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What Does a Psychoanalyst Do?

Similar to other mental health professionals, a psychoanalyst will generally meet with patients in a comfortable, confidential setting and will utilize many familiar counseling techniques such as active listening, acceptance and empathy.

In contrast to most counseling schedules, psychoanalysis usually takes place several times per week.  During these psychoanalytic sessions, patients will be encouraged to explore their thoughts and feelings as openly and freely as possible. Psychoanalysts are less directive than other therapists and tend to allow the patient to talk about whatever is on their minds in an effort to help them uncover content that may be out of their immediate awareness.
Psychoanalysts differ in their specific theoretical models and may utilize a variety of techniques depending on their orientation.  What they all have in common is that they all work under the assumption that thoughts and behavior are motivated in part by unconscious material, and that past experiences greatly influence present decisions and experiences. Psychoanalysts believe that helping patients bring this content to conscious awareness is important for relieving symptoms and increasing psychological wellbeing.

In addition to psychoanalysis, psychoanalysts also practice intensive and brief psychotherapy and many incorporate techniques form other forms of therapy to best meet the needs of their patients.

What is Psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis is both a theory of the mind and a form of psychological treatment.  It was developed by Austrian neurologist, and historical icon, Sigmund Freud. Freud discovered that people are often unaware of the factors that determine their thoughts, feelings and behavior and that for this reason, psychological change required more than force of will and determination. He observed that when he helped his patients recover repressed material, their symptoms began to improve.  His work has been continued by several schools of psychoanalysis and has developed into a systematic approach that requires rigorous academic and practical training.

Practicing Psychoanalysis

The term "psychoanalyst" is not protected by federal and most state's law and thus, anyone, even an untrained person can claim to be a psychoanalyst. However, Certified Analysts trained under the auspices of the American Psychoanalytic Association have had extensive academic and clinical education.  Until about the 1970's psychoanalytic training was offered only to medical doctors. Today, candidates must possess an advanced degree in a mental health field and then complete a minimum of four years of additional training that includes courses in theory and technique, a personal analysis, and supervised work.

For more information please contact the American Psychoanalytic Association at