What is psychoanalytic psychotherapy?

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is a therapeutic process which helps people understand and resolve their problems by increasing awareness of their inner world and its influence over relationships both past and present. It differ from most other therapies in aiming for deep seated change in personality and emotional development.

It can benefit adults as well as children and adolescents. It can help withemotional and behavioural difficulties which are evident at home or school. These can include personality problems, depression, learning difficulties, school and other phobias, eating or sleeping disorders and self-destructive behaviour.

Whether psychoanalytic psychotherapy is the treatment of choice for a particular individual depends on a variety of factors. It is often helpful to have one or more preliminary consultations before deciding whether psychoanalytic psychotherapy is an appropriate treatment for the person concerned. The treatment may be of short or longer duration, and can be once, twice or three times a week depending on need.

The relationship with the therapist is a crucial element in the therapy. The therapist offers a confidential and private setting which facilitates a process where unconscious patterns of the patient’s inner world become reflected in the patient’s relationship with the therapist (called ‘transference’). This process helps patients gradually to identify these patterns and, in becoming conscious of them, to develop the capacity to understand and change them.

This section is based on material available at the British Psychoanalytic Council website. For more detailed information see http://www.psychoanalytic-council.org/