The meaning of “psychoanalytic therapy” or treatment has expanded and changed considerably during the century of its existence. During the last hundred years, the psychoanalytic approach has spread over different countries and continents; dramatic changes have occurred in the population seeking treatment and in the nature of their complaints; in addition, radical shifts have occurred in the social and cultural context of psychoanalytic practice. All these factors have brought about considerable change in the definition and nature of psychoanalysis as a method of treatment. Because of this, current psychoanalytic treatment is multi-faceted.
The variety of psychoanalytic treatments notwithstanding, it is still possible to describe several characteristics that are unique to this approach. Psychoanalytic therapy, like all therapies, aims to alleviate the patient’s suffering. It distinguishes, however, between the signs, symptoms of suffering, and its roots, and sees its aim as altering the sources of suffering. The sources of psychological anguish and suffering are usually unconscious and different from the conscious complaints which bring the person to treatment. Because of this, the treatment tends to be long, intensive and more searching. The intensity is reflected in the higher frequency of sessions (from three to five per week). The depth has to do with giving free rein to the person’s thoughts and expression, encouraging him or her to say all that comes to mind, analyzing dreams and fantasies, and providing the opportunity to bring up contents not typically included in ordinary, conscious and controlled, discourse. The therapeutic situation, in which the analysand (patient) reclines on a couch and the analyst sits outside his immediate field of vision, further contributes to the enhancement of these possibilities. The variety of relationships that develop between analysand and analyst is of central importance in understanding the emotional and unconscious layers that the analysand brings along from his life experience.
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