Published on 03 October 2021

Psychoanalysis: Types, Techniques, & Efficacy

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Psychoanalysis is a therapeutic technique that was developed by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. It helps to bring unconscious elements from the patient's life into conscious awareness. Psychoanalysis can help patients gain insight into what they think, feel, and act in specific ways by analyzing the repressed emotions, thoughts, and motivations underlying behavior.

The ultimate goal is to help them become more self-aware and make positive life changes. Psychoanalysis isn't practiced in its original form as much today; however, many modern practitioners rely on aspects of it to treat mental illness or other psychological issues.

This article is about "Psychoanalysis," so if you want to know about psychoanalysis, you are in the right place. We have provided all the related information about psychoanalysis, its types, techniques, and efficacy.

Psychoanalysis is a group of theories and therapeutic techniques that deal with the unconscious mind and form a treatment module for several mental disorders. 

It aims at the structural development and modifications of an individual's personality. Psychoanalysis promotes awareness of unconscious, dysfunctional, and habitual patterns like following a healthy lifestyle and recurring emotions and behavior, allowing previously suppressed aspects of the self to become coherent and promoting optimal functioning and healing.

What Is Psychoanalysis Therapy?

Psychoanalysis therapy is talk-based psychotherapy that seeks to uncover and understand unconscious or underlying motivations behind an individual's thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and relationships. 

It is based on the belief that difficult experiences such as trauma, loss, or life transitions can lead to psychological distress, which can be addressed by understanding and changing these unconscious dynamics. 

Through this therapeutic process, the therapist's primary goal is to help the patient gain self-insight and develop better control over their moods and behavior. 

This type of therapy typically involves frequent sessions with a trained professional therapist who offers interpretations of dreams, free associations between thoughts, patterns of behavior, and attitudes toward self and others.

Frequently Asked Questions

Psychoanalysis is a great tool to help you better understand yourself and learn how to cope with everyday life while expressing your emotions in a healthy way. It's also incredibly beneficial when it comes to working through any traumas or issues that can impact your well-being.
Psychoanalysis theory is a method of psychological analysis that looks at personality through the study of motivations and patterns in behavior, thoughts, and feelings.
Psychoanalysis can be an effective tool for people struggling with mental health issues, as understanding and exploring one's inner thoughts and feelings allows individuals to gain new insights into themselves. This can help them make better decisions and enact positive changes in their lives.

What Does A Psychoanalyst Do?

A psychoanalyst is a mental health professional specializing in psychoanalytic therapy, an approach to psychological and emotional wellness that emphasizes understanding and addressing unconscious processes. 

Psychoanalysts listen carefully to their client's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to gain insight into the underlying motivations for those reactions. They help people understand how early childhood experiences, family dynamics, relationships, or traumas might impact their lives. 

Through supportive conversations and techniques such as dream analysis, psychoanalysts work with their clients to explore solutions for making positive changes. This can be a lengthy process of self-discovery that allows patients to become self-aware and confront previously buried emotions. Many people find it healing and empowering after participating in this therapy.

Issues That Psychoanalysis Therapy Treats

Psychoanalysis is widely used to treat various conditions and emotional issues in individuals. Various mental health issues typically respond well to this treatment, including.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Obsessive behavior
  • Trauma
  • Phobias
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-destructive behaviors
  • Self-esteem problems
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Relationship problems 

Theory Behind Psychoanalysis

The primary notion of psychoanalysis is that every person possesses unconscious (suppressed) thoughts, feelings, desires, and memories.

Psychoanalysis aims to recognize and release these emotions and experiences, i.e., make the unconscious conscious. A cathartic experience (release of emotions) is believed to enable the person to be helped and healed.

Psychoanalysis suggests that after a cathartic experience, people can gain insight into their current state of mind by bringing the unconscious into awareness. Through this, a person can find relief from unprocessed psychological distress. 

Psychoanalysis also suggests that

  • People use defense mechanisms to shield themselves from any unpleasant information contained in the unconscious mind.
  • Emotional and psychological issues such as anxiety and depression are often rooted in conflicts between the unconscious and conscious mind.
  • Their unconscious drives heavily influence an individual's behavior.
  • Personality development is strongly affected by early childhood events (Freud suggested that personality was primarily developed by the age of five).

The main objective of psychoanalysis is to help patients identify the hidden thoughts, behaviors, and desires and understand deeply rooted issues causing a maladaptive perspective on life and creating problems in their day-to-day existence.

Psychoanalysis helps the patient in adopting a fresh attitude and viewpoint. This newly developed attitude can result in significant change and growth in the patient's life.

How Does Psychoanalytic Treatment Work?

Numerous assumptions underlie the theories behind psychoanalysis. Firstly, three components exist within everyone's personality; the id, ego, and superego. 

  • ID: The unconscious energy comprises instinctive and basic fundamental drives, such as aggressive and sexual tendencies.
  • Ego: The conscious mind serves based on the reality principle keeping the id in check by exerting a real and moderating influence.
  • Superego: It represents moral standards and ideals, including conscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which reflect parental or societal morals and values.

The interaction between the three aspects of the mind results in a struggle for dominance within every individual. Psychoanalytic treatment can help alleviate the underlying tensions arising from the internal war between the id, ego, and superego. 

People must transparently unveil their unconscious thoughts and feelings to balance these three mental aspects.

In most traditional psychoanalysis treatment therapies, the patient lies on a couch while the therapist usually sits behind the patient to prevent eye contact. This placement helps the patient feel comfortable without feeling conscious or vulnerable to reach a deeper, more intimate level of discussion with the psychotherapist.

