Types of Psychotherapy - Psychoanalysis

Freud is the father of it all, much maligned, much misunderstood. When I was in college, I had two separate seminars which covered Freud. When I got to graduate school and started reading more and more Freud, I discovered that my professors had seriously misquoted and unfairly labeled him. If professors at Columbia University are misrepresenting Freud to their students, surely the public who are not taking advanced psychology courses are hearing even greater distortions. Just a brief example, and hardly the most serious. In Freud’s original writings, he stated that dreams are a manifestation of activity of the soul. He chose the German word "Seele", or soul, very specifically. What does that word conjure up for you? Dreams, aspirations, the dark side, the fantasy life, our deepest fears and hopes? In choosing this word, Freud was saying that all this hazy and highly charged material emerges in and fuels our dreams. When Freud was translated into English in the early 1900s, that phrase was dried up into "Dreams are a manifestation of mental activity". Well, that’s exciting. About as informative as saying that walking is a manifestation of leg activity.

Turning to actual practice, people calling themselves "Freudian" vary widely in their orientation, techniques, and skill levels. Make sure you’ve got a good therapist before plunging in. (The next few sections will tell you how to do this.) Analysis of any kind is a specialized form of treatment. It involves seeing the analyst several times a week and a commitment of probably 2 years and up; you may be on a couch during the sessions, unable to see your analyst. This treatment is not for everyone, but a good analyst will tell you if it is right for you within the first few sessions. Actually, most analysts I know do not start an analysis unless the patient has had at least a brief course of psychotherapy.

One thing to keep in mind is that a therapist who claims to be a "strict Freudian" is likely to have a rather rigid point of view about what made you the person you are and what your symptoms mean. This may work for you but if it does not, this therapist may not adjust his style to one that will.

There are many other schools of psychoanalysis. They vary greatly in theoretical orientation, and on the structure of sessions -- use of the couch, number of sessions per week, material to be considered crucial for discussion, etc. What they have in common is that treatment tends to last several years, is usually at least twice a week, and in session an analyst generally says less than a therapist. If there is interest, I can discuss more about psychoanalysis in future additions to this web site.

Cognitive and Cognitive Behavioral Therapies

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