psychoanalytic psychotherapy

The Power of Psychoanalysis

One of the fascinating things about analytic therapy is that everything goes into the hopper: your life, your feelings, your relationships, your depredations – even your accidents can be grist for therapy. This recent piece in the New York Times highlights a good example of how seemingly random accidents can bring our personal histories to the fore, and help patient and therapist alike discover meaning in something that may have seemed meaningless.

The author’s patient suffered burns over the summer, and the injury and its aftermath underscored some longstanding issues of enmeshment with the patient’s mother. On the subject of her mother’s prurient interest in the extent of these injuries, for instance, the patient reports:

“And my mother replied: ‘It’s my trauma, too. In fact, I think I’m more traumatized by it than you.’”

Sometimes the things we say illuminate far more than we intend, and psychoanalysis is a perfect forum to explore these valences. The mother’s words in this case provide a nice starting to explore what has gone wrong between these two women.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is the only existing modality that lets us understand our lives and histories from an emotional perspective. As the writer says:

One of the things I miss most about my own analysis is the suddenness with which strange events could emerge, knocking you over backward. And toward the very end it felt as if you could time-travel, bouncing between a past and present whose surface was fabricated by an ancient mythology, the wondrous accident that was your existence.

If you’d like to explore the fundamental psychology that continues to influence your life and choices, please contact PPSC to find a therapist today.

Should Psychotherapy Live Inside an App?

Is therapy is simple as asking short questions and receiving pithy answers? Some entrepreneurs seem to think so, including the founders of Talkspace, a text-messaging app that facilitates contact between patients and therapists via short, anonymous messages. Advocates of texting therapy point to the many benefits of this approach, including its potential to help patients reach out from remote locales, its anonymity (which could help some patients get over a fear of being judged), and its extreme affordability:

"Some users suffer from self-harm — cutting — so they can write to our therapist and say, ‘I have an urge to cut myself now, what should I do?'", says Roni Frank, a former computer scientist turned therapist. "There's nothing else out there like that." She thinks the immediacy that's built into the app is beneficial for people in crisis.

Yet dire emergencies and instant advice are not exactly the stuff of substantive therapy, which relies strongly on intimate connections and extended sessions. Indeed, any therapy which can be reduced to 160 characters or less is probably closer to the purview of life coaches than to the process of investigation and discovery that analytic therapy is for.

Most new products arise to fill a need, of course, and there is no doubt that Talkspace has struck a nerve for of its simplicity. Here at PPSC, we understand it isn’t always easy to find a therapist who suits your needs, and whose rates you can afford. That’s why we offer a number of ways for patients to find low cost therapy, and to explore convenient hours in their day.

If you’d like to learn more about the many benefits of old-fashioned face-to-face psychoanalytic psychotherapy, please contact us today.

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in the Huffington Post

It’s not often that the mainstream media takes a moment to pause and define psychoanalytic therapy for the masses. Although this form of therapy has been considered the gold standard in for more than 100 years, these days analytic therapy is often drowned out by glitzy headlines touting the latest discoveries in neurobiology. Yet talk therapy remains a timeless asset for many people, one unlikely to be replaced by chemical regimens anytime in the near future. This recent piece explains the practice and benefits of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, beginning with a wonderfully succinct definition up front:

Your unconscious thoughts and feelings affect what you do without your even knowing it. When you're unaware that it's happening, you can feel and do things and not know why. This can lead to anxiety, depression, difficulties with relationships, and problems with self-esteem -- all caused by things going on in your unconscious mind. Bringing them into awareness can help you to understand them, rather than be controlled by them. This is what psychodynamic psychotherapy is all about.

The full article is a very clean and lucid piece of writing that should help anyone interested in learning more about analytic therapy.

If you’d like to find a New York therapist trained in psychodynamic techniques, please contact the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Study Center today.

