The types of psychotherapy that have their origins in psychoanalytic theory are called either ‘psychoanalytic’ or ‘psychodynamic’ in type.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is often called ‘analytic’ or ‘analytical’ psychotherapy. They may be short term or long term, more or less intensive, but good psychoanalytic therapy should be a collaborative process to enable us to be more aware of our inner worlds and aiming to use our experience of the therapeutic relationship to improve our ability to understand relationships, including the relationship we have to ourselves. It is more likely to focus on our emotional development than on symptoms and is a less structured therapy than some others. The term ‘psychodynamic’ psychotherapy may be used for less intensive and shorter term therapy. See the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy website: www.psychotherapy.org.uk and British Psychoanalytic Council website: www.psychoanalytic-council.org.

‘Psychoanalysis’ is an intensive treatment. Usually patients attend four or five fifty minute sessions weekly for several years, working with their psychoanalyst to examine and to explore unconscious conflicts of feeling, emotion and fantasy that are at the root of their symptoms and problems. See the Institute of Psychoanalysis and The British Psychoanalytical Society website: www.psychoanalysis.org.uk; and British Psychoanalytic Council: www.psychoanalytic-council.org.

Some psychoanalytic psychotherapists called themselves ‘psychoanalysts’ or ‘analysts’ even though they do not offer intensive treatments.

All the psychoanalytic therapies which are ‘analytic’ have their roots in the talking therapy devised by Sigmund Freud over a hundred years ago which has evolved and changed since then. Many psychoanalytic ideas have entered everyday language and culture, for example “Freudian slip”.

The psychoanalytic therapies aim for changes in personality and emotional development. The basic idea is that we all have a less conscious or unconscious part of our minds, and that this has a powerful effect on ourselves and our lives, even though – by definition – we are not consciously aware of it. If we can be more aware of our inner world we can understand ourselves better, and have more control over some of our feelings and thoughts. We are influenced by how we have reacted to the crucial experiences of growing up, of our early attachments, of being dependent, and these experiences will have formed patterns of thoughts and feelings in us, especially about relationships. These internal working models will be explored in therapy. The therapeutic relationship with the therapist is crucial in enabling this understanding to be effective and experienced in the here and now (‘transference’), rather than the less effective understanding that may be reached from self-help books or introspection. Intellectualised insight is unlikely to be internalised or lead to lasting change in functioning.

Good psychoanalytic therapy may be helpful to those with significant psychological and emotional problems but also to those who are aware of less severe but limiting relationship problems, or who find it hard to find meaning in their lives and feel unfulfilled.

At TherapyWorks we are aware of the similarities between all good established therapies. For example, it is not difficult to see the parallels between the psychoanalytic therapist’s interest in ‘attachment patterns’, the cognitive behavioural therapists interest in ‘schemas’, and the cognitive analytic therapist’s interest in ‘reciprocal roles’. However, each therapy and each therapist offers a different sort of experience which may be more or less effective for different patients / clients.