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Psychoanalytic Therapy

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Psychoanalytic Therapy

You are lying down on a soft couch with a pillow under your head. A psychoanalyst is sitting in a chair behind you, taking notes as you talk. It feels weird to say whatever pops into your head to this person you barely know. For whatever reason, after talking about some of your thoughts and feelings about the past that you have been holding in for so long, you feel relieved!

  • What is psychoanalytic therapy?
  • What are techniques used in psychoanalytic therapy?
  • Is psychoanalytic therapy effective?

Definition of Psychoanalytic Therapy

Freud's methods are not universally accepted in psychology today, but his work was the beginning of therapy as we know it nowadays. So what is psychoanalytic therapy? What is psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis is based on Freud's theory of the unconscious mind and involves techniques to bring unconscious material into conscious awareness.

Psychoanalytic therapy incorporates psychoanalysis into the interactions between the counselor and client to help the client gain insight into unconscious thoughts, feelings, and desires.

Freud believed that mental health struggles are due to unconscious conflicts. Psychoanalysis was designed to help clients recognize, express, and overcome these conflicts. Some of these conflicts are related to Freud's psychosexual stages of development, and some to his psychoanalytic theory of personality.

According to Freud, the mind of every person is made up of three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. That's not the most surprising part of his theory, though; he also believed that the id, ego, and superego are mostly unconscious. If most of our personality is unconscious, how do we know who we are and how to live?

Psychoanalytic Therapy, An infographic of the parts of the mind in Freud's theory, StudySmarterFreud's theory of the mind, StudySmarter Original

The Purpose of Psychoanalytic Therapy

As stated earlier, psychoanalytic theory helps us release the energy developed from any conflicts within our id-ego-superego. Freud developed this therapy thinking that we do not know ourselves well and that there are things about life and ourselves that we do not know or deny.

Psychoanalytic therapy aims to bring unconscious material in mind into conscious awareness.

Freud hoped to help his patients reach toward their repressed or "disowned" feelings so that there was a conscious awakening to them. Once these feelings were brought to the surface, the client's mental health struggles could be better understood. Freud wanted to help resolve conflicting emotions so that the client could better handle life's problems and reduce the amount of distress the client was experiencing.

Psychoanalytic Therapy Techniques

Psychoanalytic Therapy, A photograph of Sigmund Freud, StudySmarterSigmund Freud, pixabay.com

How does a psychoanalyst help a client discover repressed, unconscious memories, thoughts, and feelings? Talking about the client's childhood and connecting it to the client's life now is a basic technique of psychoanalysis. Many forms of therapy practice talking about your childhood, though. What makes psychoanalysis different?

Free Association

Free association is openly and freely sharing thoughts and feelings as they occur in the present moment. The idea is for the client to hold nothing back and tell the therapist whatever pops up in their mind. Psychoanalysts often use free association during therapy sessions.

Psychoanalysts want clients to free associate to experience catharsis: a sense of relief from expressing repressed thoughts and feelings. If the client does not freely share thoughts and feelings at any point in the therapy session, this would be considered a sign of resistance and would be an area of interest to the psychoanalyst.

Interpreting Resistance

Resistance signals to the psychoanalyst that the client may be experiencing anxiety or defensiveness toward something in their mind. The psychoanalyst will listen closely to the client and encourage them to keep sharing freely. They might explore some of the client's dreams and memories so that the psychoanalyst can provide an interpretation of them.

In psychoanalytic therapy, the therapist is the expert who explains what thoughts, feelings, dreams, and memories mean for the client's life. If a client resists talking about something, the psychoanalyst encourages them to push past their discomfort and share any underlying ideas, beliefs, feelings, and fears. Remember the main goal of psychoanalysis? Resistance keeps unconscious material from becoming conscious.

Transference

As time progresses, the psychoanalyst may begin to notice transference patterns in the client.

