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Psychoanalytic Therapy

Psychoanalytic Therapy

It is a form of psychotherapy that has its roots in Sigmund Freud’s theories. Freud is one of the founders of psychology and a pioneer in exploring the unconscious mind. This type of therapy investigates how the unconscious mind influences one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Its goal is to create deep seated changes in one’s personality by facilitating insight and resolution in one’s life. This type of therapy tends to examine the ways that one’s early life influences circumstances in the present or how those early experiences might be potentially contributing to current concerns.

Principles of Psychoanalytic Therapy

It is different from other forms of therapy by its unique principles. For instance, many forms of therapy are more goal-oriented, aiming to make a specific change in a client’s life, such as sobriety or the ability to manage anger. However, Psychoanalytic Therapy is process-oriented, working with a client over period of time by facilitating the experience of insights, which essentially guides the therapy. The following are a list of principles that characterize this form of therapy.

  • Psychological problems have their origin in the unconscious
  • Troubling circumstances in one’s life and/or symptoms are the result of hidden or latent disturbances
  • Causes for a client’s primary concerns are rooted in repressed unresolved trauma or developmental conflicts
  • Treatment includes facilitating insights and awareness surrounding these conflicts so that a person might better manage them

Essentially, this form of therapy aims to bring about insights and awareness in a client, in order to resolve those repressed conflicts and make changes on a deeper level.

Facets of Psychoanalytic Therapy

As mentioned above, this therapy is insight driven, facilitating awareness on past experiences might be playing a role in a person’s life now. Sessions take place in a safe, nonjudgmental environment which can help a client feel comfortable in discussing his or her life, particularly uncomfortable experiences. A psychoanalytic therapist might look for patterns in a client’s life as well as use certain techniques in order to facilitate the therapy. These techniques are:

Free Association

This is a technique in which a client is invited to speak freely about memories, ideas, dreams, and/or images, without censoring or editing. At times, this free association can reveal unconscious patterns that may be contributing to a client’s problem.


The unconscious mind of a client can sometimes project its ideas of those who were influential in life (parents, siblings, etc.) onto the therapist. A psychoanalytic therapist is trained to look for transference in a client, which can also reveal patterns in the unconscious. If this is the case, a therapist would bring this to the attention of the client to discuss in a therapeutic way.


While a client speaks freely about his or her dreams, ideas, feelings, and inner images, a therapist might occasionally offer an insight related to a client’s patterning. This is also meant to be used therapeutically to facilitate insights in the client.

Psychoanalytic Therapy can be used to treat anxiety, relationship concerns, problems related to sexuality, social phobias, and issues with low self-esteem. This is a therapeutic method that takes time. There are other short-term, goal-oriented therapies that might produce quick results. However, if someone were to spend the time, money, and energy participating in this form of therapy, he or she might experience a significant life change.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a psychological concern, Psychoanalytic Therapy might be able to help.