What is Psychoanalysis?

Updated December 1, 2022 · 2 Min Read

Explore this resource by Best Counseling Degrees to learn all about psychoanalysis.

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Psychoanalysis is one of the most well-known treatment methods that you will learn about in your first introductory psychology course.

Psychoanalytic therapy is a unique, intensive form of clinical investigation that seeks to uncover how the unconscious mind is influencing a person's life. According to psychoanalytic theory, the unconscious mind is filled with repressed emotions, thoughts, urges, and memories that are typically negative in nature. Psychoanalysts strive to bring these unconscious feelings into awareness, often through examining personal experiences in early childhood.

Individuals undergoing psychoanalytic treatment usually attend at least three or four sessions each week to explore dilemmas being censored by their unconscious. Psychoanalysis goes beyond the tip of the iceberg to cure psychological symptoms manifested by latent, unresolved issues during development.

History of Psychoanalytic Therapy

When most people think of psychoanalytic theory, Sigmund Freud comes to mind. As an Austrian physician, Freud started to change the face of psychology in the late 1800s by shifting away from the emphasis on conscious thought. Freud worked with Jean-Martin Charcot to study the use of hypnosis in treating women diagnosed with hysteria. He theorized that the development of adult behavior and impulses stems from early childhood. From there, Freud further created his new "talk therapy" with the stages of psychosexual development, defense mechanisms, and the famous Freudian slips. In 1910, he founded the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) with Carl Jung. Psychoanalytic theories have been challenged ever since, but there remain over 3,000 psychoanalysts practicing in America today.

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Techniques Used By Psychoanalysts

In order to cure certain neurotic symptoms, psychoanalytic therapy involves exploring the unconscious mind through several different techniques. One of the most popular is the free associations method, which asks individuals to make associations for pointing toward their repressed inner conflicts.

Psychoanalysts often use dream interpretation because dreams are believed to give insight into experiences hidden in the unconscious.

Transference is another common technique in which patients transfer their feelings about someone from the past onto their psychoanalyst.

Psychoanalytic therapy also pays close attention to parapraxes because slips of the tongue can uncover real motivations beneath the conscious.

Anamnesis, the process of recollecting previous events, is also essential for healing mind disorders.

Psychoanalytic Therapy Benefits

Psychoanalytic therapy provides a cathartic experience that is often effective in treating people with depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Seeing a psychoanalyst can be beneficial for anyone seeking to build stronger relationships, overcome deep-rooted issues from childhood, and improve their overall quality of life.

Although psychoanalytic therapy has its fair share of critics, it has advantages too. Individuals are able to open up in an empathetic, nonjudgmental environment to mitigate tension they've buried within their unconscious. Simply sharing burdens with a psychoanalyst can be a big relief. Since its a time-consuming process, individuals in psychoanalytic therapy establish secure relationships of trust with their therapists.

If you're interested in using psychoanalytic methods in your future mental health career, you must be prepared for rigorous clinical training. To become a psychoanalyst, you'll need to become a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist by obtaining a doctoral degree.

After your Ph.D., Psy.D., or M.D. degree, you can expect an additional five to eight years of psychoanalytic training under the supervision of experienced analysts. Once you know the methods of psychoanalysis inside and out, you'll be qualified to start helping individuals process emotional difficulties in their lives by unearthing their repressed feelings.

See also: Psychology Degree Programs Listed by State

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