Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Understanding Psychoanalysis

Most people unfamiliar with psychoanalysis get a glimpse of it in caricatured form through movies, television or books.

Save for the HBO show In Treatment or the movie Ordinary People, most other mediums present psychoanalysis as a stilted experience, where a couch-lying patient drones on about emotions and feelings to a stoic therapist who is busily taking notes. The other polar extreme is that the analyst, fatigued from his or her patient's narrative, falls asleep.

Misconceptions about psychoanalysis go even further. Health professionals often minimize the mechanics of psychoanalysis, dismissing it as if it were a singular homogenized school of thought. Many are not even aware that research and scientific studies have shown that psychoanalysis is a successful form of psychotherapy.

Psychoanalysis is grounded on the observation that individuals are often unaware of many of the factors that determine their emotions and behavior. Sometimes these factors are slightly out of our awareness (subconscious) or are completely unknown to us (unconscious). Psychoanalytic treatment looks to uncover how these factors effect relationships and behaviors. Together with your analyst, you'd trace them back to their historical origins, learn how they've changed and evolved over time, and develop new skills to better deal with things.

Psychoanalysis has evolved over the last 100 years from Freud's initial model, and has grown to include many different and compelling schools of thought. In fact, Freud might not even recognize the more modern form of psychoanalytic sessions practiced nowadays.

Psychoanalysis is a rich, deep and involved process - and needs to be celebrated as a viable option for the treatment of psychological symptoms.


Wanda's Wings said...

My therapist shows true interest in me and my problems. I just wished insurance would pay better.

~Just me again~ said...

I found the same with my last therapist. She was great, it's so hard to find a good one.

CrackerLilo said...

Pop culture does so much damage. We all know that no apartment in NYC is as big as the ones on Friends, but we still think of these caricatures. I think I've told you how "Girl, Interrupted" (the book, not the movie) scared me. I was afraid I'd get involuntarily committed the second I said anything real, like Susanna Kaysen. Really, pop culture does such a disservice, that the involvement of professionals like yourself in its creation can only be a good thing.

BTW, I know I'm being tacky, but you may be interested in my latest blog entry. It's about how Kurt Cobain made me realize I needed help.

bkbsmiles said...

Interesting that you should post this now as I have recently started to read a blog about after psychoanalysis. I am not sure exactly which school of thought I would be most comfortable with but I do not deny a subconscious although I've never met one.

Well, I just loved the therapist in Ordinary People.

I don't think many company mental health plans like to actually deal with the subconscious as that takes too long and too much money. They are more into meds and a little behavioral therapy, in my opinion.

I am sad to see In Therapy didn't make it. I only watched a few. It was kind of depressing though as he was often feeling like he wasn't making a difference. I know that is realistic, but still we are conditioned for 30 minute shows with happy endings.

I love how you are always fighting stimas!

Xmichra said...

I can only speak for myself (of course) but have found in the past that I didn't attach a stigma to psychoanalysis from shows. it was actually my assumption that they were just therapists (I don't mean "just" here, I more mean I didn't think of those people being specialists or psychoanalysis per say).

My stigma on psychoanalysis came from books. More so my collegic guidance books (the ones that tell you when you are 18 what you want to be when you grow up - those). In those it was outlined that psychoanalysis was the study of the sub/un and was primarily research based, not people oriented. Which is pretty well backward from any actual Psychoanalysist I have ever read/known. So it's been quite the eye opener.

Angeliki said...

It's not only media that cultivate these misconceptions about psychoanalysis. I know University lecturers in psychology that dismiss psychoanalysis as something we used to do in the past but not anymore because we now know better. Having said that, I was lucky enough and in my University I had many great lecturers who were practicing psychoanalysis and my dissertation had to do with psychoanalysis.

I've been to a very interesting talk about family and psychoanalysis on Tuesday, which brought back my interest in this therapy.

Once again, I love your post!

Dr. Deb said...

I know, insurance coverage doesn't place mental health high on the list. They value physical health more. I'm glad, though, that you're therapist shows interest and genuine concern for you. That's SO important.

~Just me again~,
Chemistry plays a big part, moreso than any other professional relationship you will have. So true!

Not tacky. I'm coming by in a bit.

Ordinary People is my favorite movie on this subject. Great book too.

Many people, even professionals, don't realize what psychoanalysis is....the good thing is that we can talk about it and learn that it isn't an "old" or "outdated" form of therapy. Thanks for sharing.

Yes, many professors - and fellow psychologists often realize that they perpetuate myths and misinformation.

jeremy said...

i'd totally fall asleep if i did therapy on a couch.

Dr. Deb said...

You wouldn't fall asleep. I assure you!

Anonymous said...

Great Post.
Are you a psychoanalyst?

Firefly said...

I've been in psychoanalysis for a year and find it the single most effective therapy in which I've engaged. Yes, I do lie on a couch, and, no, my analyst doesn't fall asleep. I would love to see a resurgence of interest in and respect for psychoanalysis. Obviously, the cost can be a problem, but then one must ask oneself, what is the price of self-understanding, sanity, and peace of mind? After that, so many other things fall into place. Surprisingly, my insurance company has paid for my three-times-a-week sessions (after my deductible).

Dreaming again said...

I get frustrated with hollywoods version of therapy as well ... it is in stark contrast to what I'm learning in school.One of my pet peeves is giving the title of psychiatrist to someone who is obviously a psychologist. Does not help the public view ...

On a side note: I took wish Wanda's insurance was better .. she deserves so much more!

Katherine said...

I have to completely agree with this blog post. I am currently enrolled in psychology and am learning about psychoanalysis. I whole heartedly believe that many contributing factors to due with the subconcious are overlooked when it comes to people's emotions and behaviors. I feel that as you stated, psychoanalysis is portrayed as something completely different in the media which does often present an incorrect picture of how it really goes. Overall, the subconcious appears to be an extremely important part of all of us and I am thankful that psychoanalysis can give some insight on how it works!