Psychoanalysis is a treatment approach based on the observation that individuals are often unaware of the factors that determine their emotions and behaviour. Because these forces are unconscious, the advice of friends and family, the reading of self-help books, or even the most determined efforts of will often fail to provide relief. Psychoanalytic treatment explores how these unconscious factors affect current relationships and patterns of thought, emotion and behaviour. These unconscious factors may be the source of considerable distress and unhappiness, sometimes in the form of recognizable symptoms and at other times as troubling personality traits, difficulties in work and /or in love relationships, or disturbances in mood and self-esteem.
People from all walks of life seek psychoanalytic treatment for many different problems. For some there is a very particular reason whilst others seek treatment because they feel worried or depressed in a more general way, for example they may be feeling aimless or dissatisfied with their professional life, or unable to form satisfactory personal or sexual relationships. Some may be feeling in more acute states of despair. For others there may be an awareness that their life lacks sufficient direction or meaning.
The task of the psychoanalyst is not only to listen carefully to the patient but also to try and understand, from what is being communicated verbally and non-verbally, the patient’s underlying emotional conflicts. Analysis is an intimate partnership, in the course of which the patient becomes aware of the sources of his or her difficulties not simply intellectually but emotionally as well. From the beginning of therapy, patient and analyst work together to build up a safe and trusting relationship that enables the patient to experience aspects of his or her inner life that have been hidden because they are painful, embarrassing or guilt provoking.
Psychoanalysts are specifically trained to work in this intensive, dedicated manner in a close collaboration with each patient. To promote the kind of growth and change that analysis aims to accomplish requires time and energy, therefore, analytic treatment is open-ended.