Psychoanalytically-Oriented Psychology

Psychoanalytic therapy is a form of psychotherapy that seeks to help people by helping them to understand themselves and their experiences. It is based on the notion that, as well as our conscious ideas and feelings, we are motivated by ideas and feelings of which we are not consciously aware. The client and therapist investigate whether these ideas and feelings may be contributing to the client's problems. These problems might be physical symptoms, difficulties in work or intimate relationships, or simply problems with how we feel about the world and ourselves. To understand these unconscious factors, the client and therapist explore the client's present life experiences, as well as early childhood experiences, where present-day difficulties may have their origins. Together, the client and therapist seek to understand the ways in which the past may be repeating itself in present-day experiences and relationships. Psychoanalytic therapy seeks to provide a deeper, emotional understanding of the client's current problems, not simply an intellectual one.

What does psychoanalytic therapy offer that other therapies do not?
There are some important differences between psychoanalytic therapy and some other forms of psychotherapy. In psychoanalytic therapy, the client and therapist work together to understand the client' s mind and experiences in depth, not only at the level of observable behaviour. This generally makes it a longer, deeper, more personal and emotional experience. Unlike many other therapies, psychoanalytic therapy is not focused only on removing symptoms as its main goal. Thus, it is usually better suited to people who are interested in the experience of exploring and understanding their inner world in depth . Those who practice psychoanalytic therapy attest to its capacity to change people's lives in profound and lasting ways. While reducing unpleasant symptoms is important, the therapy also focuses on working to free-up the capacity to love, work and to be creative and productive.

What will the therapy involve?
The details of the procedure of psychoanalytic therapy may differ between therapists. However, there are a few elements that are more or less common to all. Psychoanalytic therapy usually involves regular sessions (from one to five times a week) during which the client sits or lies on a couch and attempts to say whatever comes into his or her mind, as freely and as openly as possible, while the therapist listens carefully. Together they try to understand the inner life of the client. Therapy generally lasts for an extended period of time (anywhere from months to years) because it is an in-depth exploration.

When might psychoanalytic therapy be helpful?
Generally speaking, most troubling emotional issues can be understood and treated using the psychoanalytic method. The best way for someone to decide about the suitability of psychoanalytic therapy is to discuss this possibility with a psychoanalytic therapist. However, there are a few general guidelines that might help the prospective client to decide whether to consult a psychoanalytic therapist. The prospective client should ask:

  1. Have my problems been with me for many years, in one form or another?
  2. Do I recognise some recurring patterns in my difficulties? For example, do I tend to end up in the same kind of unsatisfactory relationship with one partner after another?
  3. Do I have problems in several areas of my life, such as family, work, or relationships?
  4. Do I feel I want to discuss my experiences in depth to try to understand them better?
  5. Have other, perhaps briefer or more superficial treatments been unsuccessful in helping me?

If the answer to some of these questions was yes, then a consultation with a psychoanalytic therapist to discuss the possibility of psychoanalytic therapy might be helpful.

How do I find a psychoanalytic therapist, and which one do I choose?
Psychoanalytic therapists might be trained as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counsellors, or other mental health professionals. The differences in their professional backgrounds do not usually indicate differences in their skills as psychoanalytic therapists. However, it is important that you choose a therapist with sound clinical training in his or her own professional field.

The APS provides a referral service to registered and qualified psychologists in your area. These psychologists have undergone accredited, university-based training in psychology (which usually means six years training, often including a Masters or Doctorate in psychology). The referral service can put you in touch with those psychologists who have indicated an interest in offering psychoanalytic therapy. The APS referral service should not be considered a substitute for a patient talking to a prospective therapist and satisfying him or herself as to the psychologist's specific training and experience in the field of psychoanalysis, before beginning the treatment. Find out more about the APS Psychologist Referral Service.


Terms of Reference

  1. To provide a network within the APS for members and/or other subscribers with an interest in psychoanalytically-oriented psychology.
  2. To provide a forum for information-sharing, discussion, contact, and professional support.
  3. To further the contribution of psychoanalytically-oriented psychology to the discipline of psychology by encouraging theoretical study, publication, clinical practice, and research.
  4. To promote the dissemination of accurate information about contemporary psychoanalytic theory and practice.
  5. To assist the APS in evaluation of continuing education by advising on appropriate activities.
  6. To organise and promote continuing education for APS members.
  7. To liase with other professional groups with similar interests whose aims are congruent with those of the APS.
  8. To provide informed advice to the APS regarding issues where psychoanalytically-oriented psychology is relevant to the content of an issue or the process of any procedures.
  9. To enhance public awareness and knowledge of the value and importance of psychoanalytically-oriented approaches both with respect to professional practice and wth respect to the mental and emotional life of people.