Most of us who work in psychoanalytic psychotherapy owe a debt to Sigmund Freud, whose first steps defining the field shone a great light on the role of our unconscious minds. Freud’s body of work is not without its flaws, but his insights across a broad diversity of subjects have more or less stood the test of time. One of the issues Freud took particular interest in was the dynamic of the therapist’s office. Analytic therapists are generally discouraged from revealing too much about their personal lives, for fear of staining the therapeutic process with unwelcome details. As a recent New York Times piece described it:
In psychoanalysis, there is a specific rationale for this rule. The theory holds that patients tend to re-enact with therapists the relationships they had with their parents. This is called transference. By paying careful attention to this unfolding drama — as it plays out, right there in the office — the therapist and patient can uncover and resolve childhood conflicts. If a therapist interjects information about herself, she clouds the mirror and compromises the process.
Follow this story to its conclusion, however, and you can see how the benign neutrality of the therapist might come to be seen as a hindrance in some cases, even an act of hostility. In the case study within the piece, a patient desperately needs a sense of reciprocity, even a shallow one, in order to build the trust necessary to do the work:
As therapy continued with her, I heard how flat and tinny I sounded whenever I attempted to analyze what was going on between us. When I lapsed into too clinical a mode, our connection would wobble, and her alienation became palpable.
No two talk therapies are the same, and of course every psychoanalyst develops her own approach and rhythms. Learning and adapting is part of what makes an effective therapy worthwhile, for patient and therapist alike. If you’d like to embark on a journey to address longstanding feeling of depression, anxiety or loneliness, please contact the expert NYC therapists of PPSC today.