Psychoanalytical Psychotherapy: Information and Treatment


Overview: Psychoanalytical psychotherapy (PP), commonly referred to as psychodynamic psychotherapy or Dynamic interpersonal therapy, is a talking therapy that can be useful in treating several mental health conditions. The therapy has the aim of changing the way someone understands and resolves problems facing them. The therapy ultimately aims for a marked change in personality and emotional development. PP is most commonly used for depression and some personality disorders, though it can be useful in a range of emotional trauma-related cases. PP can’t aid the physical symptoms of these conditions, but can reduce the psychological symptoms.




How does it work: PP works around the idea of bringing unconscious or deeply buried thoughts and feelings to the fore. Experiences that have caused damage to you, or have affected you emotionally can be discussed and examined. A therapist will show the individual how these early memories have affected their thinking, behaviour and attitude to relationships in their adult life.


While Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) tackles the present, PP goes further back and examines the problems that have potentially caused mental health conditions to take place. Therefore, for some people, PP is a much better option of therapy as opposed to CBT.


PP is based around psychologist Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis. The therapy uses different techniques to try and release repressed thoughts, experiences and emotions. The therapist will use many different methods to tackle issues facing the individual.



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What Happens: Those suffering from a mental health condition will often be referred to an organisation that provides PP therapy – they will be aligned with the NHS. They will then contact you to arrange a time and a place to meet with a therapist. This will normally be in a nearby town or clinic. Waiting times vary hugely, depending on demand in your area.


A typical course of treatment can last anywhere from five to twenty sessions, with each individual session normally lasting half an hour. You will normally see your therapist either weekly or fortnightly.


While there are general ways of doing PP, the therapist in question will normally use a method they think is most appropriate. PP often starts with spontaneous word association. This is where a therapist will say a word, and the individual says the first thing that comes to their mind. The therapist will look for and interpret patterns. Dreams will also be analysed, as well as past experiences, emotional trauma and more. As PP differs from person to person, many people will have different experiences.


What is Good About PP: Many people suffering from mental health problems do so because of a range of triggers. Some of these triggers date back to childhood, or earlier years. While CBT tackles the present, PP looks at the cause. Many people find PP better, and there are strong results in terms of its efficacy. PP isn’t rigid or too structured, and can easily change to fit an individual – which is another positive. However this does mean that occasionally focus can be lost and too many issues become discovered. Finally, recalling past and often forgotten memories can actually be more detrimental to someone’s health, and cause considerable distress. As with any therapy, there are limitations as to how effective CBT is.


What if PP doesn’t work?: Return to the Get Going page below and click on the mental health condition that you are looking for information on. Then, scroll to ‘Treatment’, and the information will be included.