What is psychoanalysis?

"Psychoanalysis in essence is a cure through love."

- Sigmund Freud writing to Carl Jung

... but here are some other perspectives!

Glenn Gabbard, M.D. : “A therapy that involves careful attention to the therapist-patient interaction, with carefully timed interpretation of transference and resistance embedded in a sophisticated appreciation of the therapist’s contribution to the two-person field.” Gunderson JG, Gabbard G. Making the case for psychoanalytic therapies in the current psychiatric environment. J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 1999;47(3):679- 703.

Nancy McWilliams, PhD, ABPP: “It seems to me that the overarching theme among psychodynamic approaches to helping people is that the more honest we are with ourselves, the better our chances for living a satisfying and useful life. Moreover, a psychoanalytic sensibility appreciates the fact that honesty about our own motives does not come easily to us. The diverse therapeutic approaches within the psychoanalytic pantheon share the aim of cultivating an increased capacity to acknowledge what is not conscious – that is to admit what is difficult or painful to see in ourselves.” Nancy McWilliams. Psychanalytic Psychotherapy: A Practitioners Guide, pg 1. 1st ed. : Guillford Press, 2004.

Thomas Ogden, M.D. : ”I view psychoanalysis as most fundamentally an effort by patient and analyst to put into words what is true to the patient's emotional experience. This articulation holds such great importance because the very act of thinking and giving “shape” to what is true to the patient's emotional experience alters that truth. This perspective underlies my conception of the therapeutic action of interpretation: In interpreting, the analyst verbally symbolizes what he intuits to be true to the patient's unconscious experience and, in so doing, alters what is true and contributes to the creation of a potentially new experience with which the analytic pair may do psychological work. Patient and analyst are not in search of truth for its own sake; they are principally interested in what is true to what is happening in the transference-countertransference. The analytic pair is doing so for the purpose of creating a containing human context in which the patient may be able to live with his past and present emotional experience (as opposed to evacuating it or deadening himself to it). In helping the patient to face the truth of his emotional experience, the analyst is respectful of the ways the patient (beginning in his infancy) has found to protect his sanity. The rhythm and pace of the patient's efforts to face the truth of his emotional experience is set by the patient. A large part of the analyst's role involves holding the tension between the patient's need for safety and his need for truth.” Ogden, T.H. (2005). What I Would Not Part With. Fort Da, 11:8-17.

MARK J HILSENROTH, PhD.: Distinctive Activities of Psychodynamic and Interpersonal Therapy:

  1. “Focus on affect and expression of emotion. Psychodynamic psychotherapy encourages exploration and discussion of the full range of a patient’s emotions. The therapist helps the patient describe and put words to feelings, including contradictory feelings, feelings that are troubling or threatening, and feelings that the patient may not initially be able to recognize or acknowledge“
  2. “Exploring attempts to avoid distressing thoughts and feelings. People do a great many things, knowingly and unknowingly, to avoid aspects of experience that are troubling.”
  3. “Identifying recurring themes and patterns. Psychodynamic psychotherapists work to identify and explore recurring themes and patterns in patients’ thoughts, feelings, self-concept, relationships, and life experiences.”
  4. “Discussion of past experience (developmental focus). Related to identifying of recurring themes and patterns is the recognition that past experience, especially early experiences of attachment figures, affects our relation to, and experience of, the present.”
  5. “Focus on interpersonal relations. Psychodynamic psychotherapy places heavy emphasis on patients’ relationships and interpersonal experience.”
  6. “Focus on the therapy relationship. The relationship between therapist and patient is itself an important interpersonal l relationship, one that can become deeply meaningful and emotionally charged. To the extent that there are repetitive themes in a person’s relationships and manner of interacting, these themes tend to emerge in some form in the therapy relationship. “
  7. ”Exploration of wishes and fantasies. In contrast to other therapies where the therapist may actively structure sessions or follow a predetermined agenda, psychodynamic psychotherapy encourages patients to speak freely about whatever is on their minds. When patients do this (and most patients require considerable help from the therapist before they can truly speak freely), their thoughts naturally range over many areas of mental life, including desires, fears, fantasies, dreams, and daydreams (which in many cases the patient has not previously attempted to put into words). All of this material is a rich source of information about how the person views self and others, interprets and makes sense of experience, avoids aspects of experience, or interferes with a potential capacity to find greater enjoyment and meaning in life.”

“The last sentence hints at a larger goal that is implicit in all of the others: The goals of psychodynamic psychotherapy include, but extend beyond, symptom remission. Successful treatment should not only relieve symptoms (i.e., get rid of something) but also foster the positive presence of psychological capacities and resources. Depending on the person and the circumstances, these might include the capacity to have more fulfilling relationships, make more effective use of one’s talents and abilities, maintain a realistically based sense of self esteem, tolerate a wider range of affect, have more satisfying sexual experiences, understand self and others in more nuanced and sophisticated ways, and face life’s challenges with greater freedom and flexibility.”

MD, Hilsenroth MJ. Distinctive activities of short-term psychodynamic-interpersonal psychotherapy: a review of the comparative psychotherapy process literature. Clin Psychol Sci Pract. 2000;7:167–88.

Kächele, Horst; Levy, Raymond A.; Ablon, J. Stuart (2011-12-22). Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Research: Evidence-Based Practice and Practice-Based Evidence (Kindle Locations 657-670). Springer. Kindle Edition.