What is a psychoanalyst in mental health therapy?

A person who practices psychoanalysis is known as a psychoanalyst. A psychoanalyst could be a clinical psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a psychiatric social worker, and usually has years of experience in psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis, a form of intensive psychotherapy initiated by Sigmund Freud, includes analyzing the person's past and unconscious thoughts and connecting them to the present conflict.

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

A psychoanalyst is a mental health professional trained to treat in a similar manner as Freud. Interpretations of ones thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are from the subconscious, basically from the Id, Ego, and the Superego.

Psychoanalysis is grounded in the theory that individuals are often unaware of factors that determine their emotions and behavior. These unconscious factors may create unhappiness, sometimes in the form of recognizable symptoms and at other times as troubling personality traits, difficulties in work or in love relationships, or disturbances in mood and self-esteem. Because these forces are unconscious, the advice of friends and family, the reading of self-help books, or even the most determined efforts of will often fail to provide symptom relief.

Working with a psychoanalyst can help you discover how unconscious factors effect your current relationships, help isolate patterns of behavior, analyze how they've developed over time, and help you to deal better with the realities of adult life.

In order to be called a psychoanalyst, a mental health professional must receive a certificate from a postgraduate training program in psychoanalysis. Generally speaking, a psychoanalyst undergoes hundreds of hours of his or her own personal analysis and training in psychoanalytic theory and treatment. 

Psychoanalysis has evolved since Freud's initial model, and it has grown to include many different and compelling schools of thought. It is a rich, deep and involved process that can offer life changing benefits for children and adults. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.