The talking cure

Psychotherapy is a rather generic term – social workers, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists can all call themselves therapists.Psychoanalysis is an experience – you cannot call yourself a psychoanalyst without having done your own analysis. The same is not always true for psychotherapy – not all psychotherapists have gone through their own therapy.

Before there was psychotherapy, however, there was psychoanalysis. Freud invented the psychoanalytic method, or the talking cure, together with his friend and mentor Breuer, a Viennese psychiatrist, who worked with female hysterics (an old-fashioned diagnostic term for what today is classified as conversion disorder).

In his work with his patient Anna O., a pseudonym for Bertha Pappenheim, one of the first feminists, Breuer discovered that after she was able to speak about the origin of her symptoms, they disappeared. Hence, the talking cure.

The difference

The presumption that talking has healing powers fuels many psychotherapeutic practices today. No one argues against that. What is the difference between psychotherapy and psychoanalysis then?

First, psychotherapy deals with what we call theego, theIor the active agency with which you make decisions on a daily basis. In contrast, psychoanalysis deals with theunconscious– those experiences that are beyond language, outside of our awareness; the part of us that was vastly suppressed by culture, social norms, rules and regulations.

Second, the goals of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy are also different. Psychotherapy attempts to restore a persons relationship to the social norms and regulations, while psychoanalysis works to restore a persons relationship to their sexuality. Psychotherapy works to strengthen the ego, while psychoanalysis works to strengthen the subjects relationship to their own unconscious.

A different therapeutic relationship

Psychotherapists use their relationship with you, the client, to influence your decision-making, to teach coping strategies, change behaviors or thoughts, and to modify the ways you relate to others. Psychoanalysts use their relationship with you to help you reorganize the way you relate to yourself and your body with all of its human qualities. What happens with your relationships afterwards is secondary and entirely up to you!

To put this visually for you, I created the following infographic:

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