Psychotherapy vs Psychoanalysis

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Let’s find out the difference between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy and see if we want to lie down on the couch or not!

Many people feel that the contribution of a mental health professional will help them organize their thoughts and have better contact with their emotions. But what do we know about psychotherapy as a method and why many people confuse psychotherapy with psychoanalysis?

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a conversational method in which the person seeking treatment has the space to freely express everything that is difficult or feels impossible to deal with. Each psychotherapy session is called to be a constant in the life of the client in which the mental health professional listens actively with respect and without criticism, while at the same time empathizing with the patient and encouraging them to express more and more thoughts and feelings. 

Through this process, specialist and patient establish a unique relationship in which the specialist has the space to “embrace” all aspects of a person’s personality. The specialist is called to introduce them to new ways of thinking and managing issues that concern them or any symptoms that stem from mental disorders (e.g., anxiety disorders).

psychotherapy

Types of psychotherapy

Depending on the theoretical approach of the specialist as well as the issues to be managed, more or less emphasis is given to the here and now or the past. This is usually the most confusing thing about psychotherapy, as most people do not know and are not required to know that psychotherapy is a broad term that describes the therapist-patient interaction process, and that there are several different types of psychotherapy that differ in emphasis, their therapeutic tools, the frequency and duration of treatments. The most common methods are:

  • Psychoanalysis / Psychoanalytic Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Family Therapy
  • Existential Therapy
  • Person-Centered Therapy
  • The Gestalt treatment
  • Group Therapy
  • Couple Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Drama Therapy

Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is therefore only one type of psychotherapy; however, for most people everything related to psychology, counseling and psychotherapy, the first image that comes to mind is that of the patient lying on a couch having no eye contact with his therapist and analyzing traumas of his childhood. This image is nevertheless perfectly connected with the classical psychoanalysis as founded by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) who until the end of his life constantly added innovative elements to his theory and introduced many well-known theories on which an important part of the science of psychology was based.

One of the most well-known theories is that of the unconscious (elements that the individual does not know they exist), the subconscious (elements that are closer to the conscious level and could come to surface), and the conscious (whatever can be perceived by the individual).

In classical psychoanalysis, the patient’s lying down is a basic condition as it is considered to enhance the relaxation but also the deepening and self-concentration of the patient, since there is no visual contact with the psychoanalyst who is in an armchair sitting behind them. This of course happens after mutual agreement, as there is also the possibility for face to face interaction which is common in case the frequency of visits is not more than twice a week. It is the kind of psychotherapy that focuses on free association, with emphasis on early psychic experiences as well as dreams that Freud considered a key gateway to the unconscious.

Psychoanalysis and other types of psychotherapy

And while psychoanalysis is considered the most common method of treatment, there are many things that set it apart from other types of psychotherapy. It is considered the most detailed method, as the sessions last from 3 to 7 years while the frequency varies from 2 to 5 times a week. It differs from other types of personal therapy, such as Behavioral – Cognitive Therapy (CBT), which is considered the most structured type of treatment. The meetings are usually one per week and for a much shorter period, since as a type it focuses on current problems and not on the past. 

There are critics on both  of these therapeutic approaches, as psychoanalysis is considered difficult to manage both time and money wise, while CBT is considered as a “superficial treatment”. In fact, of course, each type of treatment above has proven its effectiveness not only empirically but also through various research methods.

So, the emphasis should not be given only to what each of the types of psychotherapy stands for, as the most important component of all forms of psychotherapy is unquestionably the therapeutic relationship between patient and therapist. So, for those who are interested in putting psychotherapy in their lives as a tool for introspection and management of the issues that concern them, remember that, as in all relationships we establish in our lives, we first choose the person who will inspire us in this the creative journey of getting to know ourselves. 

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