Although psychoanalysis has been used to treat various psychological and physical concerns since the turn of the twentieth century, the psychoanalytic treatment offered today is not your grandfather’s psychoanalysis.
Psychoanalysis (and psychoanalytic psychotherapy) is a special kind of therapy that focuses on a person’s entire life. It does not begin with any assumptions about who a person is or what they need. Psychoanalysis helps people to grow beyond repetitive destructive patterns. We are aware that most issues with which we struggle have had their birth in our earliest years with those people closest to us. It is there that we learned how human beings treated each other, how to think and feel about ourselves and the world around us, and how to protect ourselves from experiences we find too painful. Even those fortunate enough to have warm, consistent parents have realized that even in that “idyllic” situation, they still experienced harmful interactions.
It is not merely one or two difficult moments in childhood that set the stage for later patterns of life; it is usually a repetitive pattern that teaches a child that this is “reality.” As a result of these early templates of interaction and experiencing self and others that we begin to see and expect the world to “be” certain ways. And so, we unconsciously begin to perpetuate in our lives the “reality” we came to know. This is one powerful reason why so many people find themselves repeating what they have come to see as a destructive cycle: for example, being drawn to the same type of person who treats them badly, finding themselves repeatedly losing friends and feeling alone, hiding out from the world and afraid to be one’s true self, etc.
People choose psychoanalytic treatment not to eliminate a painful symptom in and of itself (though symptom relief does occur!), but because they want to change something significant in their lives -- usually a pattern that recurs or a prevailing sense of self and/or the world they have carried with them across most of their lives or the devastation of trauma from which they have not yet found any hope of freedom.
Psychoanalysis is for people who not only want change, but feel that without change they will be forfeiting too much of their lives.
So, how does psychoanalysis itself differ from psychoanalytic psychotherapy? Usually the difference between the two is seen in the frequency of treatment. If I see you once weekly, we will do all we can to get at the heart of the challenges in your life; if I see you two or three times weekly, the pace of the work quickens, different questions arise sooner, and you have less time between sessions for everything to return to “normal” -- which means returning to the status quo and slowing down the process of change and growth.
If psychoanalysis sounds like something you are interested in, please contact me for a consult, and we can decide together if this is the right step for you.