What Is Psychoanalysis?

You may have heard of the term ‘Psychoanalysis’ before, whether it was from a book, a class, or even perhaps a movie or television show. It’s become a part of our vocabularies, but most people don’t know much about what psychoanalysis really is, and what it can do. It is a Freudian method that simply equates to the study of the mind. And, while it can be a topic of controversy among many people, psychoanalysis is not the antiquated, outdated treatment of the past. Instead, it has transformed and been updated for the 21st century as a solid solution for people struggling with psychological issues.

Let’s take a closer look at how psychoanalysis really works, and the process patients can expect to experience as they go through treatment.

How Does Psychoanalysis Work?

Psychoanalysis attempts to help people deal with their psychological problems by dipping into the unconscious mind. While this is where some controversy of the treatment comes into play, you don’t have to picture Dr. Freud smoking a cigar behind a leather chair as he attempts to analyze dreams. Psychoanalysis has come a long way since then.

Different methods can be used within the overlying umbrella of psychoanalysis, depending on the patient and the doctor practicing the treatment. Many of these methods are familiar to most people, but they have been proven to go beyond the conscious mind, break down barriers, and push back against natural defense mechanisms in order to get to the root of someone’s problems.

Some of the most common methods used under psychoanalysis include:

Free Association: This is an updated approach to what Freud would call hypnosis, in which the patient will simply speak freely and openly about anything that comes to their mind, in a relaxed state.

Interpretation of Freudian Slips: Many of us have made what we might call a ‘Freudian slip’ at least once in our lives, but in psychoanalysis, these slips, or ‘mistakes’ can be analyzed and interpreted to figure out what someone may really be unconsciously thinking.

Dream Interpretation: The dream method of psychoanalysis comes straight from Freud himself, combining some elements of free association and Freudian slips to allow patients to talk about their dreams as vividly as possible, so they can be interpreted and analyzed.

Interpretation of Symbols: Symbols are a part of our everyday lives, but when they begin to appear in fantasies and dreams, frequently, they could mean something that we don’t even realize. An interpretation of a symbol that seems to be important to the patient can lead to deeper thoughts and analysis.

Psychoanalysis As A Solution

There will likely always be people who are a bit skeptical about psychoanalysis, and the idea of diving into the unconscious mind, but it is in those unconscious thoughts where some of our deepest, most profound issues sometimes live, and we may not even realize it.

In everything from anxiety and depression, to eating disorders and obsessive compulsive behaviors, it could be our innermost thoughts that are causing problems, and a method like psychoanalysis can see through the defenses our minds naturally put up, to finally provide the right kind of treatment options.

Written By:
Dr. Drew Tillotson, a licensed Clinical Psychologist in full-time private practice with over 25 years of experience. My office is located in the Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. I work with adults in both individual therapy and couples work. I Specialize in sex addiction therapy in San Francisco.