is very familiar and yet very mysterious.
Freud with his cigar, his couch, the interpretation of dreams--is embedded in our culture.
We are all everyday analysts; but what is psychoanalysis?
Myths and stereotypes about analysis are "known" and accepted without question.
Myth: Psychoanalysis is elitist
It is practiced by people who have extensive training, typically five or more years in addition to a professional degree (MD, PhD, PsyD, LICSW) that also requires years of clinical as well as classroom experience. But analysis is not inherently elitist in its application. It pays attention to the individual as an individual whose life experience is unique. It is personal rather than elitist.
Myth: The analytic patient always lies on a couch with the doctor out of sight
The analytic couch is available but not required by analytic patients. Some people in analysis benefit from the couch; it allows them freedom to follow their own associations without being distracted by the social cues that come from talking to another person face to face. Other people need the interpersonal contact of sitting up and looking at the person to whom they speak. Again, this is personal rather than a matter of doctrine.
Myth: Psychoanalysis is an interminable and extremely expensive treatment
One of the goals of psychoanalysis is to help people examine and become conscious of self-defeating patterns in behavior and relationships that repeatedly have sabotaged their attainment of life goals and satisfactions.
"Which is more expensive—making the same mistake repeatedly and being repeatedly frustrated – or taking the time to understand and master this kind of pattern?"
What to Expect in Psychoanalysis?
It is reasonable to “expect” and look for change and improvement in any treatment. But human psychology is part of an interactional system: if you come to expect something, your expectations have consequences.
For some people, expecting to improve produces improvement (taking a placebo can be effective).
For other people, expectations themselves are part of the problem (maybe they expect too much or too little).
For these and many other reasons, psychoanalysts need to be respectful of individual differences and cautious in making predictions—even as they and their patients work towards defining reasonable and realistic goals for analytic treatment.
Virginia R. Youngren, Ph.D.
Psychoanalysis | Psychotherapy | Telehealth