Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis
Psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are the two types of therapy in which I specialize. Both are forms of talk therapy that rely on careful listening and exploration rather than homework or directions from the therapist. The following are common questions about these approaches. Clicking on the links below will take you to a discussion of each question. In order to determine whether therapy might be helpful to you, you may contact me for further information or to request an appointment.
- Who can benefit from psychodynamic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis?
- Who do you generally see in your practice?
- What does psychodynamic mean?
- What is psychodynamic therapy?
- What is psychoanalysis?
- What are the similarities between psychotherapy and psychoanalysis?
- How do psychotherapy and psychoanalysis differ?
- Who is a psychoanalyst?
Who can benefit from psychodynamic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis?
Psychotherapy or psychoanalysis is typically recommended for the person who is:
- Inquisitive about their own mind and behavior
- Suffering from personal problems that have not been overcome, despite efforts that may even include previous therapy
- Interested in talking confidentially with an experienced therapist, either instead of, or in addition to receiving medication from their physician.
Who do you see in your practice?
People contact me for many reasons. Because the identity of the people I see is confidential, I am unable to describe actual people. However, examples of the many individuals who may respond well to psychodynamic therapy include:
- A successful professional who suffers from unrelenting self-doubt and nagging headaches that prevent them from going to the next level in their career.
- A mother who remains irritable and depressed long after her youngest child has left for college, driving an emotional wedge between herself and her partner.
- A promising young attorney who is unable to overcome their procrastination and avoidance of work, ever since joining a large, prestigious firm.
- A psychologist who is encountering strong reactions to a patient that might relate to past relationships of the psychologist’s own. Once aware of making some minor mistakes with the patient, the psychologist decided to explore the situation with a psychoanalyst.
- A graduate student who feels better since starting an anti-depressant medication but needs more time to talk through their social anxiety and loneliness than the prescribing psychiatrist can provide.
- A college student who has lost weight rapidly since moving away from home. At times, they find that hurting themself is strangely comforting.
What does psychodynamic mean?
Psychodynamic refers to the idea that the human mind, or psyche, is complex and active. Some of the factors or forces in play in the mind include:
- Relationships with the important people in their lives, past and present
- Experiences from childhood to the present, both negative and positive influences
- Intellect, thinking and knowledge
- Talents, skills and abilities
- Sense of right and wrong
- Goals, wishes, desires and fears
- Dreams and fantasies
- Biological and physical endowment; health and illness
- Feelings of all kinds, such as anxiety or worry, feeling good or safe; pleasure and pain; sadness, happiness, mourning and joy; and guilt and shame
These factors can be in conflict with one another, creating problems that can feel difficult to resolve. A few simple examples of this type of conflict are:
- A young adult feels torn between career and dating choices that would please their parents and decisions that would bring personal happiness. There seems to be no good solution.
- A woman is attracted to a married man and fantasizes about an affair. Although she is tempted, getting involved would make her feel guilty, as well as jeopardizing his family life. She decides that living with a clear conscience is more important to her then fulfilling her desire, yet she can’t stop thinking about him.
- A man wants nothing more than to be a good father to his son, yet finds himself unduly critical of him for reasons he can’t understand.
- A public speaker wishes to lecture effectively but has been having worse and worse panic attacks just before speaking engagements. Relaxation techniques haven’t worked, and medication doesn’t seem like a good option, but talking with someone might help them figure out what’s going on.
Problems like these are difficult to solve without help because the people suffering from them are unaware of what motivates their puzzling feelings or behavior. They keep making the same mistakes or reliving the same feelings and are unable to get control. Psychoanalysts specialize in understanding connections between past experience and present feelings, thoughts, and behavior.
What is psychodynamic therapy?
Psychodynamic therapy is a conversation between therapist and patient or client that is based on the assumptions that:
- Much of our behavior and many of our thoughts and feelings are outside our awareness.
- Talking with an experienced professional can help people understand how they think, feel, and behave.
- Understanding one’s own mind can lead to greater freedom to live one’s life well.
The thoughts and feelings that arise in psychotherapy provide keys to understanding oneself with the help of an experienced therapist.
What is psychoanalysis?
“Psychoanalysis” refers to a theory of the mind as well as a therapeutic method, both of which originated with Sigmund Freud. An Austrian neurologist, Freud observed that troubled, or troubling, human behavior, relationships, emotions, and thoughts tended to improve when his patients became aware of previously “unconscious” feelings, conflicts, beliefs, and motives that lay behind their problems. When these could be addressed in the context of the analytic situation, his patients obtained relief from emotional pain and found new solutions to their personal difficulties.
More than a century since Freud’s early discoveries, psychoanalysts continue to study how people think, feel, love, hate, learn, develop, and cope – using a method of listening and thinking that is similar to that of Freud, although with the benefit of advances in the field. It involves getting to know one unique individual at a time.
Early psychoanalytic theory and practice have undergone many revisions, but some of the major principles of psychoanalysis remain intact. For example:
- Each individual develops uniquely, based on a complex interweaving of mental and physical endowment, upbringing, and experiences.
- Our actions and reactions, thoughts, and dreams have meaning that can be explored and, often, better understood.
- Our lives and behavior are governed not only by rational choices but also thoughts and feelings outside our current awareness.
What are the similarities between psychotherapy and psychoanalysis?
Both are methods of personal therapy derived from psychoanalytic theory.
- Both entail speaking as frankly as possible with an analytically educated professional in order to reach a deeper understanding of the complexities of one’s feelings, behavior, and mind.
- Typically, people participating in either one of these therapies report feeling enriched by the insights and understanding they achieve.
- Both types of therapy, as practiced by a psychoanalyst, are unique to each individual patient. With each person who consults me, I discuss my clinical judgment and recommendations, and together we plan how best to address what is on your mind.
- In every case, confidentiality is a necessary condition for treatment to occur.
How do psychotherapy and psychoanalysis differ?
The form of psychotherapy that I practice is informed by psychoanalytic or psychodynamic theory and technique, and therefore is quite similar to psychoanalysis. One of the differences between the two methods may be frequency of visits.
Psychotherapy may entail less frequency, with sessions occurring once or twice a week on average, and less often in some cases. The therapy may be brief or long-term, depending on the patient’s needs and goals. Psychoanalysis is conducted three to five times per week over an extended period of time. This more intensive therapy is often recommended for individuals with difficult, longstanding symptoms and those who desire a more in-depth approach after working in psychotherapy for awhile.
In both forms of therapy, some people prefer to make frequent eye contact with the analyst. Others prefer to focus elsewhere, in order to achieve a more relaxed state in which they may be more open to their own thoughts and speak as freely as possible. In all therapy as I practice it, I am an active participant in the work. The old stereotype of the remote and silent analyst is a thing of the past.
Who is a psychoanalyst?
A psychoanalyst is a professional therapist who first obtains an advanced degree (for example, a Masters in counseling or social work, Ph.D. in psychology, or M.D.) before studying psychoanalytic practice and thought at an institute dedicated to psychoanalysis.
In addition to at least four years of course work and extensive, supervised clinical experience, each analyst-in-training is required to undergo their own psychoanalysis. In this way, they have an opportunity to become as thoroughly acquainted with their own character and mental life as possible.
This rigorous, multi-faceted preparation to work as a psychoanalyst is designed to ensure their ability to practice at the highest level of personal and professional integrity. If your physician or other trusted person suggests that therapy may be helpful to you, you may wish to consider seeing a psychoanalyst. You could contact me to inquire or discuss making an appointment using the website contact form under Contact.