Psychoanalysis is a word that covers a number of different concepts originating from the theory and practice of Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis indicates a method that strives to explain the functioning of the human psyche, theories that explain the psychological functioning of humans, a form of psychotherapy that is used in working with clients, social movement embodied in the activities of the psychoanalytical associations, access to the reality that is based on the unconscious motivation in the interpretation of people, etc.
Today there is a vast number of articles by psychoanalysts as well as studies on psychoanalysis. Numerous psychoanalytical theories and theories derived from psychoanalysis were developed. Highly important contributions to psychoanalysis were provided by Melanie Klein, Anna Freud, Donald Winnicott, Wilfred Bion, Otto Kernberg, Heinz Kohut, Andre Green, Antonino Ferro, and many others.
The term psychoanalytical theory usually refers to a theory that explains the psychological functioning and behavior of humans. Psychoanalysts, in addition, also distinguish the theory of techniques, which describes how a psychoanalyst conducts treatment and explains why certain interventions in certain situations produce effects on the client in therapy.
Psychoanalytical theory is constantly evolving as a result of the work with clients in therapy. Particularly difficult clients represent a challenge for understanding and hence help reaching new discoveries about the functioning of psyche.
Freud's Theory of Personality
The discovery of the unconscious is considered one of the most important discoveries of psychoanalysis. Freud distinguishes three instances of personality according to the topographical model (Freud, 1916-17): conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. These can be clearly distinguished through psychoanalytical experience gained in the course of working with clients. It is easily observable that clients are conscious of what they are communicating at a certain moment, however they are not conscious of many other information from personal life that they usually know, but are not in the focus of their consciousness at the given moment.
Distinguishing between what we are currently conscious of and what we are not represents a purely descriptive approach to the concept on unconscious. This way, we only describe what is currently in our consciousness and what is not.
The Psychoanalytical Method
Freud developed a specific method of working with clients who have psychic problems, and called it the psychoanalytical method. It consists of the psychoanalytical setting and the rule of free association.
The psychoanalytical setting consists of making fixed, pre-agreed appointments for the sessions with the psychoanalyst, several times a week. Each sessions should last 50 minutes; the client lies on a couch and abides by the rules of free association; a psychoanalyst sits in a chair next to the client's head, follows the client's associations using free floating attention and provides interpretations. The rule of free association means that a client is expected to verbally convey all that is currently the content of his or her consciousness.
Psychoanalysis as Psychotherapy
Psychoanalysis and psychoanalytical psychotherapy are two approaches which psychoanalysts use when working with clients. On the surface, the difference between these two approaches appear in the frequency of sessions and the way contact is made. Psychoanalysis is more frequent (three to five times a week) and the client usually lies on the couch. Psychoanalytical psychotherapy is less frequent (one to two times a week) and the client usually sits in an armchair.
However, the real difference is in the emerging process. The process of psychoanalysis enables longer-lasting and more stable changes, while psychoanalytical psychotherapy leads to changes that are important to clients at a given moment of life and are more specific in nature.