Psychoanalysis began with the work of Sigmund Freud but has evolved and changed over the years to incorporate the contributions and work of many. In our complex world, a contemporary form of psychoanalysis is a treatment for emotional discomfort or pain, an avenue for self-discovery and personal growth, and a means toward establishing and enhancing relationships with others and the world at large. Contemporary psychoanalysis is an interpersonal experience that emphasizes the healing properties of two or more people collaboratively making sense of life in ways that are meaningful to the client. Unlike traditional psychoanalysis which holds the analyst as an authority regarding what is true about the client, contemporary perspectives emphasize the meaning of the client’s unique and subjective experiences. Based on current psychoanalytic studies plus research in child development, memory, neuro-biology, and culture, contemporary psychoanalysis is an advanced method for making sense of ourselves and the world around us. Today, psychoanalysis is as strikingly different from Freudian analysis as modern physics is from the work of Newton. Psychoanalysis provides a comprehensive understanding of an individual’s life. In contemporary psychoanalytic approaches, the analyst is always participating in the therapeutic situation and, therefore, works to understand the patterns of relating between client and analyst.
By focusing on the relationship with the analyst, contemporary psychoanalysis creates an intensity of experience that often leads to transformation. There are many other psychotherapies, and they vary widely in their purposes, frequency of meetings, and comprehensiveness. Some approaches focus on changing behaviors, others on thought patterns, others on problem-solving, and still others on expressing emotions. Contemporary psychoanalysis potentially incorporates many diverse ideas and approaches depending upon the client’s unique and personal needs. An analyst trained in contemporary psychoanalysis focuses not just on past experiences, but also on the here-and-now of an individual’s experiences and relationships. Attachments, separations, and losses beginning in infancy influence one’s personality, as do current contexts of living, working, and loving. A contemporary psychoanalyst is interested in mutually exploring your past and present experiences and relationships. He or she participates in a dialogue with you to develop understandings about your life. A psychoanalyst is an experienced, licensed mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, counselor, or clinical nurse specialist who has completed advanced training at a psychoanalytic institute. The advanced training consists of three parts: four years of classes in psychoanalytic theory and technique, a personal analysis, and case supervision. Analysts who treat children, adolescents, and families receive further training and case supervision.