Psychoanalysis is a method of observation and investigation of the human mind. It endeavors to understand and to explain mental functioning with the aim of achieving therapeutic goals for the patient. It is, therefore, also a therapeutic method of treating the conflicts and difficulties of the patient. Psychoanalytic observation and technique has made it possible to develop a psychological theory of behavior and of the human mind.
Although discovered by Sigmund Freud more than a century ago, psychoanalytic method has evolved considerably since its early beginnings through the work of Freud´s followers.
The method consists in creating stable work conditions for the patient and the psychoanalyst. They agree to meet in 45-50 minute sessions several times a week (4 or 5, and in some cases 3) for a number of years, this being that the understanding of unconscious processes, the origin of the patient´s problems and internal changes require long and diligent work.
Psychoanalytic theory suggests that not only constitutional as well genetic factors constitute the personality and lack of stability. There are also other important influences such as the experience of birth, early relationships with parents, sexuality, loss, fear, and one´s way of experiencing anxiety. These crucial experiences within the family environment gradually establish specific patterns of feeling, of fantasy, and of unconscious as well as of interpersonal relationships, all of which are at the root of the problems of the person who seeks help.
Nowadays empirical studies support the validity of psychoanalytic treatment.
In addition to the practice of psychoanalysis, the majority of psychoanalysts also apply their training tomany different tasks other than psychoanalysis such as psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy, brief psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, and family therapy. They may use their training in many different areas and disciplines. For instance in medicine, psychiatry, clinical psychology, education, university teaching, the social sciences and the humanities. In these diverse scopes which are not, strictly speaking, within a psychoanalytic frame, interdisciplinary cooperation is promoted, which facilitates and stimulates an exchange of thoughts and experiences.