Psychoanalysis is the practice of psychotherapy that occurs multiple times per week (typically 2-4 times per week). A common reaction to such a proposition is: why would one want or need therapy more than once per week? Well, first of all, it is not because people are necessarily “really sick” or “crazy,” a common misconception. People seek psychoanalysis because they want a deeper understanding of their internal and external world. It is about developing insight into one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a way that allows them a more reflective and intentional way of understanding and living their life. Psychoanalysis doesn’t just focus on symptom reduction, though that is often a consequence. While this can happen to some degree in psychotherapy, psychotherapy often addresses a specific problem, often to the detriment of other significant aspects of one’s life. With increased frequency of sessions, clients are able to examine and understand many different areas of their lives, not just thought connected and related to their current challenge. Additionally, the increased frequency of sessions allows for a deeper relationship with a psychoanalyst which, from a psychoanalytic perspective, is one of the main transformative and curative aspects of psychoanalytic work. Psychoanalysis does not seek to create dependence through such a relationship but understands and makes use of the ways in which major attachment relationships in our lives (ie., parents/caregivers, romantic partners, friends, teachers, bosses, etc.) often significantly shape us in important, meaningful, long-lasting ways.
A way that I describe it to students when teaching the differences between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy is to consider how one learns a new sport or musical instrument. Rarely does one practice session a week make a good football player or violinist. Also, the more one plays, the more one starts to figure out why they have the same difficulties over and over again, and how to understand and remedy such a thing. A significant amount of time and effort is needed to know not just the basics of such skills, but the fine-tuned ins and outs of the game or the music. Psychoanalysis is an investment of time, effort, and, of course, money. But the hope is that through psychoanalytic treatment, one becomes fined-tuned to the ins-and-outs of their own lived experience in a way that greatly increases their sense of freedom, autonomy, and enjoyment of their own life.
I am currently in training to receive my certificate of psychoanalytic training from the Institute for Relational Psychoanalysis of Philadelphia. While I am not currently a certified psychoanalyst, I am currently taking clients who are interested in psychoanalytic work as part of my training. If you happen to be interested in psychoanalysis and would like to discuss this possibility further, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.