Toward Better Psychological Research: The Waitlist Problem

It has often been pointed out that in the field of psychology, it can be difficult to conduct controlled science. The number of mitigating factors, from the varying skill of each individual therapist to the difficulty of quantifying things like emotional improvement, work against perfecting a research process. But there is one mainstay of psychological research that creates predictable problems time and again: the waitlist control group. One recent commentary defined it this way:

In psychotherapy research, there is no pill. So a long time ago, some researchers developed what they believed to be a similar control group as those receiving a placebo — the waitlist control group. The waitlist control group is simply a group of subjects randomized to be placed on a fake “waitlist” — waiting for the active treatment intervention.

The idea here is sound: If you want to take a baseline reading of how people are progressing without any psychological help at all, tell some people that the study hasn’t yet begun. Yet the problems with this approach are manifold, including the possible placebo effect of knowing that help is on the way, and the very real possibility that many people on the list will engage in self-help remedies while the clock ticks. One solution from Psych Central: replace the waitlist with something that more closely approximates therapy, minus the training:

The best way to do this is to throw out the waitlist control group and replace it with a group of participants randomized to receive weekly check-ins with the equivalent of someone showing concern for the individual. This can be an individual one-on-one session, or a small group of participants.

The goal here is to separate the well-known value of generic concern from the putative added value of psychoanalytic psychotherapy – or another modality – conducted by a trained professional. It is an intriguing idea, and of course at PPSC we welcome any chance to demonstrate the lasting benefits of analytic therapy over various alternatives.

Can’t wait for the next study? Find a therapist today by clicking here.

When Psychotherapy Meets Mindfulness

The mindfulness movement has gained many fans in recent years, and with good reason. This nonjudgmental, suspended state of attentiveness can be remarkably helpful. What may at first blush seem like an extraordinarily simple proposition – be still, note your thoughts, and “live in your body” – turns out to have some lasting positive effects on mood and clarity. But is it therapy? One of the foundational practices of analytic therapy is an emphasis on free association – letting the mind forge and find connections without interruption. If this sounds a bit like mindfulness to you, you’re not alone. Both practices share an emphasis on following your thoughts where they might lead.

But the differences are important. Mindfulness demands frequently returning to the present and the literal – note your breathing, dismiss ruminations as they arise. Psychoanalytic therapy is more interested in nurturing tangents and distractions to discover what complex insights they might yield.

Both mindfulness and psychoanalytic psychotherapy have a place in easing the burdens of anxiety, depression and obsessional thinking. Indeed, it’s not unusual to find analytic therapists using a mix of both techniques, sometimes beginning with mindfulness to achieve clarity, and then discussing what surfaced in greater depth. As with most of psychotherapy, the art lies not in dogmatically clinging to one modality over another, but in carefully determining which tool is most likely to unlock the mysteries of the moment.

The NYT Comes Out In Defense of Psychotherapy

Analytic therapy is under assault from multiple groups, including the neurobiologists, the pharmacologists, and the genetic determinists. Yet the chief issue with psychoanalysis is not that it’s archaic or ineffective; it’s simply that this form of therapy simply doesn’t have an adequate mouthpiece. At least that’s what the New York Times recently contended in a thoughtful piece, pointing out that most patients crave in-depth and emotionally attuned therapies:

As well they should: for patients with the most common conditions, like depression and anxiety, empirically supported psychotherapies — that is, those shown to be safe and effective in randomized controlled trials — are indeed the best treatments of first choice. Medications, because of their potential side effects, should in most cases be considered only if therapy either doesn’t work well or if the patient isn’t willing to try counseling.

Yet the article rightly asserts that “there is no Big Therapy to counteract Big Pharma.” That is, there exists no powerful lobby flush with cash to make the point so many of us consider self-evident: that psychotherapy works, and that a great deal of evidence suggests it works better than many alternatives.

Our only quibble with this particular article is the short shrift it gives to true psychodynamic therapies, citing only studies that stop at 20 weeks. Psychoanalysis and its offshoots may take longer than that to work, but the effects can be permanent and life-altering in ways that are not easily quantified.

If you or someone you love is interested in finding psychoanalytic psychotherapy for the treatment of depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties or other long-term issues, please contact PPSC here today.