In addition to being trained in solution-focused therapies, I am also trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy, which is often referred to as insight-oriented therapy. Many people have an inaccurate understanding of psychoanalytic therapy, although it has evolved considerably since the days of Sigmund Freud, who developed psychoanalysis over a century ago. Unfortunately, psychoanalytic therapy is not utilized as much as other short-term therapies even though it is, in some cases, more effective than other therapies based on the most current scientific research. This is because psychoanalytic therapy is more expensive than short-term therapy. Insurance companies, focused on conserving their costs, have a vested interest in convincing the general public that short-term therapy and/or quick-fix treatment options are more effective than psychoanalytic therapy.
No Quick-Fix for Deep Emotional Pain
While short-term therapies can be very helpful for some problems, there is no true quick fix for deep emotional pain, which is beyond the reach of short-term therapy. Relieving that deeper pain, distress, and lack of satisfaction with one’s life almost always requires a deeper examination and understanding of its underlying sources. Often, a person will come to me after other therapies have failed to improve their problems, or they were briefly relieved of their problems only to have their symptoms return. Using quick-fix solutions to treat only the symptoms of someone’s deep distress and never addressing the root causes of that distress severely limits one’s ability to overcome that distress and live a more fulfilling and satisfying life.
How Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Works
Psychoanalytic therapy does not attempt to utilize any mechanical, or predetermined quick-fix techniques as solutions to your problems. It is designed to help you gain an understanding about yourself by beginning with what has made you the person that you are.
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy focuses on developing a relationship between yourself and your therapist that fosters that understanding. It recognizes that our well-being is influenced by unconscious attachments to our past experiences that, until well understood, limit the outcome of psychotherapy. Psychoanalytic theory holds that our emotional states are determined, in part, at a very young age by our desire to avoid anxiety by pleasing our caregivers upon whom we depended. In this way, our early experiences within our family strongly influence our relationships in the present, because those early experiences become our template for which we measure both our self-worth and all our relationships. Although those important experiences may have taken place many years ago, they have powerfully shaped how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to others.
For instance, a man complained of being unable to assert himself to his boss. His stomach would twist into knots from anxiety each time he considered asking for a raise. Rather than act in his own best interest, he relinquished his needs believing they were too much. Through the therapy process, he realized his father’s rejection of his need as a child developed into a core belief as an adult that his needs were too burdensome. Because we are not transparent to ourselves, not knowing ourselves can sometimes hurt us. These complex childhood experiences, and the focus on the unique therapeutic relationship, is the cornerstone of psychoanalytic psychotherapy.
Even if we do not consciously remember our earlier formative experiences, they still impact us greatly. Often those experiences create distressful symptoms like anxiety, depression, panic attacks, phobias, and self-defeating behaviors. Without understanding the deeply rooted beliefs that are creating the feelings and causing such symptoms, those symptoms will often find another way to be expressed, or new symptoms will develop. Since these deeply rooted beliefs function beyond our awareness, learning about those beliefs takes the help of a trained, objective and skilled psychologist.
Efficacy of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Most psychotherapists today practice only a cognitive focused type of therapy, which is helpful for learning better coping skills. However, we now know from current research that when therapists cannot help individuals also understand their emotions in a deeper way, the therapy is limited and/or the symptoms return. Scientific evidence has demonstrated the efficacy of psychoanalytic therapy; it is not only as good as other therapies but in some cases relieved symptoms more significantly than other shorter-term therapies and with lasting results.
Moreover, psychoanalytic therapists believe that going through their own personal therapy is a necessary professional qualification. If a therapist has not been through psychotherapy, they may be ethically impaired in their ability to provide effective psychotherapy. A psychotherapist who lacks an awareness of their own unconscious ideas, beliefs, and issues, which they would secure by undergoing psychotherapy themselves, may impose their own ideas and beliefs on their patient. By completing their own course of psychotherapy, the therapist becomes a more objective guide for their patient and is less likely to contaminate the therapy process with their own unconscious reactions, distorted perceptions, and personal issues.
Psychoanalytic therapy is a very powerful form of therapy that can help you deal with the complexities of your mind and make changes in your life that you may have never imagined.
To read more about the proven scientific value of psychoanalytic therapy, see The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy by Jonathan Shedler. See abstract below:
The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy
By Jonathan Shedler
Empirical evidence supports the efficacy of psychodynamic therapy. Effect sizes for psychodynamic therapy are as large as those reported for other therapies that have been actively promoted as empirically supported and evidence based. In addition, patients who receive psychodynamic therapy maintain therapeutic gains and appear to continue to improve after treatment ends. Finally, non-psychodynamic therapies may be effective in part because the more skilled practitioners utilize techniques that have long been central to psychodynamic theory and practice. The perception that psychodynamic approaches lack empirical support does not accord with available scientific evidence and may reflect selective dissemination of research findings.
February March 2010 American Psychologist
2010 American Psychological Association 0003‑066X/10/$12.00
Vol. 65, No. 2, 98 109 DOI: 10.1037/a001837. Reproduced with permission.