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Psychoanalytic therapy originated over one hundred years ago with the theories of Sigmund Freud. According to Freud, a person’s behaviour is determined by unconscious motivations and other irrational forces, including biological and instinctual drives, as well as certain psychosexual events that occur early in life. From Freud’s perspective, the goal of psychoanalysis is to make unconscious motives conscious, so that the individual can exercise proper choice and resolve past issues.

Psychoanalytic therapy focuses on the underlying, often unconscious, source of an individual’s emotional or mental problems. It is based on the idea that much of our behaviour, thoughts and beliefs, are regulated by the unconscious part of our mind and are therefore not always within ordinary conscious control.

By inviting the client to talk, the psychoanalytic therapist helps them to reveal unconscious needs, motivations, wishes and memories, in order to gain conscious control of their life. In doing this, the therapist enables the client to become more aware of how these unconscious motivations influence their current behaviour and feelings, and helps them find ways to resolve past issues and conflict. The psychoanalytic therapist may also employ psychoanalytic techniques, such as free association and dream interpretation, to further uncover unconscious material.

Unlike other types of therapy, there is no specific time limit on psychoanalytic therapy. Some patients may see benefits in a short period of time, while others may continue treatment for some years.