What’s The Patient's Job in Psychoanalytic Therapy?

Most people who are familiar with psychoanalytic therapy are familiar with the notion of transference, that is, the idea that the dynamics of “the room” can act as a prism and a simulacrum to enact and explore various relationships the patient has experienced before. What is less well known is what the patient should know going in, and how he or she can best contribute to a meaningful therapy. This piece in The Huffington Post examines some of the issues surrounding patient choices, beginning with a quick primer on what kind of therapy we’re talking about:

Before I go on I should clarify that the sort of therapy I'm referring to isn't directed or based on a manual. It's called psychodynamic, psychoanalytic or depth psychotherapy. This is traditional talk therapy as opposed to cognitive and behavioral therapies, in which the client is given specific directions. While cognitive and behavioral models have their benefits, many people prefer depth therapy because it makes space for thoughts and feelings to rise up organically, because it aims to get to the root of problems, and because it aims to promote growth by working with the entire personality rather than focussing on the eradication of specific symptoms.

An apt definition, and in important distinction for what’s to come. As the author explains, the patient’s responsibilities require forging a sense of honesty, both within herself and with the therapist:

1. Get real: Take off the mask and show your many faces.

2. Channel the flow of feeling: Have your feelings without your feelings having you.

3. Enough about them: Look deeply within for the sources of change.

4. Don't hold back: Forge an authentic connection with your therapist.

5. Be curious, not judgmental: Observe yourself honestly without attacking yourself.

6. Carry your fair share, and only your fair share: Differentiate when to take responsibility and when not to.

7. What's your story? Identify the recurring themes and fundamental beliefs that guide your life.

8. It ain't necessarily so: Build a better narrative and choose your beliefs consciously.

9. Do something! Continue your psychological work outside of sessions.

10. Into the fire: Use the challenges of your life as opportunities for growth.

It’s all good advice that hews to the experiences we have as therapists here in New York City. Patients who take an active role in their development and who continuously look for ways to understand themselves without judgment often do well in the analytic space.

To start your own psychoanalytic psychotherapy, please call or write us today.