Psychoanalytic therapy is generally a long-term course of treatment. Clients must often meet with their therapist at least once a week, and the treatment can go on for several years.

Psychoanalytic Techniques

Various psychotherapeutic techniques are employed during treatment to gain awareness and maximize insight into the patient's behavior. Some of the most popular styles include:

Dream analysis

In psychoanalysis, dream interpretation is often used to reveal unconscious thoughts. Freud suggested that suppressed thoughts and feelings rise to the surface of the mind through dreams. However, the true meaning of dreams is often altered. Therefore, the psychoanalyst helps the patient understand and interpret the dream to discover its hidden meanings.

Free association

During free association sessions, the patient is encouraged to discuss anything that comes to mind freely. The therapist may read a list of random words, and the patient is directed to respond with the first associations that come to their mind. During the process of free association, repressed memories often emerge.


The psychoanalyst helps the patient explore their memories and personal narratives in detail and, while doing so, thoroughly analyzes them. The therapist may look for common themes and perspectives in the patient's history.

One of the so-called "Freudian slips" often occurs when patients accidentally reveal something important while talking. The therapist depicts an interpretation of the patient's unintended choice of word or phrase.


Patients engage in transference when they transfer their feelings for someone or something in their past to the present. Transference can sometimes take place between the therapist and the patient. Patients may apply feelings they possess toward the therapist that relate to a specific individual or an event from their past.

Psychoanalysis: Effectiveness And Limitations

Any therapy you take is never compulsory and it would be guaranteed success. Due to more benefits, people opt for getting treatment, wherein there are drawbacks also that might affect them. 

Benefits Of Psychoanalysis Treatment

  • People who don't respond to conventional therapy approaches or medications sometimes respond well to psychoanalysis.
  • Psychoanalysis gets to the fundamental cause of the problem rather than simply addressing its symptoms.
  • Provides an in-depth insight and fresh perspective into the origins of specific thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • An extensive examination of oneself, offered by psychoanalysis, can eventually lead to positive growth.
  • At least a portion of Freud's claims is supported by biological research.

Drawbacks Of Psychoanalysis

  • Patients may find it unpleasant and painful to discover memories that they have suppressed.
  • It can be lengthy and expensive, requiring a deep commitment from patients and the therapist.
  • It is not a suitable treatment for all mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
  • Certain concepts, such as 'penis envy,' are outdated.

Psychoanalysis: Myths and False Stereotypes

Numerous false myths and stereotypes are associated with psychoanalytic therapy. Most people typically hold an outdated view of psychoanalysis, possibly gathered from cultural/societal ideology or television or movie portrayals of psychoanalysis therapy, which is far from accurate. Some of the most common and inaccurate stereotypes include the following:

Psychoanalysis Treatment Lasts Forever.

While it's true that psychoanalytic treatment takes longer than other therapy approaches, the patient does not undergo treatment forever. The main goal of this treatment is to help patients develop a deeper understanding of their unconscious thoughts, emotions, and memories for permanent growth and personality adjustments. 

The intensive application and deep level of comprehension required in psychoanalysis cannot be developed overnight, which is why a patient may be subjected to therapy for several years.

Psychoanalysis Is Not a Real Science

This statement is entirely inaccurate. The theory and practice of psychoanalysis have been the subject of numerous types of research over the years that prove its accuracy and efficacy. Psychoanalysis therapy has often succeeded when other types of treatment have failed.

Moreover, psychoanalytic therapy is an internationally established treatment recognized by major insurers, which reimburse for their treatment.

Psychoanalysis Is Only About Sex

Although Freud popularized the term libido,' he did not intend for the time to be exclusively applied to sexual desire. In psychoanalysis, libido refers to the psychic energy or life force that drives all human behavior, not solely sexual desires. 

Although lust often influences behavior, it is not the motivator for every action. Psychoanalysis focuses on various other aspects that drive behavior.

Disadvantages Of Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis can be time-consuming, expensive, and demanding a firm commitment from the client and therapist. Acting out in psychoanalytic sessions may bring up difficult emotions for the patient that can take a long time to process. It can be hard to know if the therapy is thriving as there are no measurable results like in other types of treatment.

Psychoanalysis  Treatment: Goals and Objectives


Psychoanalysis treatment is used to help people identify and change troubling behavior, thoughts, and feelings. 


Psychoanalysis aims to bring unconscious material into consciousness while gaining more insight and understanding of the client's situation. Sessions aim to strengthen the client's connections with reality so they can function healthily, have better relationships, think clearly through problems, and ultimately feel better about themselves.


Objectives may include uncovering memories that hinder functioning in the present, identifying defense mechanisms used to avoid unpleasant feelings related to those memories, exploring current conflicts caused by unresolved psychological issues from childhood or previous experiences, utilizing supportive relationships for healing purposes, and improving communication skills for helping resolve future issues.

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solutions

Psychoanalysis has existed for over a hundred years in the western world. It has helped many people overcome the most troubling mental disorders that would otherwise go undiagnosed or untreated.

Despite its age, this treatment method still holds much mystery for many, with individuals undergoing treatment left to speculate on what is happening inside their minds amid all the cryptic therapist-speak.

  • APA PsycNet. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2023, from 
  • Freud, S. (n.d.). Sigmund Freud.
  • Freud, S. (1925). The origin and development of psychoanalysis. An Outline of Psychoanalysis., 21–70. 
  • Sigmund, F. (1920). A GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO PSYCHOANALYSIS. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 52(6), 548–549.