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The Therapy| Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

This is a form of psychotherapy that is based on psychoanalytic principles.  The most striking difference between this and cognitive therapies is that psychoanalytic psychotherapy takes into account unconscious processes.


Denise Brett

How many times have you known the logical step to take and yet actively done something else?  How many of your friends, family or acquaintances wreck your head because they keep making the same mistakes (repetition compulsion) or because they ignore all advice and seem to repeat the illogical behaviour.  Have you ever wanted something and not wanted it at the same time? Have you ever loved and hated somebody at the same time?  Have you ever really wanted something and felt disappointed when you achieved it?  These are all due to unconscious processes which fly in the face of the logic of conscious thought.



When there is a  conflict between unconscious desires and conscious thought processes we experience anxiety.  In other words when you find yourself  doing what you feel you 'should' do.  For example the student who is studying law because that is what their parents want, he feels 'he should keep his parents happy' or the person in a relationship with a person who they feel they 'should' love.


These are imperatives of the superego and largely what cause problems for the individual when they are in conflict with their unconscious desires.  Cognitive therapies reinforce the conscious beliefs and give more reasons to support the should system.  "I should be happy because I have everything", "I should take the job offer because it pays better and has more security", "I should work on my marriage because I have so much invested in it".  "I should be grateful for what I have when there are so many people who have nothing"  Psychoanalytic psychotherapy on the other hand does not try and make us artificially happy and grateful. 



Sigmund Freud was the first to highlight that when we have unresolved psychical conflict the symptom can appear on the body, that is we can have physical symptoms. 


Although 100 years ago he had no way of verifying such an apparently outlandish idea,  neuroscience has managed to identify  and verify the links which Freud first alluded to!


Figure 1

Which Therapy?

Most therapies can be divided on two principles, the first being the age old debate in psychology between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. 

Behavioural Psychology is based on the belief that all phonemona can be observed and that observation of behaviour will tell you everything there is to know about a person.  It does not take into account any processes that you cannot see, therefore it does not acknowledge the role of the unconscious in that which makes us human.  Psychoanalytic psychotherapy works with the unconscious.



The other way that psychotherapies can be divided is into what they strive to do.  Most psychotherapies aim to solve the 'problem' and get the person back functioning as a 'better' member of society.  So if a person is late for work every day, the aim would be to alter their behaviour so that they are now ontime for their job.  If the problem is they are depressed, the aim would be to reprogram them to look on the brighter side of their situation.  This is all very well but it does not take into account the desire of the individual.  Perhaps the person is late for work because they are in the wrong job, they hate their work or they are being bullied.  Perhaps the person is depressed because they are in a bad relationship. 



Psychoanalytic psychotherapy aims at uncovering the unconscious processes to better understand what motivates our particular choices in live.  So the aim of psychoanalytic psychotherapy would be to help the individual understand why he or she is late for work or why they are depressed.  The result of the therapy can be a reduction in the symptom but this is not necessarily the initial aim.  The reason this can be more beneficial long term is that when we remove a symptom a new one usually pops up if the cause of it has not been found.



For example, the person might start being ontime for work after a cognitive program but they might have more sick days.  They might turn up ontime for work but be more aggressive or they might develop a physical symptom like an itchy skin rash or migraines etc.  The person who is depressed who learns to think more positively may also develop other symptoms because the cause of their symptom has not been resolved.



That is not to say that cognitive behaviour therapy does not have a function.  It can be useful for getting quick results for minor problems.



A space to think...  Most people have no shortage of people in their lives telling them what they 'should' think.    It is sometimes very difficult to know our own views or desires because of the constant bombardment from friends, family, colleagues, and media telling us how we should feel, think and behave.  Psychoanalytic psychotherapy allows us to find out who we really are.



Psychotherapy involves a relationship between you and the therapist.  It is within the dynamic of this relationship that any change takes place.  Therefore there are two variables when you begin psychotherapy- the type of psychotherapy and the actual therapist.  It is important that you chose a mode of psychotherapy and a psychotherapist that is right for you.  If you begin seeing a therapist at Beaufield Centre and decide that you have found the right type of therapy but the wrong therapist, we can give you the names of alternative therapists both within and outside of our practice.



We live in very demanding times where much is expected of us.  Not only are we expected to be successful, look right, dress right and sound right, there is also a demand that we are happy and like everything else we are expected to achieve it instantly!  There are many problems with this.  Nobody is happy all of the time, some people are happy some of the time.  The meaning of happiness is different for everyone.  The pressure to conform is very strong, sometimes it is appropriate to feel sad or depressed.  Success is only success when measured against failure, light is only light when measured against dark and similarly happiness is only happiness when measured against sadness.  Therefore in order to experience happiness it is also necessary to have experienced sadness.  Some artists do their best work when they are sad. 
'Don't try to make me happy just listen to me when I am sad'