Psychoanalysis, to my mind, is one of the most expansive practices for personal transformation that has been developed in the field of psychology. It traces its roots to the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud at the turn of the century. Over the last one hundred years an international community of psychoanalysts, working with a wide range of patients, have integrated Freud’s seminal work with more modern findings from the fields of child development, attachment theory, and neuroscience. The rigour of contemporary psychoanalysis springs from this marriage between tradition and innovation.

Psychoanalysis begins with the understanding that key elements of emotional expression and relational patterns are formed during our early life. These structures, then, carry forward into adulthood and shape how we encounter the world of our present. Psychoanalysis offers a method for accessing these underlying structures of emotion and relationship that allows for change to radiate from the inside out, rather than being veneered over the outside. The key elements of this process involve asking patients to lie down on the analytic couch and to come in for more frequent sessions. These aspects of psychoanalysis allow patients to sink into the less guarded aspects of their self. The analyst, then, has a chance to bring attention to the connections between patient’s past and current life. Over time, many of the patient’s characteristic ways of approaching relationships will begin to reveal themselves in how he or she responds to the presence of the analyst. This is what psychoanalysis calls “the transference.” By paying attention to the transference, the analyst and patient have a chance to see how problematic patterns take shape in real time and begin to find new ways of relating to the world.

Psychoanalysis is a significant commitment in time, money, and emotional involvement. For those who feel prepared to make this kind of commitment, the pay off can be profound. As the analysis progresses, patients often feel much greater freedom and confidence in their relationships. Troubling emotions become less dominant and there is an increasing sense of creativity and spontaneity.


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