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by Dr. Becky Spelman on 26/05/2019


Today, psychoanalytic therapy combines theories about how the human mind works with a range of therapeutic techniques that focus on understanding the unconscious mind, and it draws on the work of many people who have been involved in the field since Freud’s day.

Therapists working in the field of psychoanalysis believe that our development is strongly influenced by experiences in early childhood, even if we do not remember them, and that much of our behaviour is determined by instincts that come from our unconscious selves. While early therapists in this field often believed that there was a sexual element to repressed memories and feelings, over the years, experts have realised that many different types of experience can be repressed, for one reason or another.


When we experience something frightening, confusing or difficult, repressing memories and feelings associated with the experience can be a healthy coping mechanism, at least in the short term. In the longer term, however, when there is an inconsistency between what we remember and what we have repressed, we can experience difficulty. Problems can arise when there is a conflict between our conscious and unconscious selves, leading to a range of psychological or psychiatric disorders, such as depression and neurosis. Working with the patient, the therapist explores dreams, behaviourisms, and other unconscious forms of expression to examine what they feel and desire on a subconscious level, and to lessen or eliminate conflict between their conscious and their unconscious selves. Psychoanalysis is sometimes colloquially referred to as “the talking cure” because it involves the therapist enabling their client to freely discuss their thoughts, dreams, fantasies, and so on, in a safe space, and using the information they glean from this to gain insight into their unconscious life. The therapist assumes a non-judgemental role in helping their patient to freely explore the deeper meanings of their thoughts and feelings.

Psychoanalysis can also explore relationships between members of a family or another close unit of individuals, shedding light on why and how people interact the way they do, and helping to break or change destructive behavioural patterns in the group context.


Psychoanalysis is particularly useful in treating conditions such as phobias, depression, anxiety disorders and sexual or relationship dysfunctions, and it has influenced a wide range of therapeutic modalities, including play therapy and art therapy.

Psychoanalysis does not offer a “quick fix” for deeply rooted problems but rather calls for patience as the therapist and their patient journey through the gradual unveiling of the patient’s past experiences, their reaction to them, and the conflicts between their conscious and unconscious desires. While it can be difficult to confront memories and emotions that may have been repressed in the past to facilitate coping, through acknowledging them and understanding them, the conflict between the conscious and the unconscious selves can be reduced or eliminated, leading to a reduction in challenging symptoms and feelings and to positive emotional growth.

While psychoanalysis can sometimes be a relatively lengthy process, the end goal of treatment is the development of healthy behavioural patterns and the elimination of conflict between the patient’s conscious and unconscious selves.


If you would like to talk to someone about psychoanalysis, please get in touch with us at the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: +4402038820684 or by email at:


Elliott, Anthony (2002). Psychoanalytic Theory: An Introduction, Second Edition, Duke University Press.

Etchegoyen,  The Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique, Karnac Books ed., New Ed, 200

Samuel, Lawrence R. Shrink: A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in America (University of Nebraska Press, 2013)