What is psychoanalysis?

What is psychoanalysis? For whom is it the recommended treatment of choice? What methods are used? How does it work? Who is a psychoanalyst and how are psychoanalysts trained? And, most importantly, will it work for me?

What is psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis is a theory, a research method, and most importantly, a form of intensive psychotherapy. The goal of psychoanalysis is character development and character change. That is, psychoanalysis aims to change a person's very foundation.

Take for example, the man who enters into a new relationship and begins to fall in love. He and his girlfriend decide to be monogamous. Then, he finds himself desperately drawn to other women. He becomes aware that he resents having to rely on his girlfriend. He has not yet discovered that he is anxious and panicky at the thought of feeling trapped, or still worse, rejected. His fear of being trapped is intense. He is unaware that at an unconscious level, he is afraid to trust anyone. Similarly, he may be unaware of the childhood antecedents that led to this fear. Perhaps, during his early years, his primary caretaker was unreliable or not well attuned to his emotional needs. Thus, at a level outside of his awareness he may have felt that he couldn't rely on her. Yet, he needed her. Perhaps he attempted to manage this as a small child by not relying on others. Now, as an adult he encounters others who may be reliable. But, he neither knows how to assess who is reliable nor how to trust anyone.

His fear of being trapped is so great that he begins to surreptitiously date other women. When his lover learns this, she rejects him. He feels bereft and he feels abandoned. Those who know him well may see that he is in quite a bind. Caught between a rock and a hard spot, if he's committed and monogamous, he feels trapped. If he attempts to alleviate the frightening feels of being engulfed or controlled, he loses the woman for whom he cares. In order to accomplish this goal the psychoanalyst helps individuals to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings and motivations.