If you are reading about psychotherapy you may be wondering “Is this the right path for me?” People start therapy for all kinds of reasons. There are as many different reasons to start therapy as there are people.
I usually spend a few sessions with people carefully listening to them describe the situation that brings them. This usually includes their background, family life, childhood and how their emotions have recently shifted. They may be surprised by what they hear themselves say. Generally, we get some idea about what the problem is and where it comes from.
At this point, we find a regular weekly time or times to meet. As the sessions unfold you talk about your life, your feelings, your dreams, your problems, your hopes. It is far from an exact science, but often my comments and questions combine with the new insights you discover about yourself, so that true change may occur. A cornerstone of this healing experience is being in a relationship where it is safe to be truly and wholly yourself.
Sometimes our problems feel intractable and longstanding. Ways of interacting with others and thinking about ourselves are clearly not working, and yet we engage in them anyway, endlessly. We’ve tried to be different, but always fall backward, despite all the effort, the self-help books, maybe even the years of good therapy.
In cases like these, psychoanalysis may help. Psychoanalysis is an intensive way of working, one where you see your analyst multiple times a week and typically use the analytic couch. The couch allows you to tune in more easily to your innermost thoughts and say what comes to mind, unfiltered. As you build your relationship with your analyst, it becomes easier to reveal yourself. You begin to feel less weighed down, to better understand what you are feeling and just as importantly, why. Over time you begin to see the kind of mental landscape you have unconsciously painted for yourself.
This new awareness shapes a new way of looking at yourself and ultimately the world. It brings with it lots of changes; you stop getting in your own way and falling into the same traps. Your attitude towards others becomes healthier because you are less depressed, less anxious and defensive, and therefore readier to embark on positive relationships with others.
In my experience, people have been surprised at the level of change that can occur. People come to terms with family members, repair their financial health, stop depriving themselves of what is within professional and personal reach, make important life decisions about marriage and children. The list is endless and the benefits of psychoanalysis enduring.