What is Analytic Psychotherapy?
Analytic psychotherapy is an approach that draws from psychoanalysis and other depth-psychologies and is particularly helpful in addressing longer-term and deep-rooted problems. These, it is believed, are not easily resolved because they are, at least partly, driven unconsciously and based in early childhood experiences.
The theory 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 of this approach is the idea we all have an internal world which have developed from early childhood. In other words, we carry on inside us our earliest experiences including the 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 allow examinations to deepen so the less conscious aspects of their internal worlds are reached, it is important 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?
Analytic psychotherapy particularly benefits by providing insight into the deeper, hidden elements of problems. It also offers what’s sometimes called “a corrective emotional experience”. The idea of this is 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 analytic approaches as described above. The difference is hard to define but in a very broad sense psychodynamic counselling will have an aim and focus on resolving one or two particular issues in the person’s life. Psychodynamic counselling is generally time limited as, 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 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 Analysis 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 sociology and family therapy. Group Analysts are 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.