What Is Psychoanalysis?

Theodore Jacobs, MD

Although psychoanalysis is a huge topic, and really impossible to summarize even at length, the following is a highly abbreviated description by Theodore Jacobs, MD. Dr. Jacobs is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and training and supervising analyst at The New York Psychoanalytic Institute and The Institute for Psychoanalytic Education, where he is also a child supervising analyst. He is the author of more than 60 psychoanalytic papers and three books, the most recent of which is, The Year of Durocher (2013, Bookstand Publishing), a comic, coming of age novel.

Psychoanalysis is an intensive form of psychological treatment whose aim is to alleviate long-standing emotional and psychological problems by understanding and altering their root causes so as to create more satisfactory solutions to these ongoing difficulties.

Originated more than a century ago by Dr. Sigmund Freud, who was the first to recognize a connection between unconscious mental processes and certain troubling physical and emotional symptoms in the patients who consulted him, psychoanalysis is unique among the healing professions in seeking to elucidate and modify these unconscious forces in order to effect change.

In this regard, psychoanalysis differs from other therapeutic approaches, which, generally speaking, have more limited aims, focus more narrowly on current problems of living, and are conducted on a less frequent basis.  While some psychotherapies stress the importance of insight and make use of modified analytic techniques in pursuit of their goals, others utilize more directive methods such as suggestion, support, guidance, and behavioral modification techniques.

Because the problems that psychoanalysis typically addresses have been in existence for many years, to effect change it is necessary for the treatment to be carried out in a consistent and sustained manner and with enough frequency to overcome the mind’s natural tendency to remain static and to resist change.