Not Your Great-Grandfather’s Psychoanalysis


From the Monitor on Psychology: One of the greatest misconceptions about psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapy is that it has remained unchanged since Freud introduced it. In fact, psychologists have modernized the approach to include multicultural and feminist perspectives, and many research studies demonstrate its effectiveness.

“Once the ruler of the therapy world, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy fell out of favor in the United States among many mental health professionals over the past 40 years, due to several factors. Some experts cite a lack of commitment by psychoanalytic theorists to conduct research on the therapy’s effectiveness. Others see the treatment as too abstract because it seeks to help clients uncover deeper, often unconscious aspects of experience, while approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focus more on helping clients adjust thoughts believed to cause negative emotions. Further, many of Freud’s specific ideas, such as the Oedipus complex, have been dropped in favor of a broader view of early relationships and their impacts. And others say psychodynamic therapy is just not relevant or efficient in today’s quick-fix, insurance-limited marketplace.

But today’s psychoanalytic practitioners say that for many mental health issues, psychodynamic therapy is at least as effective as, if not better than other therapy approaches—and should not be ignored.

‘As a field we’ve moved into focusing heavily on what are considered to be empirically supported treatments, largely based on protocol and in shortterm models of psychotherapy,’ Tummala-Narra says. ‘Yet as practitioners, we’re seeing patients who are suffering from multiple stressful events in their lives, including homelessness poverty, trauma and discrimination. Helping them deal with all these complicated issues really requires a depth of understanding of the whole person and how these events are affecting their relationships with people and how they function in the world. To truly help our clients, we can’t always just rely on a protocol-based treatment.'”

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  1. This sounds like psychodynamic therapy, not psychoanalysis. The thing that set psychoanalysis apart, for me, is that it focused on interpreting (analyzing) the content of a person’s conversations, dreams, etc. It’s very possible to do psychodynamic therapy without resorting to any analysis or interpretation for the client, instead letting the client tell his/her story without any attempt by the therapist to tell the client what it means or what they should do about it. It is very possible to bring unconscious thought to consciousness without any evaluation whatsoever on the therapist’s part, just by being patient, listening well, and asking the right questions at the right moment.

    The article also seems to ignore another important reason why psychodynamic therapy went out the window – the DSM III and the intentional marketing of the idea of mental illness as biological defect. We can’t have people getting better without drugs if these things are biological, so any kind of deeper therapy has to be eliminated in the interests of profits.

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