What is Modern Psychoanalysis?

Marjorie McAtee

Modern psychoanalysis is a type of analytical psychology developed from the theories of Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that many psychological and emotional life problems stem from repressed desires and unresolved childhood traumas. Modern psychoanalysts have added their own theories to Freud's, as modern psychoanalysis has developed over the decades since Freud did his work. Modern psychoanalysis continues to focus on constructing a conversational relationship between patient and psychoanalyst. The process of psychoanalysis can take many years, as the psychoanalyst guides the patient through an examination of his memories, experiences, feelings, dreams, and needs.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis.
Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis.

Analytical psychology, or modern psychoanalysis, generally attempts to correct psychological dysfunction by encouraging patients to discuss their lives, memories, feelings, and dreams with a psychoanalyst. The psychoanalyst typically seeks to provide a supportive role in the patient's life, while offering insights that can help the patient cope with unresolved feelings and make positive life changes.

Psychoanalysis encourages patients to discuss their dreams with a psychoanalyst.
Psychoanalysis encourages patients to discuss their dreams with a psychoanalyst.

While modern psychoanalysis may remain largely based on Freud's original theories, those psychoanalysts who followed Freud have added their own theories to the mix. Freud's daughter, Anna Freud, believed that one's reactions to past emotional trauma, or repressed emotions, can eventually form the basis of one's character. Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson is credited with building upon Freud's original theories, creating a model that can apply to patients of both genders throughout all stages of life. Melanie Klein's theories generally focused on how one's experiences in infancy might influence development later in life. Some psychoanalysts, such as Heinz Kohut, believed that a patient's progress toward self-actualization may not necessarily depend on adherence to a model of psychological development.

Sigmund Freud's original theories of psychoanalysis are believed to have dealt mainly with the problems often created by repressed feelings and memories. Modern psychoanalysis, beginning with the work of psychoanalyst Hyman Spotnitz, seeks to treat psychological and emotional problems of all types through a therapeutic relationship with a psychoanalyst. The therapeutic process usually focuses on helping the patient recognize and resolve negative beliefs and emotional patterns. Patients are ideally taught to recognize the psychological origins of their emotional problems. As the process of psychoanalysis continues, patients are generally guided to recognize their typical reactions to various emotional events, and to replace self-defeating or destructive reactions and coping mechanisms with healthier, more positive, and beneficial ones.

Psychoanalysis is believed to be effective due to the phenomenon known as transference, in which the patient may begin to perceive the analyst as occupying a role of authority over the patient. Most often, patients are said to feel as though the analyst is a surrogate parent. As the relationship between psychoanalyst and patient deepens, the analyst is believed capable of wielding more and more influence over the patient. This influence is said to make the analyst's efforts to help the patient more effective.

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Discussion Comments


I guess modern psychoanalysis employed today is slightly different than what was employed during Freud's time. That's not surprising because with changing times and changing societies, new theories and concepts are bound to come up.

But I think it's also safe to say that without Freud, there probably wouldn't be such a thing as psychoanalysis today. He developed all of the groundwork. The work of those after him were just adjustments and additions.


@ysmina-- I'm not sure where that criticism is coming from. I'm not an expert on this topic but I have received psychoanalysis and I don't consider that to be true at all.

Psychoanalysis is aimed at understanding the unconscious thoughts and feelings of a patient and how they're affecting the patient's conscious limitations and issues. Anyone who has been to a psychoanalysis session knows that the psychoanalyst mostly listens and directs the conversation. A psychoanalyst does not talk at the patient, it's the patient that's doing the talking.

Psychoanalysis sessions can go on for a long period of time and like the article said, the psychoanalyst and the patient do form a solid association based on trust. But this doesn't mean that the psychoanalyst is manipulating the patient in any way.


Can a psychoanalyst's influence over a patient through the use of modern psychoanalysis, be considered manipulation?

I've witnessed some hinting at this by critics of moern psychoanalysis and I wonder if it can be true.

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