Psychoanalytic psychotherapy has developed from some basic assumptions about who we are and how we function. One of the primary ones is that we all have an important area of mental and emotional functioning that is not within immediate view of consciousness, but can only be observed indirectly, such as in symptoms or particular behaviours. What brings people to seek psychotherapy is the distress causing symptoms or actions that seem to be unexplainable. Often there is a great deal of anxiety associated with the problem and the person’s general everyday functioning may be impeded.
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy offers an opportunity to explore, over a period of time, the underlying unconscious elements that are creating the disturbance. It is hoped that a greater understanding about what is going on in the deeper levels of the mind would help the person deal with their difficulties more competently and enable them to engage with their lives more fruitfully.
Another central element of psychoanalytic work is that the relationship between the patient and the psychotherapist is crucial in understanding these unconscious elements. The way that the patient experiences the psychotherapist gives potent clues about what is happening emotionally for the patient. Thus while the relationship is a strictly professional one with clear boundaries, it is also one in which the intimate inner depths of the patient may be experienced and explored in a safe and confidential setting, bringing greater understanding.
Vivienne Lewin – Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy