Contemporary Psychoanalysis

By Licia Ginne, LMFT

I would like to just give a brief overview of psychoanalysis and how I practice it today.

I think most of us have associated psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud, whom is considered the Father of Psychoanalysis. If you are a fan of the current AMC television series “Mad Men”, you can see moments of an unethical classical psychoanalysis (unethical in that he breaches the confidentiality of his patient by calling her husband to give updates). Classical Freudian analysis has a clearly defined path of which the patient should follow for a successful analysis and the interpretations are all directed at achieving this goal. The analyst is an innocent witness to the patient’s progress through the required steps of awareness to complete the analysis. The analyst will perceive any deviations from this path as the patients own resistance to awareness or reenactment of problems from the patient’s own past.

Contemporary Psychoanalysis encompasses many different theories and approaches though I would like to focus on Intersubjective Systems Theory, since this is the approach I ascribe to today. In this theory the analyst is not seen as directing or instructing the patient through the desired steps as with Classical Freudian analysis but as a partner in the analyst – patient relationship. The analyst is not considered as holding the answers to the patient or to be so bold as to assume they have the “right or wrong” set of goals for the patient. Contemporary Psychoanalysis considers the healing to take place within the relationship of the analyst and patient. The understanding and training of the analyst opens up an area of exploration for the patient where they can consider and understand how they came to view the world and themselves. In understanding the effect the mother has on her infant, how her anxiety or depression can created an anxiety or depression in the infant, how the mother responds or does not respond sets the stage for how the infant will view the world. Whether they feel they have a secure attachment to mother and view the world as a safe place or whether they have an inconsistent attachment and fear depending on others. This is a simplified view of attachment theory and hopefully enough to give the general meaning.

What I have found is that in psychoanalysis the required time commitment of 3 to 5 sessions per week is an amazing experience of having your analyst really get to know you and to understand you. At first I was concerned I wouldn’t have enough to talk about. What I have found is that like with any relationship when there is a lot of consistency, when the person knows what is going on in your world the relationship becomes deeper it can also become more frightening because our fears and anxieties begin to surface. For many of us this knowing was not something we experienced in our early childhood. I think most of us come to therapy because we didn’t get the support, encouragement or interest that young children need to feel valued and vital. It wasn’t that our parents purposefully didn’t give us what we needed but most likely because they themselves didn’t get it and didn’t know what it was they should be giving. It is within this relationship that deep beliefs can be challenged and changed. We can never change what our history is but we can become aware of it and realize that some of what we believe to be the truth may not really hold up. It might have been the truth in our families but may not be the truth for the world at large.

I’d also like to add that psychoanalytic psychotherapy utilizes the theory of contemporary psychoanalysis in a 1 – 2 session per week format.