Transference is a relationship dynamic where the client begins treating the therapist like they are someone from the client's past or current life. The client-therapist relationship might start to take on the emotional connections and patterns of other relationships in the client's life (like with close family and friends).

Transference is not unique to psychoanalysis, but Freud was the first to notice it and talk about it. The therapist becomes such an important person in the client's life that the client begins feeling and treating the therapist in the same way as their mother, father, or another individual. This often happens without the client realizing it. It is up to the therapist to pick up on these relationship dynamics and draw the client's attention to them.

Benefits and Effectiveness of Psychoanalytic Therapy

While many aspects of Freud's theories and ideas have been discarded or updated by other theorists, there are still aspects that are used today. As in other kinds of therapy, psychoanalysis provides a safe place for clients to share and revisit past traumas and experiences. By practicing free association and experiencing transference, the client develops a stronger sense of self-awareness and may discover solutions to problems.

Is this type of therapy beneficial for clients? Research studies show that clients seem to improve after receiving psychoanalysis. Clients struggling with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders reported that long-term psychoanalytic therapy was beneficial. However, this form of therapy is not more effective than others.

Psychodynamic Therapy and Psychoanalytic Therapy

In the United States, few therapists practice psychoanalysis the same way that Freud and other early therapists did. Over time, the principles behind psychoanalysis were transferred to a new form called psychodynamic therapy. As the name implies, psychodynamic therapy is all about the psychological dynamics of the mind.

The parts of Freud's ideas supported by research inform psychodynamic therapy sessions. The therapist and client still talk about childhood memories and experiences, primary relationships, dreams, transference, and internal resistance. The key difference is that psychodynamic therapy focuses more on current thoughts and feelings. The point of talking about the past is to connect it to what the client is experiencing in the present. The primary goal of psychodynamic therapy is to develop self-awareness and self-insight to improve the client's relationships and ability to function in life.

Humanistic Therapies and Psychoanalytic Therapies

Humanistic therapy approaches are based on different basic ideas and principles than psychoanalysis. The main humanistic therapy approach is client-centered therapy. One of the biggest differences between psychoanalysis and humanistic therapies is the therapist's role. Remember how the psychoanalyst is the expert in the relationship? Well, humanistic therapists consider the client to be the expert.

Humanistic therapy focuses on individual self-worth and self-fulfillment as the main issues facing each client. Rather than focusing on the past and trying to uncover hidden thoughts or feelings in the unconscious, humanistic therapists focus on the conscious mind and personal responsibility and control over current thoughts, feelings, and actions. Humanistic therapies are positive and affirming.

Psychoanalytic Therapies - Key takeaways

  • Psychoanalysis is based on Freud's theory of the unconscious mind and involves techniques to bring unconscious material into conscious awareness.
  • Psychoanalytic therapy incorporates psychoanalysis into the interactions between the counselor and client to help the client gain insight into unconscious thoughts, feelings, and desires.
    • Free association is openly and freely sharing thoughts and feelings as they occur in the present moment.
    • Catharsis is a sense of relief experienced by the client through expressing repressed thoughts and feelings.
  • In psychoanalytic therapy, the therapist is the expert who provides interpretations of the client's thoughts and feelings.
  • Transference is a relationship dynamic in which the client begins treating the therapist like they are someone from the client's past or current life.
  • The primary goal of psychodynamic therapy is to develop self-awareness and self-insight to improve the client's relationships and ability to function in life.

Frequently Asked Questions about Psychoanalytic Therapy

Psychoanalytic therapy was developed by Freud based on his work with patients.

The primary goal of psychoanalytic therapy is to bring unconscious material into conscious awareness.

Psychodynamic therapy has some aspects of Freud's theory and therapy practices, but it does not retain all the elements of psychoanalytic therapy.

Yes, studies have shown psychoanalytic therapy to be effective for some clients.

The techniques used in psychoanalytical therapy are free association, interpretation, and transference. 

