What Is a Lay Analysis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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Lay analysis is psychoanalysis offered by a person who is not a trained medical professional. Sigmund Freud, widely considered to be one of the fathers of this discipline, discussed lay analysis in his work and suggested that formal credentials were less important that psychoanalytic training, offering his support for lay practitioners. This became a subject of controversy because of concerns about ethics, credentialing, and the quality of services. In some regions, regulation of counseling, therapy, and related services explicitly doesn’t allow lay analysis.

Freud reasoned that psychoanalysis was about formal training in this discipline along with the ability to connect with patients. He felt that lay persons without medical training couldn’t supervise therapy in complex cases, but might be able to handle it in other instances. Some noted practitioners of the era didn’t have formal medical training and were supported in their work by Freud. Other psychoanalysis practitioners felt this could potentially be dangerous for patients and spoke out against it.

Some concerns about lay analysis include the risk that a serious medical diagnosis might be missed, and worries that ethical standards can be harder to enforce. Without a medical board to regulate someone’s activities, it may be more difficult to report violations and act on them. Some professional organizations dedicated to psychoanalysis do not accept lay practitioners, which means that the industry cannot create its own system for accountability because people offering lay analysis don’t work under supervision.


In other regions this approach is supported. People can receive education, training, and clinical experience that makes it possible to offer lay psychoanalysis. Once they meet standards set by a certifying organization, they can start practice, and must comply with the organization’s ethics and continuing education requirements to retain their certifications. This provides an alternative to a traditional medical training route for people interested in practicing who aren’t psychiatrists or other medical professionals.

This differs from lay analysis in the sense of psychoanalysis provided by someone without any training; a friend offering advice on a situation, for example, doesn’t have formal education of any kind unless that friend happens to be a psychoanalyst. In this case, the layperson has no experience, clinical supervision, or mentoring to develop skills and learn about the ethics of practice. Lay analysis offered in these settings comes with a number of concerns, as trained practitioners argue that extensive supervised experience is necessary to assist patients effectively and appropriately.


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