What is Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is similar to psychotherapy. It encourages the verbalization of all the person’s thoughts, including free associations, fantasies, and dreams, from which the analyst formulates the nature of the unconscious conflicts which are causing the person’s symptoms and character problems. Its primary focus is to reveal the unconscious content of a person’s mind in an effort to alleviate emotional distress.

The analyst’s focus is to uncover the source of maximum anxiety during the initial sessions. Attempts are made to formulate the causes of this anxiety, relate it to a principal underlying unconscious conflict, and demonstrate how a greater understanding of this conflict alleviates suffering. The course of the analysis involves a deepening understanding of this conflict and it’s origins.

Psychoanalysis is distinguished from other therapies in the way it focuses on the development of the transference reactions and how it attempts to systematically analyze transference phenomena. Transference denotes the experience of feelings which do not fit that person but actually apply to another. A person in the present is actually reacted to as though he/she were a person in the past. There is an error in time. Transference occurs inside and outside analysis. All human relationships contain mixture of transference and realistic elements.

However, the intensity or over reaction (i.e. to being kept waiting, or jealousy over other patients) is the key to understanding transference. Transference reactions are repetitions of the past; ways of avoiding memory. Transference reactions are more apt to occur toward people who perform functions similar to parents; they also occur to animals and institutions. A patient’s inability to feel anger toward the analyst may stem from childhood defenses that he/she learned as the best way to prevent terrible quarrels with his father. He/she strove to refrain from any awareness of anger and thus adopted an attitude of passive blandness.

There are two outstanding characteristics of transference: its repetition and its inappropriateness.


Not all reactions to the analyst are transference. If the patient is angry with the analyst, one has to ask ones self, does the analyst’s behavior justify the patient’s anger? For example, if the analyst answers telephone, and the patient gets angry, this is appropriate. If the patient becomes furious, then it’s transference. One should help the patient see the repetition and transfer of attitudes toward the parents of the past to present relationships.

Tenacious: Transference can also be tenacious. The patient may need to hold onto seeing the analyst in a particular way; to repeat a particular view of the analyst as a way of remembering and working through it. Patients have to be helped to remember, via the transference, the figures of his/her past first, be shown how he/she extends that experience onto the present, particularly in the transference, before they can see you and others as different than their parents.

A person meets 3 to 5 times a week in psychoanalysis. The increased frequency of meetings allows an analysis of the transference, because all of one’s effort isn’t required to help with daily problems of life. Psychoanalysis is the one form of therapy that allows for a substantial change in personality.

Dr. Daniel Paul provides caring psychoanalysis in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. Contact his LA counseling office for more information, at 310-908-9708.