Psychoanalytic psychotherapy refers to the variety of theoretical and clinical approaches which have evolved in the tradition of thought inaugurated by Sigmund Freud.
At its most basic level psychoanalysis holds that the human subject is a divided one, in the sense that there always coexist in our minds both conscious and unconsious thoughts and wishes, demands, fantasies and intentions. Conscious and unconscious ideas are often at odds with each other, a fact which has a number of consequences. We cannot take ourselves for granted, neither in terms of ‘knowing ourselves’ nor as far as having full agency over our thought processes, our motivations or our actions. We may find ourselves suffering in ways which we do not understand and act in ways which do not accord with the
The fact that parts of our own mental life are inaccessibe to conscious thought is understood to be a result of our early history, or, to put it another way, our first love (and hate) relations. Psychoanalysis seeks to explore how the symptoms and the suffering of the present are connected to the way our own particular life history has shaped how we understand ourselves and our relations with others. The main vehicle for this often long and detailed exploration is the transference to the therapist, that is, the relationship to the one from whom help is sought and which is often imbued with intense conscious and unconscious meaning and feeling. The investigation of one’s very individual way of being in the world proceeds in the light of the transference relationship and can provide much insight into how we
It has to be stressed, however, that ‘positive outcomes’ cannot be predicted in advance, let alone guaranteed. Due to the fact that the characteristics and the life experiences of the patient are highly individual, the analytic process too is very particularised. Furthermore, the work takes