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Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Definition

Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy apply theoretical and clinical knowledge developed over the last hundred years. The approach of Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy is that the source of much of what people think, feel, experience and fear is hidden or unconscious. These unconscious processes can maintain people’s internal suffering, the impact of trauma, crippling emotional difficulties and unsatisfactory relationships within their social and cultural contexts.

The therapeutic relationship is the foundation for this method and requires commitment and responsibility from both the psychotherapist and patient/client. The aim is to work together to make sense of patients’ emotional life and ways of functioning. The work makes links between present and past as well as emphasising the patients’ here-and-now experience. Exploration of the conscious and unconscious aspects of the therapeutic relationship (also known as transference and countertransference) makes this work different from other therapies or from talking to a friend.

Through non-judgemental understanding and interpretative work within the therapeutic relationship, patients can recognise underlying meanings of dreams, conflicts and fantasies and the way in which thoughts and feelings are expressed and resisted. This understanding enables new choices to be made, and the fulfilment of individuals’ unique potential.

Psychoanalysts and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists complete theoretical and experiential post-graduate training following a professional qualification. They are required to undergo their own psychoanalysis or psychoanalytic psychotherapy as part of their training, which enables them to understand distress and symptoms, and be mindful of the possibilities of their own personal biases.

Aims, Approaches and Training Requirements for Counselling, Psychotherapy and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy


Counselling Psychotherapy Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Aims Fostering wellbeing through personal growth, assisting clients to resolve crises and life problems through personal change, developing personal meaning and healing following grief and loss. Developing self-understanding and insight. Works with clients’ present experience as well as unknown parts of self. Restructuring the personality, making sense of patients’ emotional life and ways of functioning.
Approach Short and long term interventions drawing on a variety of theoretical counselling and therapy models or a specialisation. Longer term intervention drawing on a variety of theoretical psychotherapy models or a specialisation. Works long term with conscious and unconscious aspects of self in the psychoanalytic theoretical tradition.
Training Training is provided by universities, government-accredited private providers and training institutes, or equivalent. Include training requirements for personal growth and self-development. Training is provided by universities, government-accredited private providers and training institutes, or equivalent. Usually includes training requirements for personal therapy. Tripartite training which includes theory, supervision and psychoanalysis/ psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Training is provided by PACFA Member Associations of the Psychoanalysis/ Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy  Section of PACFA.
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