Psychoanalysis (A Short Definition)

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, unique aspects of the psychoanalytic approach_ [internal link, see Introduction] that we rely on when we try to help others, too.

Most recent research has shown that change is facilitated by the experiences patients have within the therapeutic hour and outside of it, inspired by the therapeutic work. In other words, psychoanalytic work is focused very much on the present (i.e. experiences ‘in the room’) and the future. The previous emphasis upon interpretation, which Freud began, has given way to a more subtle and complicated appreciation of the therapeutic relationship as an agent of change. This process is illustrated with commentary in _our principal extended clinical example_ [internal link, Clinical Case A2]