- Evelyn Aizenberg Psy.D, LMFT
Relational Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Relational psychotherapy examines the impact early relationships, as well as current ones, have on the client's sense of self and feelings of well-being, and utilizes the interactions and emotional experiences that transpire between the client and the therapist to help the client better understand patterns that exist in all of his other relationships.
What is the difference between psychoanalytic therapy and other types of psychotherapy?
Psychoanalysis is a type of psychotherapy and that the two have many similarities. However, there are several features that distinguish psychoanalytic therapy from other modes of treatment. The first difference is the therapy goal. Some therapy models attempt to solve a specific problem or change behavior. In psychoanalytic therapy, the focus is on self-understanding, especially parts of ourselves that are usually unconscious and therefore outside of our awareness.
A second difference is the structural. In psychoanalytic psychotherapy the client may have two to four sessions a week. The frequency creates an intensity in the treatment, gives important and meaningful feelings the opportunity to emerge, and facilitates the best possible environment for wished for changes to occur. In psychoanalytic therapy the client can choose to lie down on the couch with the therapist sitting out of the client's sight. This can facilitate feelings of safety, and can help the client be more open and introspective. In relational psychoanalytic therapy, however, the client may prefer to face the therapist, due to the need to stay connected to the therapist.
Another distinction of psychoanalytic therapy is the emphasis on the relationship between the therapist and the client. Relational therapists believe that patterns of the client's ways of relating, will emerge in the therapeutic relationship. Examining these patterns gives both participants a firsthand experience of what the patient may encounter in his life, and gives them an opportunity to address these patterns directly in the hear and now.
Why choose relational psychoanalytic therapy?
As stated earlier, psychoanalytic therapy is a process that can be lengthy, expensive, and time-consuming. Why would you be interested in this type of therapy, then, when other modes of therapy promise quicker results? The answer is that psychoanalytic therapy may be the most effective way of treatment to certain situations.
1) You experience repetitive, long standing problems, that have a serious negative impact on your life, such as constantly getting involved in unsatisfying relationships, failure to fulfill your potential and achieve your goals, feeling that you cannot be your authentic self or act freely and spontaneously, or you suffer a long history of depression and anxiety. Despite the fact that other modes of therapy might address specific crisis situations or certain behaviors, psychoanalysis is often times a better answer to more pervasive issues.
2) You are not sure what the source of your problem is. You find yourself repeatedly acting in a way that is opposed to how you wanted to act, without understanding why. Psychoanalysis is based on the belief that there are feelings and thoughts that exist outside of our awareness, that have a significant impact on our choices in life. Psychoanalytic therapy can help you gain access to hidden parts of yourself, thus give you more freedom to choose your behaviors. Examples of such tendency that may suggest an unconscious conflicts include being attracted time after time to people who mistreat you, physical symptoms that have no medical basis, sexual difficulties, or procrastination.
3) Other forms of therapy have not been helpful or not helpful enough to help you resolve your problems. Once a week therapy can be effective with helping overcome a symptom such as compulsive behaviors or panic attacks. However, if you feel stuck after a long period of therapy, you may want to consider psychoanalytic therapy. It is not recommended to begin psychoanalysis when in the midst of a crisis, though, as the psychoanalytic process can be stressful and might make you feel worse before you start to feel better. It is preferred, then, to be in a relatively stable place in your life when beginning this exploratory work.