Frequently Asked Questions

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How Is Psychoanalysis Different From Other Types Of Counseling?

Most modern types of counseling or psychotherapy have their roots in psychoanalytic theory, but unlike some forms of counseling that try to be helpful by giving advice and reassurance, psychoanalytic therapies attempt to help a person understand his or her own mind. Psychoanalytic treatment provides a relationship and a setting that allows the patient to observe and change ways of thinking, feeling, relating, and behaving that may have been on “automatic pilot” or out of the patient’s conscious control.

There are two main types of psychoanalytic treatment: psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Both forms of treatment are characterized by an attitude of concern and respect for the patient’s privacy and independence.

  • In psychoanalysis, the patient meets with an analyst four or five times each week, typically lies on a couch and attempts to speak as freely as possible.
  • In psychoanalytic psychotherapy, the patient and therapist meet from one to three times a week and usually sit face-to-face.

The decision to pursue either type of psychoanalytic treatment is reached between the analyst and patient based on a careful evaluation of the patient’s needs. When indicated, both psychoanalysis and psychotherapy may be combined with medications that can relieve debilitating physical symptoms of depression and anxiety, while the patient and analyst work together to achieve deep and lasting psychological change.

Psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy are intensive therapeutic relationships that provide unique opportunities to explore and understand an individual’s emotional life in depth. Insight and healing happen through a careful and empathic examination of the patient’s thoughts, feelings, dreams, and emerging relationship with the analyst.

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What Kinds Of Problems Can Be Helped By Psychoanalytic Treatment?
Psychoanalysis is not a magic bullet and it is not for everyone. Psychoanalytic treatment is best suited for people who are interested in understanding themselves and in taking a careful look at how their own thoughts and feelings, some of which may be unconscious, contribute to their difficulties. Psychoanalytic treatment can help with:

  • Troubled relationships
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Sexual troubles
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Chronic irritability
  • Post-traumatic stress disorders
  • Unresolved grief
  • Obsessions and compulsions
  • Phobias
  • Psychosomatic conditions
  • Blocked creativity
  • Work and academic inhibitions
  • Self-defeating behavior
  • Attachment disorders


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Can Psychoanalytic Treatment Help Children And Adolescents?
Psychoanalytic treatment can be effective with children and adolescents who are experiencing difficulties. Psychological problems in young people often are expressed through problems in school, moodiness, irritability, fears, bad dreams, trouble separating from parents, or difficulty concentrating. When these symptoms persist and seem to be interfering with the child’s relationships or with success in school, a consultation with a child and adolescent analyst may be helpful.

During a consultation, the analyst meets with the parents to thoroughly review their child’s development and meets with the child or adolescent several times as well. While teenagers are usually able to talk about their troubles, younger children often express their thoughts and feelings through playing and drawing with the therapist.

Psychological testing and information from school may also be gathered to create a complete picture of the child’s life.

When psychoanalysis or psychotherapy is recommended for a child or adolescent, parents are also involved in the treatment to provide information and to discuss how to help their child at home. The goal of treatment with young people is to relieve troubling symptoms and to remove psychological roadblocks that interfere with normal development.

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What Types Of Problems In Children And Adolescents Can Be Helped By Psychoanalytic Treatment?

  • Anxiety
  • Obsessions and compulsions
  • Phobias
  • Persistent sleep problems or nightmares
  • Harming the self or others
  • Relationship problems with peers, siblings, or parents
  • Effects of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
  • Concerns related to adoption
  • Attachment disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Emotional reactions to trauma or crises
  • Family transitions – divorce, remarriage, moving, new sibling
  • Concerns about separation and autonomy
  • School difficulties
  • Learning inhibitions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Oppositional behavior
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Depression

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Who Is A Psychoanalyst?
Psychoanalysts are experienced mental health clinicians, usually from the fields of psychiatry (MD), clinical psychology (PhD) or social work (MSW), who have undergone a thorough training in psychoanalytic theory and technique. Outstanding scholars from other fields sometimes also become psychoanalysts, after obtaining requisite mental health training as part of their psychoanalytic education.

In addition to their professional degree and clinical training, psychoanalysts complete a five- to ten-year program of intensive psychoanalytic education, including a personal analysis, closely supervised clinical work and four years of formal seminars. Child and adolescent analysts undertake additional years of education and supervised practice in helping children and their parents.

Psychoanalytic education encompasses over a century of theoretical and clinical advances, from the early discoveries of Freud about unconscious conflict through contemporary theories emphasizing the importance of self-esteem, relationships, gender, trauma, and empathy. The depth and rigor of a psychoanalyst’s training promotes a level of professional skill, personal stability, and ethical responsibility that is second to none in the mental health field.

The Psychoanalytic Education Program of the Carolinas (PECC) was formed in 2008 as a collaboration of the Psychoanalytic Institute of the Carolinas and the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Study Center of North Carolina. Both programs have rich histories in providing training in psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy and this new collaboration builds on their traditions of excellence. PECC is an accredited member institute of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

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How Can I Learn More About Psychoanalytic Treatment?
A reading list of short books and articles for lay people and others who want to learn more about psychoanalysis can be found on the American Psychoanalytic Association website.