The psychoanalytic psychotherapies are methods of treatment which explore not only conscious but also unconscious layers of the mind. Unconscious processes, which are not readily accessible, are understood to be the source of much of what we think and experience, and are considered largely responsible for maintaining a person’s internal suffering, and unsatisfactory relationships.
Practitioners of these therapies are drawn from the various disciplines of psychoanalysis, analytical psychology, psychoanalytic individual and group psychotherapy. Such practitioners complete theoretical and experiential post-graduate training and intensive case supervision, usually in addition to a basic professional qualification. This training consists of three parts; a minimum of three years' (at least 250 hours) of theoretical seminars; supervision of at least two long-term clinical cases or therapeutic groups; and personal intensive psychoanalysis/psychoanalytical psychotherapy for the duration of the training. Each of these training components will have been completed concurrently. Their training enables practitioners to understand the many complex factors arising from early developmental experiences, and a range of personal relationships and life events, which shape one's internal world. Their characteristic tripartite psychoanalytic training also enables them to understand distress and symptoms, uninfluenced, as far as possible, by personal bias. Practitioners apply theoretical and clinical knowledge acquired since the late 19th century, knowledge that is also constantly developing and evolving through current research and practice with individuals (children and adults), couples, families, or groups.
The therapeutic relationship established to conduct such work requires commitment and responsibility from both analyst/therapist and patient (also known as ‘client’). The work makes links between present and past as well as emphasising the here-and-now experience within the therapeutic relationship. Exploration of the conscious and unconscious nature of this relationship makes this work different from other therapies or talking to a friend. The overall aim of the treatment is to make sense of the patient’s ways of functioning and emotional life. Through non-judgemental understanding and interpretative work within the therapeutic relationship, a patient can recognise the underlying meaning of dreams, conflicts and fantasies and the way in which thoughts and feelings are expressed and resisted. This process enables long lasting changes in the personality, increased freedom to make new and creative life choices, and the fulfilment of the unique potential of the person.
The theory and techniques of these methods have been constantly developing since the late
19th century and have been subject to constant review and evaluation. A developing body of
research is available to provide the evidence base for the efficacy of the methods.