Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

Psychoanalytic or Psychodynamic Psychotherapy is a form of clinical practice which is based on psychoanalytic theory and principles. It’s a treatment modality that in many ways is quite similar to psychoanalysis, although often considered less intense. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy utilizes psychoanalytic theories as the frame for formulation and understanding of the therapy process. These multiple theories apply to the psychotherapy situation, with a focus on increasing self understanding and deepening insight into emotional issues and conflicts which underlie the presenting difficulties. Typically therapists make use of exploration of unconscious thoughts and feelings, understanding aspects of the relationship between therapist and patient, which may relate to underlying emotional conflicts, interpretation of defensive processes which obstruct emotional awareness, and consideration of issues related to sense of self and self esteem.

Most often therapy sessions occur between one and four times weekly. The focus is on exploration of the patient’s inner experience, emphasizing this as it occurs in current daily life, as it carries over from significant and influential events and relationships of the past, and as it is manifest in the context of the therapeutic relationship.

The efficacy of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, often referred to as psychodynamic psychotherapy, has been well documented. Current research indicates this as a powerfully curative treatment. Please click here for a list of some recent literature addressing the evidence base for the effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapy.

Who is a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist?

Clinicians who practice psychoanalytic or psychodynamic psychotherapy all share a common orientation about how to assess and treat emotional problems. Most psychodynamic therapists have extensive training. The formats and contexts of this training are wide ranging – from graduate or medical school instruction and case supervision to rigorous and formal advanced psychotherapy training programs or psychoanalytic training. The vast majority of psychoanalytic psychotherapists elect to pursue ongoing additional training beyond their graduate or medical school instruction in order to deepen and extend their skills. Psychoanalytic psychotherapists can be found in a variety of professional disciplines, including social work, psychology, psychiatry, and psychiatric nursing.

Who can benefit from Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy?

While there is no simple answer to this question, it is important to emphasize that psychodynamic psychotherapy can be an effective treatment or component of a combined treatment for a very wide range of emotional and psychological difficulties. This includes, in one form or another all ages, and many diagnostic categories. The range of indications is significantly wider than that for psychoanalysis. In order to address this question for any individual, a careful evaluation with a well qualified therapist is an important first step.

How to Find a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist?

  1. Psychoanalytic psychotherapists who are affiliated with APsaA (called Psychotherapist Associates) are listed in an Online Directory.
  2. Many psychoanalysts also practice psychotherapy. Click here to find an APsaA Analyst near you.
  3. There are resources at most local psychoanalytic training centers for finding a psychodynamic psychotherapist. Click on the links to find an approved training Institute or an affiliated Society near you.

Recent Literature and Articles Addressing the Evidence Base for the Effectiveness of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

  1. Lazar, S. (2010). Psychotherapy is Worth It; A Comprehensive Review of Cost Effectiveness, American Psychiatric Publishing.
  2. Shedler, J. (2010). The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, American Psychologist, 65, 98-109.
  3. Summers, R., Barber, J. (2009). Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: A Guide to Evidence Based Practice. The Guilford Press.

Let the Evidence Show: Psychodynamic Therapy Provides Effective and Lasting Benefits

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Brings Lasting Benefits through Self-Knowledge

For Mental Health Professionals

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How can I join APsaA?


APsaA Psychotherapy Department