Experiences of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

Below are some accounts of people who have been in psychoanalytic psychoanalytic psychotherapy.
Mr. H's experiences in his own words...

I found therapy because I couldn’t bear living with disturbing thoughts and bodily sensations on my own, though I was in my 50s before I felt able to ask for help. Therapy gives me perspective on ideas which might otherwise rapidly grow into impossible situations in my head, and I’ve felt able to do ordinary things and get closer to other people as a result. I still find it hard to share my thoughts, but it’s far worse to be alone.

Mr. J's experiences in his own words...

My experience started with couples therapy. This was something I was very sure I didn’t want to do, but despite this, eventually I accepted that it was better than the alternatives.

Couples therapy was as tough but more interesting than I had expected. Throughout the 12 months we attended, our therapist intermittently suggested that we both start individual therapy, and towards the end of the year we both decided to take her advice – this wasn’t something I wanted to do; it really just felt like I had run out of reasons not to.

This was how I started individual therapy – nervous, reluctant, and feeling like I had painted myself into a corner. It took me about a year of weekly sessions to trust the therapist; after which I slowly started realising how useful it might be.

I ended up going once a week for about 4½ years. Looking back on it I would say that it was genuinely very hard work – there was often a strong temptation to avoid it, either by not attending, or by not being truly present. But I persevered, and slowly realised that it was helping me in some important ways that made it more than worth the effort, time and money.

I think as a direct result of therapy I have become more understanding, accepting and forgiving of who I am, and more able to think clearly about what I am doing, and why I am doing it. It’s hard to overstate how important this is: if you can accept and forgive your own weaknesses, a lot of pressure comes off, and you have a much better chance of successfully living with or even overcoming them.

These I suppose were things I had expected or at least hoped to get from it. But what came as a surprise – it almost feels like a side-effect – was the way it has helped me to understand and accept other people, the things they do, and the reasons they might be doing them.

In this way the things I learned through therapy have proven useful in pretty much every situation I find myself in, on a daily basis – as a father, son, friend, lover, colleague, team-mate, adversary, or when I’m just sitting by myself trying to decide what to do with my evening.

Mr B's experiences in his own words...

I decided to have therapy because I was struggling with work/life balance and not always finding it easy to keep things in perspective.  As a result, there was more stress and unhappiness in my life than I felt was normal and healthy.

I started off doing some psychotherapy. After a couple of years my therapist said he thought I should see a psychoanalyst. I was very apprehensive about it initially and rejected the suggestion. But after overcoming my initial skepticism I did it, eventually progressing from sitting in a comfy armchair to lying on a couch, unpicking a range of different issues relating to my life up to that point. Some of the subjects we talked about didn’t feel like they were part of the problem but discussing them became part of the solution.

Sometimes my sessions were weekly, sometimes twice weekly depending on my work commitments. I always led the conversation and my analyst would comment on my train of thought where he felt he could add something, or make a connection that I hadn’t spotted. I’m sure there were a few sessions where he didn’t say anything at all and I questioned the whole endeavor. But in hindsight I can see the value of this approach.

The most important thing, I think, is to find an analyst who you like and trust; this is crucial. If you’re spending time with someone and opening up to them you need to feel comfortable in their approach and their methods. You need to feel safe.

The whole process was very helpful, resolving how I felt about a wide range of emotional issues. It enabled me to be much clearer about what I wanted to get out of life at a time when I felt I couldn’t always untangle competing priorities.

I would recommend analysis to anyone giving it serious thought. It may not resolve everything but I am sure it will help. Its not a simple or a quick fix solution and you do have to work at it. But for me it was a classic case of getting out what I put in. I put in a lot and felt much better for it. I am pleased I did it and would do it again if I felt I needed to…

Next Steps

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“Beauty has no obvious use, nor is there any clear cultural necessity for it. Yet civilisation could not do without it.”

Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents