What is Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a treatment modality designed to help alleviate psychological suffering or symptoms. Psychotherapy takes place within the context of a trusting relationship with a mental health professional. Psychotherapy is delivered in a wide range of settings from hospitals, to private offices. It is also carried out in a group setting. It is designed to help individuals, couples and families who present with emotional, relational, cognitive or behavioral problems.

Psychotherapies today consist of a plurality of theories and approaches. However, many clinicians believe there are core ingredients in psychotherapy such as: a positive working relationship, accessing and exploring emotions, challenging thinking patterns, and behavioral change.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy developed out of the field of psychoanalysis. It is also variously referred to as insight-oriented psychotherapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, long-term, intensive, in-depth and expressive psychotherapy. One important impetus for its development was a practical one: to widen the accessibility of psychoanalytic theory and clinical practices that had evolved over 100 plus years to a larger number of individuals with a broader range of problems and symptoms.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is an empirically validated treatment which draws on the richness and depth of psychoanalysis. It differs in that sessions usually occur less frequently ranging from 1 to 3 times a week in contrast to 4 to 5 times a week in psychoanalysis. The patient usually sits up in the treatment in contrast to lying on the couch.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy focuses on core issues of the patient’s life and personality. As well the internal life of the patient is explored for the purpose of integration, change and growth. This is achieved through the creative process of interpretive dialogue between the therapist and patient in which each contributes to discovering how the patient thinks, feels and behaves. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is widely practiced and has been successful in treating a large number of individuals with a wide range of conditions. It is also sought by individuals who would benefit from psychoanalytic treatment but cannot make either the financial or time commitment to psychoanalysis.

Several authors have described psychoanalytic psychotherapy as existing along a continuum. At the expressive end of the continuum, it is very similar to psychoanalysis, with a focus on hidden meanings, past experiences and the relationship between the patient and the therapist. At the supportive end of the continuum, designed to treat very ill individuals, or those in acute crisis, the therapist provides more support and focuses on healthy adjustment and coping mechanisms.

Psychotherapists who practice psychoanalytic psychotherapy come from many fields. They have usually been trained and supervised by psychoanalysts. The ATPPP trainee undergoes two years of post-graduate work including rigorous training and supervision.

For further information about psychoanalytic treatment or training, or to inquire about a referral please contact the Toronto Psychoanalytic Society.