What is Psychoanalysis?

Rather than the diagnostic categories as such, which are conceptual tools, psychoanalytic treatment is founded upon the work of exploration and analysis of the patient’s unconscious. It is the unconscious which contains the representatives of those desires and forms of satisfaction that the patient rejects and of which he or she does not want to know, but which end up ruling his or her life. This occurs in ways which are inaccessible to other forms of treatment and research into mental phenomena. In so far as those desires and modes of satisfaction remain under repression or some other form of psychical rejection, they undermine, and even cripple, the person’s efforts in his or her human relations and work.

Psychoanalytic treatment is oriented by general principles and concerns problems that can be perceived in a great number of individuals; but it cannot be dispensed as a ‘standard’ clinical practice, since the workings and pathological effects of the unconscious are unique. The treatment respects and preserves the singularity of the patient: the patient’s situation cannot be reduced to any generalized abstraction or compared with the situation of any other patient.

A psychoanalytic treatment aims at facilitating the emergence and development of the creative capacity that all human beings have and which is thwarted by pathological processes and their combination with adverse, traumatic life situations.

As a treatment psychoanalysis is no longer confined to neurotic disorders; it includes disorders that contemporary psychiatric classifications have variously called ‘psychoses’, ‘developmental disorders’, ‘anxiety disorders’, ‘depressive disorders’, ‘sexual perversions’ and other forms of mental disturbance, as well as human conflicts and tragedies that do not fit exactly with psychiatric diagnostic categories. The therapeutic field of psychoanalysis has also been extended to the treatment of human beings of all ages who suffer from the most diverse conditions, including those that are typically associated with particular stages in life.

Psychoanalysis, as well, has applications in fields other than the clinical (although always retaining conceptual and practical links with the different forms of human suffering and their treatment). As a conceptual and methodological instrument, psychoanalysis is firmly established in the work of social sciences, philosophy and the study of artistic creations.