Welcome to the website of the
Psychoanalytic Research Consortium (PRC)!
This site is for everyone interested in learning more about how “talk” therapy is used to address troubling emotional or psychological conditions. Whether you are a student of psychotherapy, an experienced therapist, a researcher, an individual suffering from psychological problems or simply an interested observer, we hope you will find useful understandings on our web site. Those primarily interested in research or in our research findings may check out the PRC history, and the annotated list of our findings listed on the Research tab. For learners, read on!
We have found through decades of experience that learning from recorded psychotherapy cases is perhaps the most useful method, because any description of what is going on in a given psychotherapy can only capture a part of this highly complex human interaction, and usually only through a particular theoretical lens.
Clinical case studies are the foundation of the PRC, with a focus on the 81 recorded cases already in the organization’s library. On this website we share what we have learned from our collective clinical experience and research on successful and less successful long-term treatments, as well as studies by other researchers contributing to knowledge of what works and doesn’t work under differing circumstances.
We explore the first four sessions of a successful treatment in great depth, as a jumping off point for describing the components of psychotherapy, illustrated by our case-based PRC Psychotherapy Manual. The sessions are brought further to life by actors playing the parts of therapist and patient, for confidentiality reasons. We link back and forth between our descriptions of these components and our case material, with explanatory comments from experienced colleagues.
The stimulus for transforming this website into a learning experience for all came from several senior colleagues who have used the material for teaching psychotherapists around the country. We have the detailed feedback from one of these clinicians:
Students’ Evaluation of Recorded Analyses Course
Sherwood Waldron has taught a course studying recorded clinical psychoanalytic work at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute since 2005. Some 38 of 40 students found the guided exposure to clinical sessions, with explanatory comments, a very helpful learning experience. This inspired our website, which also includes clickable comments explaining what we see as helpful, or not, in the recorded remarks by the therapist. The banner to the right is a small selection from comments of these students, provided to the Institute as feedback and anonymised before being provided to the teacher.
Why do we focus on psychoanalysis?
Psychoanalysis is the grandparent of most therapies in use today. As a field, it has evolved since it began in the late 19th century. Many of the original insights are relevant to how a broad range of psychotherapists help patients. In several places on this website we document the evidence that the central components of psychoanalysis contribute to psychotherapeutic benefit, even at times in those types of therapy which have branched off or even repudiated the value of psychoanalytic discoveries.
Most research studies have supported the need for intensive, longer-term work to help patients overcome long-standing difficulties in how they are feeling and thinking, and how such thoughts and feelings affect how they view themselves, their relationships, their work and play, and their satisfaction and sense of meaning in life. Without longer term deeper psychotherapeutic work, including psychoanalysis, patients often improve initially, but then relapse into older, long-standing patterns of emotional difficulty.
This website is designed to inform the participant as best we can of what evidence exists about aspects of psychodynamic psychotherapy which actually work, with appropriate references to what we consider the most helpful, and scientifically sound studies available (e.g. Norcross et al. 2019; Shedler 2010; Leichsenring and Rabung 2008; Leichsenring and Leibing 2003; Wampold 2001). Of course, we can not in this setting do justice to the broad reach of studies in the world of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and the countless other variants of psychotherapy invented in these past decades, but we hope that by addressing fundamental principles, the reader will end up better equipped to judge for him- or herself.
For a more in-depth discussion of the development of psychoanalysis and the psychotherapies click here.
Advantages of the PRC
We share our learning from past collective clinical experience and clinical research on successful and non-successful recorded long term treatments including psychoanalyses. Throughout this website, you will find annotated clinical illustrations from psychoanalyses and psychoanalytic psychotherapies illustrating how these treatments work. This combination is scarcely to be found elsewhere.
- A description of components of psychoanalytic (psychodynamic) psychotherapy as illustrated by a manual describing components of treatment, used now for thirty years, to define and illustrate the contributions of both therapist and patient to the ongoing work. Using this PRC Psychotherapy Manual may provide an accessible means to understand different components of the psychotherapy process for anyone interested in psychotherapy.
- A database of 40 fully recorded psychoanalyses and 41 psychotherapies collected over 40 years by experienced therapists. Here, we provide confidentialized transcripts from these therapies by senior clinicians, linked to descriptions of what is happening in the conversation between the participants, so that clinicians studying our materials can see the way the dimensions of psychotherapy look in context and in actual practice.
- An extended clinical illustration, with actors taking the parts of therapist and patient, to bring alive the text for learning purposes. The replacement of the patient and therapist by actors serves to protect the patient’s anonymity.
- Explanatory comments accompany the text of the sessions. These may be clicked to view the comment, and escape to close. Authors of the comments are indicated by their initials. Additional comments are welcomed for consideration. Send these suggestions to email@example.com, indicating whether you wish your name added to the list of comment contributors. If so, your initials will be added to your comment(s). While we appreciate suggested comments, we retain the responsibility for accepting, editing or not accepting each comment.
- Annotated references relevant to our clinical descriptions, to provide further research or other perspectives within a given area.
What have we done and what needs to be done?
Members of the PRC have written the following recent publication to summarize the current state of the field of psychotherapy research and our contributions to it, and what could be the promise of future research: (Click title below for text)
From the book: Axelrod, S.D., Naso, R.C., & Rosenberg, L.M. (eds.) (2018)Progress in Psychoanalysis: Envisioning the Future of the Profession. New York, NY: Routledge. Contact Routledge for permission to reprint this chapter (Routledge.com)
We thank our collaborators here, and welcome further proposed comments, and proposed annotated references as well, to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for our list of contributing colleagues. Please indicate with your comment whether we may include you in our list of collaborators.
Financial support for our website has been provided by:
Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) of the American Psychological Association,
the American Psychoanalytic Association, and by members of the PRC Board of Directors.
(A Short Description)
Psychoanalysts starting with Sigmund Freud came to realize that so much psychic suffering is linked to feelings and experiences that, for most people, are not conscious. Freud was most famous perhaps for listening closely to his patients, in order to understand them. In particular, he suggested that it may be very important to listen for aspects of people’s experience of which they may not be so aware. This core principle is not the only one relevant today: it only provides the basis for answering the question of how the therapeutic relationship can help the patient change his/her maladaptive ways. There are other important and unique aspects of the psychoanalytic approach. Many of these focus on both discovering a hidden understanding over the course of conversations with patients, as well as a distinct kind of change in patients’ feeling understood by their therapist in the context of a unique and intimate relationship.
Studies of actual psychoanalytic psychotherapy and of another common model of treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy, have found important overlaps between the two. In fact the originator of cognitive-behavioral therapy, Aaron Beck, began his clinical life in learning psychoanalysis, then felt that the restrictions of analytic technique taught back in the ‘70s were too limiting. Since then, both cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychoanalytic treatments of various kinds have developed to include elements of one another’s approach. The focus on how a patient’s thoughts affect their thinking and behavior in life, and how to effect meaningful and operational change, have become important for all kinds of psychotherapists.
Most recent research has shown that change is facilitated by the experiences patients have within the therapeutic hour as well as outside of it, inspired by the therapeutic work. Psychoanalytic work is focused very much on the present (i.e. experiences ‘in the room’ with the therapist) and the future in all its potential. The previous emphasis upon interpretation of the meaning of the past, which Freud began, has given way to a more subtle and complicated appreciation of the ongoing, present therapeutic relationship as an agent of change. At times and to different degrees with different patients, this will also require a deeper understanding of the past, but hopefully always with an effort to help patients meaningfully manage their emotional difficulties. This process is illustrated with commentary in _our principal extended clinical example, Click here.