What is the Relationship Between Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy?

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  • Written By: Marlene de Wilde
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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Psychoanalysis is based on the Freudian belief that the causes of problematic behavior can be found in the unconscious mind, which has repressed or altered behavior in the early years. It is a talk therapy designed to uncover unconscious thought through techniques like free association or dream interpretation. Psychotherapy is based on the idea that change can be brought about by the interaction between a psychologist and a client. Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy both use the unconscious mind as the key to understanding thoughts and behavior, but the techniques they use are different.

There are different types of psychoanalysis, some of which adhere to a form of psychoanalysis and others which describe themselves as psychodynamic psychotherapy. As developed by Sigmund Freud at the beginning of the 20th century, pure psychoanalysis consists of regular, sometimes daily, visits to the psychoanalyst, who uses silence to encourage the client to talk about whatever comes to mind. The only time the psychoanalyst intervenes is to occasionally interpret unconscious motives behind actions and thoughts. The process can go on for years.


Psychoanalysts must undergo specific training, and not all psychologists are trained to conduct psychoanalysis. Psychodynamic psychotherapists apply many of the same theories in the pursuit of understanding how the mind works but use different methods. The main difference between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy is in the interaction between psychotherapist and client. A psychotherapist usually talks a lot to his patient, and the sessions are likely held once a week rather than every day.

In psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, a lot of attention is paid to unconscious motivation, and dream interpretation is used to explore the unconscious mind. There are many variations of psychotherapy, such as Gestalt, existential, Jungian analytical, client-centered and group. The length of the treatment can take up to 20 sessions, which is considerably less than the number of years involved with psychoanalysis.

There are many elements that apply to both psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. The first is that psychotherapists and psychoanalysts must be neutral parties in their interactions with clients. The goal of the sessions must always be healing and never friendship. There is a very real risk of transference, where the client transfers feelings of love or hate, depending on what he feels toward the subject of their discussion, onto the therapist. This can lead to a relationship between the two parties that is not based on healing, which can be catastrophic to the client.


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Post 3

Many people mock the fact that a psychoanalyst doesn't talk much and usually just listens. Some criticize this and say that people pay just to talk, or they say that psychoanalysts get paid to do nothing. We can argue about the cost of psychoanalysis and whether it's fair or not. But I don't think it's right for people to criticize psychoanalysis without really understanding how it works.

Like the article explained, psychoanalysis is not the same as psychotherapy. One cannot expect these treatments to be exactly the same. And one ought not criticize psychoanalysis just because it's different.

Post 2

@ddljohn-- "Psychoanalysis" is not a protected term. Although every psychotherapist may not have extensive training in psychoanalysis, if they use psychoanalysis methods, they can call themselves "psychoanalysts." So it's up to the patient to do research and find a therapist that has extensive training in this area and is in full grasp of psychoanalysis treatment methods.

It's because of this that many people confuse psychoanalysts and psychotherapists or assume that they do the same thing.

Post 1

Psychoanalysis is more difficult and requires more training than psychotherapy right?

I understand that a psychotherapist is not technically qualified to do psychoanalysis, but is a psychoanalyst qualified to do psychotherapy?

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