Final Psychoanalytic Therapy Quiz

Question

____  is based on Freud's theories. Based on free associations, dreams, transference, and resistances of the patient. All used to help the patient find self-insight.

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Answer

Psychoanalysis

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Question

______________ is based on these theories of psychoanalysis, this therapy is based on the interactions between psychologist and patient to help gain insight into thoughts, feelings, and actions.

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Answer

Psychoanalytic therapy

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Question

____________ helps us to release the energy that is developed from any conflicts within our id-ego-superego.

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Answer

Psychoanalytic theory

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Question

Who developed psychoanalytic therapy?


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Answer

Sigmund Freud

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Question

____________ happens in therapy when patients openly and freely share feelings and thoughts.

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Answer

Free association

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_________ is a signal that there may be anxiety or defending against a subject or area of life. The psychotherapist most often will interpret this avoidance.

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Answer

Resistance

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Question

The ____________ of emotions to the psychoanalyst is based on the emotional connections in other relationships in their life (for example, family and friends).

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Answer

Transference

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______ - The key difference is helping to identify current feelings. While there is still the inclusion of past experiences, such as in childhood, there is less of an emphasis on just identifying the connections.

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Answer

Psychodynamic therapy

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Humanistic therapy approaches have cultivated their branch of therapeutic help through _____ therapy.

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client-centered

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_____ is different as there is a heightened focus on self-worth

and self-fulfillment as a guide to surpassing negative emotions or gaining insight into a situation.

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Answer

Humanistic therapy

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Rather than look for a hidden meaning or connection, ____ asks the client to take responsibility for one's thoughts, feelings, and actions.

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humanistic therapy

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True or False:

Most often, those who were affected by anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and eating disorder have reported that (long-term) psychoanalytic therapy has great benefit to achieving resolution

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true

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What did Freud believe caused mental health struggles?

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External conflicts

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What did Freud believe the id, ego, and superego were?

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The three components of our conscious

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What did Freud believe would happen when someone's unconscious feelings were made conscious?

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They would develop a mental health disorder

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What area of life is psychoanalytic therapy most concerned with?

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Infancy

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Why is free association a staple of psychoanalytic therapy?

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It encourages the patient to share whatever is on their mind with the therapist to help them with their mental health disorder and express their unconscious thoughts and emotions

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What is catharsis?

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Answer

A sense of relief from expressing repressed thoughts and feelings

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What is the goal of psychoanalytic therapy?

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Catharsis

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What happens when a patient is resistant?

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The therapist will encourage them to keep sharing and ask about dreams or memories to continue to make the unconscious conscious

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Can transference take place outside of a therapist/patient relationship?

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Answer

Yes -- your boss at work could remind you of your parent or your new classmate could remind you of your younger sibling. Both of these examples would result in you feeling closer to these people without knowing them. 

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Question

In transference, is it that the patient is actually getting closer to the therapist or is it just that they think they are?

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Actually getting closer since they've spent a lot of time together

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Does transference only happen in psychoanalysis?

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Yes - since psychoanalysis has a strong focus on childhood, memories, and dreams, transference only happens in psychoanalysis

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Is psychoanalysis still used today?

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No - as with most of Freud's other theories, psychoanalysis had its time to shine but is not used anymore 

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What did psychoanalysis morph into?

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Psychodynamic therapy

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What is the main difference between psychoanalytic therapy and psychodynamic therapy?

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Answer

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the present more than just the past and connects the past to the present

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Question

True or false?


Childhood is talked about in psychodynamic therapy. 

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Answer

True

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Question

What is the difference between humanistic therapies and psychoanalytic therapies?

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Answer

Humanistic therapy has the client as the expert and psychoanalytic therapy has the therapist as the expert

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Does humanistic therapy look at the past?

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Answer

Yes, mostly

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Question

What are the techniques used in psychoanalytical therapy?

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Answer

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