All of the many psychodynamic therapies derive from the treatment
called psychoanalysis, which Sigmund Freud
developed and used in the late 1800s and early 1900s. (See Chapter 13 for
more information on Freud and his theory of psychoanalysis.)
Psychoanalytic treatment focuses on uncovering unconscious motives,
conflicts, and defenses that relate to childhood experiences. Freud believed
that people experience anxiety because of conflicts among the id,
ego, and superego. To manage these conflicts,
people use defense mechanisms, which can often be self-defeating and
unsuccessful at fully controlling anxiety.
In the traditional form of psychoanalysis, clients meet with a
psychoanalyst several times a week for many years. The psychoanalyst sits
out of view of the client, who sometimes lies on a couch.
Some techniques commonly used in psychoanalysis include free
association, dream analysis, and interpretation:
Free association: Psychoanalysts encourage clients to
say anything that comes to mind. Clients are expected to put all
thoughts into words, even if those thoughts are incoherent,
inappropriate, rude, or seemingly irrelevant. Free associations reveal
the client’s unconscious to the psychoanalyst.
Dream analysis: Dreams also reveal the
subconscious. Clients describe their dreams in detail, and the
psychoanalyst interprets the latent content, or the hidden meaning,
of these dreams.
Interpretation: A key technique in
psychoanalysis, interpretation refers to the psychoanalyst’s
efforts to uncover the hidden meanings in the client’s free
associations, dreams, feelings, memories, and behavior.
Psychoanalysts are trained to make interpretations carefully and
only when a client is ready to accept them. Ideally, such
interpretations increase the client’s insight
Three important concepts involved in psychoanalysis are transference,
resistance, and catharsis:
Transference refers to the process by which clients
relate to their psychoanalysts as they would to important figures in
their past. Psychoanalysts usually encourage transference because it
helps them to uncover the client’s hidden conflicts and helps the client
to work through such conflicts.
Example: A client who is resentful about her mother’s
authority over her might show angry, rebellious behavior
toward the psychoanalyst.