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Why Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy?

People sometimes say to me, “Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy? Isn’t that all about wallowing in the past and blaming your parents for your problems?” This always startles me a bit, because I think the most salient, the most relevant parts of psychoanalytic psychotherapy has to do with a very real and very current relationship. The relationship between the therapist and the patient. Yes, we do look to the past to try to come to some understanding of what types of traumas, deficiencies, longings and frustrations have helped to create the enduring personality patterns that are currently causing difficulties in the task of being a fully functioning human. By “fully functioning” I mean a person who is able to be in their own mind and their own lived experience, who is able to be aware of their emotions and their thoughts without having to resort to panic, manic activity, and fragmentation to avoid things that are simply true about what they think and feel. A person who is able to strive towards goals and pleasures and – to my mind the most important aspect of what we call mental health – who is able to have authentic contact with others. Yes, I do look to history to help understand something about my patient’s inner world and how this affects their experience of themselves in relation to others. However, the key thing I do is something much more related, much more interpersonal. I do believe in an unconscious. I believe that our unconscious selves are always in a state of dreaming and trying to metabolize bits of experience: emotional, imagistic, and thoughtful. I believe that by two people - therapist and patient - coming together and being at play with the images and associations that emerge between us, something more than insight about the past happens. A new experience of self in relation to another that can actually help provide new ways of relating to oneself and to others.

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