Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Approaches
Psychoanalysis is a form of psychotherapy in which the therapist delves into the patient's unconscious in an attempt to discover an internal source for the problem at hand. Freud was the father of psychoanalysis, as you've probably guessed. He believed that by talking through a person's dreams and memories, he could tap into the unconscious and determine the inner conflict that was causing the psychological problem. By exposing that source, the patient could then experience emotional release and be free of the problem.
In this form of treatment, a patient would meet with his therapist numerous times and simply talk about dreams, emotions, and anything else that came to mind. When you think about this type of therapy, you probably imagine a patient lying on a couch talking about his problems while a therapist sits patiently nearby writing on a notepad. As the patient talks freely, the therapist sits quietly, taking in everything that is said in an attempt to make connections and thus search for the source within the unconscious, a technique known as free association.
Classic psychoanalysis using free association can be rather pricey considering the number of sessions a patient must pay for before the problem can be worked through. While this certainly isn't the only form of treatment available, many people shy away from seeking treatment due to the cost involved.
There is no quick fix involved. Numerous sessions are required, sometimes even years’ worth of sessions, before a therapist can delve deeply enough in to the unconscious to produce emotional release. Of course, this emotional release cannot be guaranteed. Because society is “quick-fix” oriented, this form of treatment isn't nearly as popular these days, though it is still the most common portrayal of one seeking help for a psychological problem.
Freud's classic psychoanalysis, though not practiced all too often these days, has evolved into other forms of therapy called psychodynamic therapy, which are currently used more often. In psychodynamic therapy, the therapist still attempts to delve into the unconscious to help the patient discover and face the inner conflict that is manifesting itself as symptoms of a mental disorder. However, this form of therapy is more structured to be acceptable to today's quick-fix ideals.
Therapists develop a plan of treatment with their patients, often setting a limit on the number of sessions they will use as well as setting goals for what they want to accomplish. They often guide the patient to discuss a certain topic or emotion, which is much different from the free-association technique used in classic psychoanalysis. In this way, the sessions are more goal-oriented and focused on finding a solution to the problem without having to rifle through the insignificant details of a patient's entire life history.
One process that is important in both psychoanalytic and psychodynamic approaches is the use of transference, which involves the client unconsciously transferring the emotions and desires she originally associated with another person in her life onto the therapist. The therapist will pay close attention to any emotions that the patient projects onto her and try to associate those feelings with situations or issues in the patient's life. For instance, if you become jealous of the therapist's other patients, the therapist will start to delve into your current relationships with others, searching for that inner conflict that triggered the transference. Or, if you become enraged with your therapist for going on vacation and not being able to keep the regular schedule of sessions, the therapist will try to find out if you have faced rejection or abandonment in your life. Transference is a way to dig up those past conflicts that are affecting your present living.