Psychoanalysis is a method of profound inquiry into oneself, conducted with the personal, close guidance of a highly trained professional. It is based on the fundamental understanding that much of mental and emotional life proceeds outside of conscious awareness, and therefore is not directly accessible to us. In particular, much human suffering is a consequence of unconscious feelings and beliefs. We literally cannot say what most deeply troubles us. As a result, conscious understanding of our difficulties is often insufficient to relieve anxiety symptoms or to prevent us from repeating painful patterns again and again.

The analytic process allows unconscious feelings and thoughts to come alive in the treatment itself, where they can be recognized and understood, and ultimately modified. To this end, psychoanalysis is intensive, requiring frequent one-on-one sessions – typically four or five sessions weekly – over a number of years. By providing access to unconscious layers of the mind, psychoanalysis offers the potential to achieve thorough and lasting freedom and fulfillment in central aspects of life, such as relationships, work, and self-experience.

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Psychotherapy is a term covering a wide range of interventions intended to alleviate unhappiness, anxiety, and symptoms, and to enhance personal fulfillment. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is a therapy method based on the fundamental understanding of human mental and emotional life that has been revealed by psychoanalysis. However, unlike psychoanalytic treatment itself, psychoanalytic psychotherapy involves a less intensive self-exploration, with sessions scheduled less frequently than in analysis. Although not as thorough an investigation into unconscious aspects of the mind as analysis, psychoanalytic psychotherapy nonetheless is often able to provide powerful self understanding and relief of suffering.  In many cases, the choice of psychoanalysis versus psychoanalytic psychotherapy for a specific individual hinges on practical considerations.

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If you are wondering whether psychoanalysis or psychoanalytic psychotherapy is for you, then chances are you are feeling unfulfilled in some important area of life, or you are dealing with emotional suffering, or you feel trapped by repetitive and unproductive patterns of behavior, or you are thirsting for deeper self-knowledge – perhaps all four.  Determining the best route for you is a complex and highly individual question, one that can’t be boiled down to simple guidelines. The best way to explore the question is through a consultation with an experienced psychoanalytic clinician, who has been trained to think deeply about such questions. A consultation usually involves several meetings in which you will be helped to explore that nature of your concerns and hopes, and helped to decide whether psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, or some alternative method is most likely to be best for you.

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Whether to train as a psychoanalytic clinician is a complex question, best approached through dialogue with knowledgeable mentors, colleagues, and faculty members in psychoanalytic education. BPSI welcomes inquiries and recognizes the complexity of each person’s unique considerations. Training requires a major commitment of time and other personal resources. It involves personal analytic treatment, several years of classroom study, and supervised clinical practice. Clinicians who choose this intensive path are those for whom other approaches to their work, as advocated by other treatment modalities, have proven incomplete or unsatisfying. They are clinicians who value deep engagement in the inner lives of those whom they wish to help, and who wish to learn to use themselves as transformative agents in the growth of others.

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