Psychoanalysis is a psychotherapy developed by Sigmund Freud that focuses on the unconscious mind. It seeks to bring subconscious elements of a person's mind into conscious awareness to gain insight and understanding of their thoughts and behaviors.
Psychoanalysis aims to help people confront and process their unwanted thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It understands how these issues are rooted in unconscious processes and find ways to use the unconscious mind to address them.
Psychoanalysis involves insight-based techniques, such as free association and dream analysis, to connect unconscious material with conscious experience. These techniques help people identify how the subconscious affects awareness and how understanding the two can lead to therapeutic change.
Psychoanalysis centers on building a positive relationship between the patient and the analyst, which allows the patient to gain insight through exploring transference and countertransference. Through this process, the patient can develop a sense of trust in the analyst, allowing them to explore their inner self safely.
Psychoanalysis is a long-term therapeutic practice, and the length of therapy varies from person to person. Sessions typically involve conversations with the analyst once to several times a week, and the patient must do "homework" outside of the sessions to further explore their unconscious mind.
Psychoanalytic theory attributes psychological distress to the unresolved conflict between a person's conscious and unconscious impulses. It looks at the past to explain a person's condition and help them work through their current issues.
Psychoanalysis believes that psychological distress results from suppressed feelings such as anger, fear, and shame buried deep in the unconscious mind. It helps to unearth these feelings and explore the triggers that led to their suppression.
Psychoanalysis also recognizes the potential of mental states, such as defense mechanisms, to keep complex thoughts and feelings repressed. By analyzing these defenses and the situations which triggered them, psychoanalysis can help to address how past experiences shape present thoughts and behaviors.
Freud's psychoanalytic theory centers around psychic energy, the person's capacity to act and shape their own life. He asserted that the unconscious mind could influence conscious behavior, so psychoanalysis seeks to bring subconscious material into conscious awareness for exploration.
In her re-visioning of psychoanalysis, Melanie Klein claimed that parents' behavior and personal and family history, even from a very early age, can subconsciously influence a person. She developed a technique known as object relations theory, which asserts that unconscious desires and feelings are formed in childhood and affect adult behavior.
Psychoanalysis also focuses on the idea of conflict and the inner conflicts within a person. It looks at how different elements of the psyche—id, ego, and superego—interact to drive behavior, which can be constructive or destructive, depending on the resolution.