Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy is one of many different types of psychotherapy. What they have in common is that they are all treatments involving talking to another person who is trained to listen and to think in a sensitive way. The aim of psychotherapy is to understand better how we behave and what motivates us, which can enable change to take place in our lives.
How does it work?
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy involves a process of exploration undertaken by the therapist and patient together in order to gain an understanding of what is brought to therapy consciously and the unconscious processes which take place in our minds and get expressed in all our relationships. Our early experiences are important in shaping the way our minds work and a large part of our mind operates outside of our conscious awareness.
In the psychotherapy sessions the patient is encouraged to reflect on whatever is uppermost in his/her mind during regular 50 minute sessions. Feelings, thoughts, wishes, fears, memories and dreams can be explored within the relationship between the therapist and patient. The patient is helped to understand the unconscious processes which affect their conscious thinking and behaviour. In this way, psychotherapy can gradually bring about a degree of self understanding, and an increased awareness of how past experiences can affect current behaviour. This enables the patient to find more appropriate ways of being, and of coping with difficulties. It is often very difficult, without specialist help, to know much about our unconscious minds.
Who can be helped by this type of psychotherapy?
In over a century since psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis were first developed, thousands of people in many countries have sought help through this treatment and have found it helpful in making more sense of and feeling better about their lives.
Psychotherapy may be helpful to those who suspect that difficulties in their lives have an emotional or psychological origin. Everyone experiences emotional problems at some stage in life and they are often resolved without outside help. However, sometimes they persist and are repeated in various aspects of our lives. Current issues easily stir up feelings from the past of which we are not consciously aware, and which get in the way of us living fulfilled lives. Emotional problems can be experienced in a variety of ways:
Feelings of anxiety and an inability to concentrate or cope
Feelings of emptiness, sadness or depression
Extreme mood swings or frequent anger, like road rage
Low self esteem or lack of confidence resulting in low achievement
Difficulty in making or sustaining relationships, or repeatedly becoming involved in unsatisfying or destructive or violent relationships.
Social shyness and isolation
Addictive or obsessional behaviour which may be related to alcohol, drugs, sex, internet use or gambling
Long term difficulties following losses such as bereavement, divorce, or job loss
Sleep problems which may include nightmares
Physical symptoms and psychosomatic illnesses
As regards children, referrals can arise due to conduct disorder, out of control behaviour and autism
All bpf psychotherapists have undergone a rigorous and demanding training programme lasting a minimum of 4 years. Many have had extensive previous experience as mental health professionals, in general medicine, clinical psychology, social work or counselling. In addition to this, many members will also have pursued further post-qualifying training.
What is the time commitment for psychotherapy?
Continuity is important in psychotherapy to allow the therapeutic process to take place. The minimum frequency of sessions is therefore weekly. However, more frequent sessions allow the patient and therapist to work at greater depth and patients are quite often seen more frequently, if this is possible.
It is difficult to say how long treatment will take; it can vary from months to several years. The process is gradual and open ended. The timing of the ending of the therapy is usually agreed by discussion between the patient and therapist, although the patient is free to end at any time. Psychotherapy does require a regular commitment of time.
It is often helpful to discuss such matters in an initial exploratory consultation, in which your individual needs can be discussed with an experienced psychotherapist, who can then refer you on to a suitable psychotherapist if it is thought that psychotherapy could be helpful to you. See Find a Therapist
Is psychotherapy better than prescription drugs?
People who have been prescribed medication may also be helped by psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Medication is prescribed to help alleviate the symptoms of mood disturbances, such as anxiety or depression, whereas psychotherapy seeks to address the emotional roots of these symptoms. Some patients may need to be sufficiently stabilised by medication in order to be able to undertake psychotherapy, which can in itself be an emotionally disturbing and sometimes painful process. Occasionally psychotherapists suggest that their patients seek a consultation with their GP if they consider that medication might help them for a time.
How does psychoanalytic psychotherapy compare with CBT or other short term talking treatments?
Matters concerning the suitability of psychotherapy for you can be discussed in an initial exploratory consultation with one of our consultants, at the end of which a considered recommendation can be made about future treatment, taking into account your particular difficulties and circumstances. See Find a Therapist.
Is there any research evidence that psychoanalytic psychotherapy really works?
Numbers of studies have been completed and published showing the effectiveness of psychoanalytic psychotherapy in the UK and overseas and more are under way. People who are interested can look up Anthony Roth and Peter Fonagy’s book entitled ‘What works for whom? – A Critical Review of Psychotherapy Research’, first published by the Guilford Press in 1996. See also: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=talk-therapy-off-couch-into-lab