Q: Tiffany, what kind of therapy do you do?
A: Hi. I’m a psychoanalytically-oriented psychotherapist.
Q: What does that mean?!
A: Hm, good question. Seems like you’re wondering if what we do together will help you feel better and make actual changes, yeah?
Q: Basically. But I still want to know what this “psychoanalytically-oriented” stuff means? Is it different than CBT?
A: Yes. I think of it like this: in CBT or behavioral approaches to therapy, the idea is that you and the therapist focus on specific problematic behaviors that you have –
Q: Like I can’t get myself up and jogging every morning?
A: Sure, like that. And then they do very specific interventions to change that behavior.
Q: That sounds good! Do you do that?
A: Nope. You see, behavioral therapy approaches are great and shown to work – for up to 6 months! The behavioral therapist basically takes on the role of teaching you to change a specific behavior and then moving on. This works great for some folks.
For other folks, well, maybe for most of us, if we change a problematic behavior in one part of our life, it finds a way of sneaking up on us in other parts of our life.
Why? Because that “problematic” behavior was present for a reason and if we get rid of the behavior, without understanding the reason, chances are this reason – or symptom – will find it’s way into some other area of your life and begin causing other problematic behaviors.
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy teaches you how to understand your own mind – to develop a way of thinking about your behavior, notice your own patterns, and figure out how to get to the root of your problems. This way, you’ll be empowered to think about your behaviors, the underlying root, what that behavior is trying to tell you about how you’re living your life… and make the necessary changes.
Behavioral therapy is like “feeding you for a day” and analytic therapy is like “teaching you to fish, so you can eat for a lifetime.”
Q: I think I’m getting it… but it sounds like it takes a long time and I just want to feel better now.
A: Trust me. I know. If you’re coming to therapy, chances are something is really bothering you and you want some relief. Usually, when you start therapy, just talking to someone and having a chance to get some of your feelings out makes a big difference. You’ll start to feel better pretty quickly.
But you can do that with a friend, right?
What psychoanalytic therapy offers is a long-term solution to life-long problems. So, yeah, it can take some time.
I’m not interested in doing short-term, feel-good-in-5-steps-or-less treatment. This is the promise of our current culture… yet it rarely plays out. You’ve probably read a self-help book or two in your lifetime. If self-help worked for you, you wouldn’t be reading this Q&A right now.
In this process, I have to get to know you.
You have to get to know me.
We have to build a relationship so that I can begin to see patterns that you are playing out over and over – patterns about yourself that you cannot see.
And you have to trust me enough that when I point some things out, you can feel safe enough to agree or disagree or try to figure out if I’m really seeing something about you that you and your friends and family have never been able to see.
This takes some time.
Q: That sounds heavy… Is it intense?
A: Every therapy relationship is different. This is why the relationship is so important. You really have to find someone you connect with and trust. I highly encourage you to “shop around” and meet with different therapists in order to find a good match.
Q: But, how does it work?
A: The short of it is this: Psychoanalytic psychotherapy says that you have an unconscious mind. There are memories, beliefs, assumptions, thoughts, anxieties and conflicts that you have that you don’t even know you have.
As your therapist, I have been trained to pay unique attention to your unconscious process – the things you know that you don’t know you know – and bring them to your attention, so you can develop an understanding of why you say one thing and then do another.
Q: You’re saying there are things about myself that I don’t know?
A: Yes. For example, have you ever said you wanted to lose five pounds and started the process, but then just gave up?
Q: Yeah, but that’s because I don’t have will power, right?
A: Maybe that’s one way to think about it. But I’d imagine that there are other areas of your life where you excel, so it might not be so simple as “will power.” We can understand your difficulties around certain goals as being influenced by your unconscious mind.
Or, let’s try this one. Do you have a pattern of getting involved in romantic relationships or even friendships that end up feeling wrong for all sorts of reasons, then you promise it won’t happen again… only to find that it does?
A: Well, psychoanalysis says that there are things about your mind that you don’t yet know Through therapy, as you come to know these previously unknown parts, you’ll be able to judge yourself and others better, thus avoiding these painful relationship patterns.
Q: Don’t psychoanalysts just sit in silence and stare at me… awkwardly?
A: Ha! Maybe. But I doubt it. Psychoanalysis has come a long way since Freud. Psychoanalytic theorists have tackled all kinds of issues from ethnicity to gender to sexuality to polyamory, pregnancy, religion and on and On!
It’s important here that I remind you, I am not a psychoanalyst, but rather a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. This means I have not undergone the extensive training to become an analyst. But, my orientation, the way I think, write, and work falls within a psychoanalytic framework.
If you’re interested… or even just curious, I’d encourage you to give me a call and find out in vivo what this journey is all about.
Photo Credits: Gozde Otman