire garden. You could continually cut it down, even to the point where you could not even see any weeds, but eventually it will come back. The only way to address the problem is to dig out the root altogether. Psychoanalysts believe that focusing on the surface level symptoms, the leaves, might remove the current symptoms and bring temporary relief, but will never eradicate the problem. The psychoanalytic approach is geared at getting to the root causes underlying the issues below in order to create lasting, positive changes.
In modern psychoanalysis, my field of specialty, there is an understanding that successful outcomes in therapy occur as the result of an open, trusting relationship between patient and therapist. My primary goal is to create at atmosphere where you feel safe to say anything, explore past experiences and deal with difficult emotions as they arise.
How Does Psychoanalysis Differ From Psychotherapy?
The two forms of treatment are quite similar in their approach at exploring the unconscious mind in order to understand oneself at a deeper level, but can differ in practice.
In modern analytic work, a patient will ideally be seen 3-4 times a week, which allows for a deep sense of trust to build between the analyst and patient. Psychotherapy is typically a weekly meeting. In psychoanalysis, the patient is encouraged to lie on a couch facing away from the therapist in order to create an environment where the patient can explore the full range and content of their thoughts and emotions, without self-consciousness, interruption or censor. A psychotherapy session will often have the patient facing the therapist to encourage more of a dialogue.
Both approaches are valuable and together we can decide what type of treatment will work best for you.