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.
All the obstacles impeding the free association Freud interpreted as client's unconscious resistance to reveal certain associations, and he presumed that they are underlined by unconscious conflicts. Through revealing the conflicts and understanding them, the conscious strength of a person is reinforced and people can gain a better control of their psychic and social lives. Each client was a story in itself and a new challenge for the understanding of psychic functioning. Reading Freud's case studies is reminiscent of detective novels because there is a constant search for hidden meanings behind the presented material. Dream analysis is of special importance for psychoanalysis. Dreams are manifest (external) display of latent (interior) conflicts. Sleep interpretation sometimes resembles the interpretation of symbols and may lead us to the construction of meaning that the dream has for the individual.
Freud distinguished between three phases in the method development:
a) application of cathartic procedure with the help of hypnosis and concentration (case of Anna O.);
b) introduction of free association and resistance analysis (case of Elisabeth von R. who complained because her flow of thoughts was interrupted);
c) non-directive approach, i.e. abandoning the efforts to bring specified content in the focus of attention, instead observing everything that occurs on the surface of consciousness at the given moment (the case of Dora). By approaching the analysis through everything that occurs on the surface of the experiences and behavior of the analyzed person, he/she becomes a guide of the self-exploration process, and free association reaches its full potential for methodological development of working with resistances.
The development of the psychoanalytical method started from the analysis of symptoms, and reached the analysis of the entire personality. In the first two phases, Freud laid the foundation of the psychoanalytical method: humane relation based on sympathy, trust and co-operation between the analyst and the client, the rule of free association as completely objective observation, understanding the material starting from the surface towards the depth enabled by the identification and interpretation of resistance. The final touch was added at the third stage, a principle described by Freud as the pure gold of psychoanalysis - strictly non-directive approach. It implies completely objective observation by the analyst, which consists of following all client's statements using the same "floating" attention without voluntary guiding the attention on particular details. In other words, Freud says that analysts should face the client's opening unconscious with their own unconscious.
Adherence to the golden rule of non-directive approach and the rule of directing one's attention to the surface of what the analysand provides enabled the identification of the most important phenomena that occurs during psychoanalysis, the transfer. Due to the transfer, hidden and forgotten feelings become relevant, manifest and allow psychic work. The main responsibility of the analysts resides in the transfer. The biggest difficulties do not only reside in handling the transfer, but also in abiding to the rule of non-directive approach in order to observe and recognize what is going on. The results of this work can be observed only later when the client becomes aware and gains a clear picture of his/her psychic functioning.
The psychoanalytical method is considered a specific scientific research method in the scope of studying the human psyche and the unconscious. Today, there are modifications of psychoanalytical methods used to study the effects of psychoanalysis, as well as for understanding the whole process of change that psychoanalysis triggers, both in the psychoanalyst and in the clients.