What Are the Main Focuses of Psychoanalysis?

Medically Reviewed on 2/3/2022
What Are the Main Focuses of Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis focuses on identifying and releasing unconscious feelings, thoughts, memories, and desires that are negatively impacting your life

Psychoanalysis focuses on identifying and releasing unconscious, repressed feelings, thoughts, memories, and desires that are negatively impacting your life. 

The goal is to make you aware of the root of psychological problems and help you resolve the issues in order to bring about positive change and growth.

What is psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis is a type of treatment based on the work of Sigmund Freud, 

Freud believed that all emotions, thoughts, and behavior are buried deep inside the unconscious mind. As a result, early childhood or past events can shape your present feelings or behavior.

Psychoanalysis may be beneficial for people who want to gain insight into what is influencing their thoughts and actions. It requires willingness and dedication, as it can be a painful process to confront uncomfortable memories or feelings.

What is a psychoanalyst?

A psychoanalyst is a trained psychologist or a psychiatrist who uses psychoanalysis to treat mental or emotional problems. Using techniques based on theories about repressed emotions, they aim to help people deal with depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems by making the unconscious conscious.

In other words, by helping you understand your subconscious mind, a psychoanalyst can offer insight into internal motivators that drive your thoughts and behaviors, allowing you to work on changing bad or damaging patterns.

What happens during a psychoanalysis session?

During a session with a psychoanalyst, you will be encouraged to talk so as to uncover repressed thoughts and emotions. Your therapist will try to create a safe space where you can feel free to express yourself without judgment.

You may be encouraged to talk about your:

  • Childhood
  • Fears
  • Anxieties
  • Dreams
  • Parents and siblings
  • Relationships
  • Spouse
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Work-life
  • Daydreams

How does psychoanalysis work?

Freud's ideas were faced with mixed reactions during his time, and many of his critics went on to construct their own theories about how the mind works, using components of his theory as building blocks. As a result, modern psychoanalysis is a mix of distinct yet interconnected theoretical and practical approaches.

The theories of psychoanalysis are based on several assumptions. To begin with, personality is made of up three components:

  1. Id: The id is the unconscious mind that contains primitive, basic urges.
  2. Ego: The conscious mind or ego serves to keep the id in check by acting as a moderator. Rather than participating in acts that are intended to satisfy primal needs, the ego tries to meet those needs in socially acceptable and practical ways.
  3. Superego: The superego represents external reality, which includes conscious ideas, feelings, and behaviors, reflecting parental or societal values.

The relationship among the three elements of personality depicts the internal struggle in most people. Psychoanalytic treatment aims to resolve underlying tensions between the id, ego, and superego in order to achieve balance.


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What are examples of psychoanalytic techniques?

  • Dream analysis: Dream interpretation is used in psychoanalysis to reveal unconscious thoughts. Freud believed that the repressed ideas and feelings rise to the surface of the mind through dreams. 
  • Free association: During free association, you are encouraged to speak freely about anything that comes to mind. For example, your psychoanalyst may read a list of random phrases to you, and you simply respond with the first associations that come to mind. During the process of free association, repressed memories may come out.
  • Interpretation: Your psychoanalyst may try to help you explore and analyze memories and personal narratives in depth, identifying common themes in your stories. An example of "Freudian slip" occurs when you unintentionally share something vital during a random conversation that reveals something about what is going on in your subconscious.
  • Transference: Transference occurs when you transfer the sentiments experienced for someone in the past to the present. For example, there may be transference between you and your therapist, where you direct emotions onto the therapist that are actually directed toward someone from your past.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/3/2022
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GoodTherapy. Psychoanalysis / Modern Psychoanalysis. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/psychoanalysis

Simply Psychology. Psychoanalysis. https://www.simplypsychology.org/psychoanalysis.html

American Psychological Association. Psychoanalysis. https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/psychoanalytic