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Psychoanalytic Therapies: Turning Back the Sands of Time
Psychoanalytic therapies delve deeply into the unconscious mind to unlock the secrets of the past. Turning back the clock holds the key to the revelations that will put a client back on the path to mental and emotional wellness.
Psychoanalysis, or psychoanalytic therapy, is a method of treating mental disturbances and maladaptive behaviours that are rooted in childhood experiences buried deeply in the unconscious. It is especially useful in treating cases of mental /emotional illness or maladaptive behaviour which appear to have no clear basis or are resistant to other types of psychotherapy.
It explores the possibility that certain depressions and self-destructive behaviours may be caused by the client’s guilt-ridden anger directed at himself/herself while he/she may be unaware of it. It attempts to uncover disturbing memories that have been repressed. It also searches for the presence of inner conflicts between the client’s desires and his /her feelings of guilt for having them, which may be causing his/her anxiety.
Psychoanalytic therapy acknowledges that each person in unique, therefore, his/her individual ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving must be thoroughly explored in order to be understood. It presupposes that human beings are often unaware of the factors that influence their thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It is based on the principle that self-awareness is the first step toward psychological healing.
In order to uncover these factors hidden in a person’s subconscious mind, the psychoanalyst spends a lot of time listening as the client talks about his/her life. This accounts for the term “talk therapy” that was coined to describe this method of treatment. The client is encouraged to talk as openly and freely as possible.
It is a long-term treatment, lasting a year or more, during which the client sees the therapist one to five times a week in a safe, nonjudgmental setting. This level of familiarity strengthens the client-therapist relationship, allowing the client to develop the trust that enables him/her to disclose the deepest, darkest secrets that need to be brought out into the open. Each session of self-disclosure brings the client a step closer to understanding and self-acceptance.
Among the techniques used to draw out a client’s meaningful, perhaps forgotten, experiences are free association and dream interpretation. In free association, the client is asked to state the thoughts and feelings that spontaneously arise when the therapist mentions certain words, ideas, or situations. In dream interpretation, the client is asked to recall dreams he/she has had, particularly if they are recurrent, disturbing, or puzzling. Hypnosis is sometimes used to assist a client in retrieving long-buried memories and reliving the sensory experiences of past events.
The therapist then carefully notes patterns or significant events that may have contributed to the client’s present difficulties. Together, they explore how these patterns cause pain or limit the client from living fully. Armed with such understanding, the client experiences the freedom to try new and more productive ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
The transference technique – transferring the role of a significant person in the client’s life to the therapist – is frequently used to assist the client in resolving longstanding issues. It is a role-playing method which enables the client to finally and fully express the thoughts and emotions that he/she has kept buried in his/her unconscious mind. Although the therapist serves as a virtual stand-in or proxy for the actual person, this process often brings closure, relief, and peace to the client.
Psychodynamics, or psychodynamic therapy, is similar to psychoanalytic therapy in that it also relies on a close interpersonal relationship between the therapist and the client. Psychodynamic therapy, however, focuses on the interplay (or dynamics) between conscious and unconscious forces in motivating behaviour whereas psychoanalytic therapy centers exclusively on unconscious influences.
Psychodynamic therapy is also called insight-oriented therapy as it aims to bring about self-awareness that leads to conscious self-examination. It seeks to alleviate psychic tension caused by inner conflicts by means of revealing the unconscious content of the client’s mind. It also treats maladaptive functioning shaped by both conscious and unconscious influences through such revelations. Maladaptive functioning refers to behaviour that hinders an individual from functioning. This includes incessant worry, overblown fears, or abusive behaviour. The purpose of going back in time is to find the place where the client got stuck in a stage of emotional development. Treatment consists of integrating at that point the changes or developments that the client needs to make in order to move forward in his/her psychological development.
In contrast with psychoanalytic therapy, psychodynamic therapy provides more immediate solutions to problems by identifying the main issue to be treated. This central focus must be agreed upon by both client and therapist. It allows both of them to address only that area and aim at a goal, such as a specific change in behaviour. This leads to quicker results and, thus, a shorter duration of treatment.
As in all psychotherapeutic treatments, psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapists refrain from advising their clients on what to do. The ultimate goal of these procedures is to assist the client in finding his/her own way to recovery through self-discovery.
If you're looking for an Australian psychotherapist who works with these approaches, search the Australia Counselling psychoanalytic therapy and psychodynamic therapy pages to find a therapist in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth or country areas.
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