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Psychoanalytical Therapy

[ Concepts and practice ]

Psychoanalytical therapy appeared as an alternative for the classic treatment of neurosis, which was based on brutal methods such as electrical shocks or less brutal ones, such as hydrotherapy. Freud invented this specific method - also called talking cure - starting from the experiences of his friend and collaborator Dr. Breuer with a hysteric patient. The later noticed that the hysterical symptoms of the patient remit when she was made to remember and relive, under hypnosis, the traumatic events.

At first, Freud turns as well to hypnosis, which he subsequently gives up for the free associations, a method based on his belief in the psychic determinism.

The psychoanalytical therapy is mainly concerned with the analysis of the unconscious, in this case of the repressed. At the center of this analysis stays the dream, which, in Freud's opinion is structured as a symptom. Freud thought that by analyzing dreams we choose the royal road to the unconscious, to the repressed. This aspect remains central in today's therapy of neurosis.

Alongside with dreams Freud analyses as well the slips and mistakes which lead him to the decipherment of the unconscious. The Freudian slips are systematically in his book The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, the way he did with dreams. Freud wrote the first monograph dedicated to dreams - The Interpretation of Dreams - dated 1900.

Finally, Freud brings great contributions to the understanding and analysis of the dream symbols. Unlike his colleague, Carl Jung, Freud reduces the significance of the symbols to sexual matters.  He makes up hereby his opinion regarding the etiology of neurosis, which is a sexual one.

The psychoanalytical therapy is completed with the analysis of the transference. In a famous talk with Carl Jung, Freud underlines the importance of the transference in the analytical practice. Jung wrote:

    [Freud] asked me out of the blue: "And what do you think about the transference?" I replied with the deepest conviction that it was the alpha and omega of the analytical method, whereupon he said: "Then you have grasped the main thing". (Carl Jung: The Psychology of the Transference, Ark Paperbacks, p. 8.)

The psychoanalytical therapy has as a fundament a representation of the mental apparatus formed of psychic instances, and a vision of its functioning that imposes two basic principles: the reality and the pleasure principle. A great accent is set on the repression which explains the symptom emergence.

What treats psychoanalysis? Neurosis: hysteria, obsessive-phobic neurosis, anxiety neurosis, malaise, mild depressions, sexual dysfunctions, all type of inhibitions. What psychoanalysis does not treat: psychoses.

Please note that the psychoanalytic approach of neurosis doesn't appeal to medicines.

  • Further readings

The case study section of this site offers two examples of psychoanalytic therapy explained for beginners:
A case with a legacy - a psychoanalytic approach of anxiety;
Billy's dream - usage of dream interpretation in the psychoanalytic cure.

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