What is Analytic Psychotherapy?
Analytic psychotherapy is an approach that draws from psychoanalysis and other depth-psychologies. It is particularly helpful in addressing longer-term and deep-rooted problems. These are not easily resolved, as they are partly driven unconsciously and based in early childhood experiences.,
This approach views many of our more intractable difficulties beginning as an adaptation to avoid painful internal conflicts, trauma, or problematic dynamics in our earlier lives. As time goes on, these mal-adaptions lead to unhelpful patterns of thoughts, feelings or behaviours which exacerbate problems further.
A key characteristic is the idea that we all have an internal world which has developed from early childhood. In other words, we carry inside us our earliest experiences including important figures from our childhood. Our internal world is constantly interacting with the external world, so people and situations we encounter in the present feel very connected to important figures and experiences of the past. More than this we unconsciously expect, and try to make, these external relationships match those in our internal world. This is known as ‘transference’.
In analytic psychotherapy, while current and past problems and experiences are explored as they are in other therapies, transference is also drawn on to help the investigation on a deeper level. Links are emphasised between the relationship of client and therapist, relationships from the past, and those in the present outside the therapy. The therapist encourages exploration and curiosity about all experiences, especially regarding potential and hidden ‘meanings’.
To help clients to allow examinations to deepen, so that the less conscious aspects of their internal worlds are reached, it is important that they feel safe in the relationship with the therapist. This approach therefore emphasises strict boundaries and the therapist shares little about their ‘real’ self.
How can Analytic Psychotherapy Help me?
In particular, it helps by providing insight into the deeper, hidden elements of problems. It also offers what is sometimes called “a corrective emotional experience”. The idea of this is that the therapeutic relationship provides something very different from what the person experienced as a child and keeps expecting as an adult.
Psychodynamic Counselling and Psychotherapy
Psychodynamic counselling and psychotherapy are both analytic approaches as described above. The difference is hard to define, but in a very broad sense psychodynamic counselling has an aim and focus on resolving one or two particular issues in the person’s life. Psychodynamic counselling is also generally shorter term. If the aims are not reached within a few weeks or months, it is reasonable for the therapist and client to assume a deeper and longer-term exploration is needed.
Psychodynamic Psychotherapy may be initiated by a specific problem/s, but unlike counselling it aims to make deeper changes in the individual. It is therefore less focussed and goal orientated as an approach. Psychodynamic psychotherapy can be once or twice weekly and is often undertaken as a long-term approach.
Group Analytic Theory Applied in Individual Psychotherapy
Although we have described group analytic psychotherapy elsewhere in relation to psychotherapy groups, it is an approach that can also be applied to working with individuals, in conjunction with psychodynamic psychotherapy. As a therapy model, Group Analysis draws a great deal from psychoanalysis, but also from sociology and family therapy. As a Group Analyst, I am therefore very interested in the social background of the individual, especially as they experienced themselves in their family. In this way, group analysis adds a dimension to the psychoanalytic approach whereby relationships, including groups, and the external context of the individual’s past and present are given equal weighting to the individual internal world.
Claire Barnes is a Psychodynamic Psychotherapist and Group Analyst. She was trained at Birkbeck University of London and The Institute of Group Analysis. If you are interested in finding out more, please get in touch.