Freudian Psychoanalysis

What is Freudian Psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy was first developed by Sigmund Freud in the early part of this century and is based upon the idea that much of our behaviour, thoughts and attitudes are regulated by the unconscious portion of our mind and are not within ordinary conscious control. By inviting a patient to talk, the psychoanalytic therapist helps them to reveal unconscious needs, motivations, wishes and memories in order to gain conscious control of their life.

The major function of the psychoanalytic psychotherapist is to observe the patient carefully and attentively in order to understand them and to facilitate more effective communication. The therapist uses both intelligence and feelings to obtain verbal and nonverbal clues to the patient's problems. The analyst must first understand these disguised communications and then transform them into information useful to the patient. To do this, the therapist asks questions, confronts distortions, and does anything else needed to help the patient share their thoughts and feelings comfortably.

The Unconscious Mind

The unconscious is composed of many mental processes, wishes, needs, attitudes, memories, and beliefs not directly available to ordinary awareness. It is hard for many people to accept the idea of the unconscious, the idea that something outside their direct control might influence their lives.  However, close examinations shows that many of the choices in life such as spouse, friends, career, life style, and patterns of health are based upon motivations of which people are not ordinarily aware.

Many bitter childhood memories are relegated to the unconscious, although they still control some day-to-day behaviour.  Handicapped by lack of awareness of the unconscious motivators, people can become victimized by emotional reactions and symptoms that inhibit their lives.  Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy allows a patient to become aware of these unknown mental processes through behaviour, slips of the tongue, dreams, and free associations.

Dreams play a useful role in psychoanalytic therapy because (for those who remember them) they offer, in Sigmund Freud's words, the Royal Road to the Unconscious.  In dreams people express unconscious needs, memories, conflicts and wishes.  Dreams can become an avenue of understanding to hidden aspects of the self when examined with the interpretive help of the analyst.


During the course of every psychoanalytic therapy, the patient demonstrates behaviour that interferes with the progress of the treatment. This interference is called resistance.  Because psychoanalytic therapy helps the patient achieve freedom of thought and action by talking freely, the negative emotional forces that caused their symptoms manifest themselves as obstacles to the expression. The patient may:

  • Become unable to continue speaking.
  • Feel that they have nothing to say.
  • Feel a deep need to keep secrets from their therapist.
  • Withhold things as a result of feeling ashamed.
  • Believe that what they have to say is unumportant or trivial.
  • Constantly repeat themselves.
  • Try to evade certain topics.
  • Attempt to do something other than talk.
  • Seek advice rather than understanding.
  • Focus on thoughts and feelings and avoid actions.


Psychoanalysts discovered early in their work that patients can have distorted views of the analyst. An analyst with a quiet, reserved manner may be perceived as an oppressive tyrant. Alternatively, a patient may become convinced that the analyst loves them even though no such feeling has been expressed. These types of feelings usually come from attitudes toward significant individuals in a patient's past such as parents, teachers, or siblings.

Sometimes the feelings toward the analyst represent actual feelings about a person in the patient's past, and at other times the feelings are those of a desired relationship with a significant individual. While not all patients develop classical forms of transference, many patients find it useful to study and understand the feelings they have toward the therapist. It aids understanding of current relationships, the need for personal growth, expectations of others and attitudes toward oneself.