|Paul C. Cooper, MS, LP
What is Psychoanalysis and
People engage in psychotherapy for a variety of reasons. Some individuals seek to solve very specific
problems related to present circumstances such as a crisis situation. Other people seek relief from difficult
emotional states such as general or vague feelings of anxiety, unhappiness, hopelessness or despair.
"I have been plagued with these bad feelings for longer than I care to remember."
"I have been depressed for most of my life."
Still, other individuals might feel "stuck" in their present circumstances or wish to make a change. Many
individuals experience a basic sense of well-being, but wish to actualize their full potential professionally,
creatively, or in personal relationships.
When you actively reach out for professional help, you are making the first important step. Asking for help
makes real our wish to address our concerns and emotional difficulties. Putting into action our need for help
validates the fact that are feelings and needs are legitimate, deserve attention, and deserve to be taken
Psychoanalysis is a truly unique form of therapy. A basic understanding of how it works, what committment is
involved, and what the advantages are, will help you determine if psychoanalysis is a good choice for you.
Psychoanalysis was developed by Sigmund Freud over a century ago. His discovery of the unconscious mind
and its processes resulted in a radical new method for understanding basic human emotions and how when
our emotional and psychic life remains hidden, they exert an unconscious influence in our lives and in our
relationships with others.. He thus developed a way for working with difficult emotional states and psychic
pain. The basic idea centers on the fact that there is much more to the whole person than meets the eye.
Our everyday "rational" self functions in the world. However, powerful forces operate out of conscious
awareness, When these unconscious thoughts and feelings are brought to light through the therapeutic
process, they can have a strong positive impact on our mental and emotional well-being. Thus psychoanalysis
developed as a process of inquiry into the unconscious life of the individual, which can facilitate psychic
healing, emotional growth and the possibility for healthy and creative living as an individual an in personal
"Psychoanalysis has helped me be much happier, more accepting of myself and
others and less likely to be a slave to my feelings of anger or disappointment."
"Psychoanalysis gave me insight into my self-destructive patterns
and why I had so much trouble in letting them go for so many years."
Deciding on Analysis
When people consider whether or not to start psychoanalysis, they typically and reasonably want to know how
much - how much time, how much money and how much stress. Here are some answers that you can use as
guidelines to help you decide if psychoanalysis is for you.
"I am not a new person now but the person I am is the person I really like and that is very new.
I realize that life will never be pain-free but l feel ready to take what it has to offer."
Psychoanalysis is not short-term therapy; it does take time to explore the complex layers of feeling and
experience that make up your own unique history. People find that their analysis can extend for four, five or
more years, but there is no prescribed length of treatment. When you feel you have accomplished what you
wanted, you and your analyst can set a termination date.
Psychoanalytic exploration is never completely linear or predictable. You may discover "side" issues of great
importance, or obstacles that slow you down. There may be times when you undo your own progress,
because as much as you may want change, change is frightening too.
"I was in analysis for 14 years. When I started I was functioning very poorly. Over those years I
overcame my problems so that I could do the "ordinary" things - take vacations, change jobs, get
married. I don't think I lost time, I gained time."
Psychoanalysis demands an investment of time every week. In contrast to other therapies, psychoanalysis
works best when you have three or four 45-50 minute sessions a week. The frequency allows you and your
analyst time to fully explore topics without long breaks between sessions; it helps you focus and stay in touch
with your feelings. While your analyst will try to accommodate the constraints of your work life and lifestyle,
from time to time the scheduling of sessions can be inconvenient.
Finally, all people in analysis find that talking about what bothers them sometimes causes them to feel sad,
anxious or irritable during or after their sessions. Some people are afraid that once they lift the lid on
memories and feelings, they won't be able to function and will lose the stability they have fought hard to
maintain. "I'm afraid if I get started crying, I won't be able to stop". In psychoanalysis, "lifting the lid" is an
important part of the therapeutic process, but you don't ever have to do it alone; your analyst is there to help
you through the "rocky times" so that you can finally have resolution and relief.
The Rewards of Analysis
For all that psychoanalysis demands in terms of time, cost and stress, these are far outweighed by its
rewards, in the opinion of the great majority of those who choose and persevere in the process.
While in psychoanalysis, people typically find that both their personal relationships and their work lives
improve. As they understand themselves and the people in their lives better, they can live more freely. As they
resolve conflicts, they have more energy than before to do the things they really want to do. They waste less
time, their days become fuller. Often they are better able to negotiate salary increases or go on to more
"I've been on the couch for two years now and it's been an amazing experience. I never realized
how many layers I contained and how complex the route to reaching them. Now, I understand why
simple choices are never so simple."
People also find great relief in having a special, absolutely confidential relationship uninfluenced by other
social, professional or familial ties. All of their feelings are dealt with and taken seriously by a skilled,
compassionate analyst who is knowledgeable about emotional life. They are reassured by the fact that there
is someone whose job it is to see that they don't get overwhelmed by their feelings or undone by the
pressures they are under.
Psychoanalysis aims to help you experience life more deeply, enjoy more satisfying relationships, resolve
painful conflicts and better integrate all the parts of your personality. Perhaps its greatest gift is the essential
freedom to change and to continue to change.
Choosing psychoanalysis may be one of the most important decisions you ever make. When you have made
your decision you will be on the road to change.