What is Psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis is a treatment, invented by Sigmund Freud, to help people deal with their emotional and mental problems by accessing and understanding the unconscious influences on their daily lives. Most modern forms of psychotherapy are derived from psychoanalysis-it is the original "talking cure". It is practiced very differently now than it was 100 years ago, but certain elements remain unchanged. 

In psychoanalysis, patient and psychoanalyst meet 4-5 times per week. The patient lies on the couch, with the psychoanalyst sitting behind her. The patient does her best to "free associate" (see below), or say whatever's on her mind, without censoring. The analyst mainly listens but sometimes comments on themes and patterns, and the ways the patient is being driven by forces of which she is unaware.

What's the Difference between Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis?

There is a lot of overlap between psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. In very general terms, psychoanalysis is like a more intense version of psychotherapy, but there are also several types of differences.

There are logistical matters, such as the frequency of the sessions: 1-3 times per week in psychotherapy, 4-5 times per week in psychoanalysis; and the use of the couch in psychoanalysis, vs. sitting in a chair in psychotherapy. 

There is also a difference in goals. In psychotherapy, goals often include relief of painful symptoms, as well as some change in the way the patient thinks about herself and interacts with the people in her life. Psychoanalysis shares these goals, but also aspires to more far-reaching and permanent changes in the patient's sense of herself and the world.

If psychoanalysis produces deeper and more permanent change than psychotherapy, why would I choose to be in therapy, rather than in analysis?

The answer is often a practical one. Psychotherapy can produce meaningful and lasting change, although generally not as much as psychoanalysis. But psychotherapy is less time and labor intensive. There are fewer sessions per week, and its duration is usually less than that of an analysis, which can last many years. 

What is Free Association?

We're taught from a young age that it's not always polite to say what we're thinking. But psychoanalysis is not an ordinary social situation. The idea is for you to say whatever you think of, even if it's rude or unpleasant. Some people find this easy. Others take longer to feel comfortable. Still others vary in their comfort levels.