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What is psychoanalysis and is it right for me?

While psychoanalysis is frequently caricatured as a treatment focused on the past, in fact, it is best suited for those who wish to live a more meaningful existence in the present. Psychoanalysis has evolved since its inception over a century ago, though the basic principles on which it was founded continue to resonate for those who seek to better understand themselves and their relationships with others.

I see psychoanalysis as a collaborative venture, not just an intellectual exercise in personal meaning. With the help of an analyst, one is able to explore problematic behaviors, thoughts, and feelings in “real time” and in so doing, access “emotional forms of learning” that can lead to lasting personal change. Over the course of an analysis, we learn to identify and understand troubling patterns of behavior that can keep us “stuck” and resistant to the very change we seek. Such awareness often leads to a greater range of choices in our professional lives, interpersonal relationships, and other creative pursuits. To be clear, the goal of psychoanalysis is not human perfection or even the elimination of suffering — after all, no one is perfect and human suffering is a fact of life. However, psychoanalysis has the potential to free one up to experience life in a more meaningful and unencumbered way.

How does psychoanalysis work?

Psychoanalysis typically consists of meeting four to five times per week with a psychoanalyst and involves the patient (also known as the analysand) lying on a couch. Contrary to what some think, the frequency of sessions is a sign of mental health and serves to facilitate the process of self-understanding. Fundamental to the practice of psychoanalysis is a belief in a dynamic unconscious, the idea that sometimes we are unaware of factors that determine our behavior and feelings. Undergoing an analysis allows one to examine old patterns of behavior that often have their roots in early relationships and experiences. By understanding these patterns and how they developed over time, we have the opportunity to alter beliefs and behaviors that impede our personal growth and potentially develop more adaptive ways of responding to life’s many challenges.

For those interested in learning more about psychoanalysis, the following resources may be of interest:

About psychoanalysis

Is psychoanalysis right for me?

Why can’t I stop repeating the same stupid behaviors?

Psychoanalysis is alive and well

The efficacy of psychodynamic therapy

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