A theoretical orientation developed by the Austrian doctor Sigmund Freud which delineates methods for investigating psychological functioning, theories about human behavior, and treatment modalities for psychological and/or emotional problems. In classical Freudian psychoanalysis the analyst listens to a patient’s thoughts and dreams, interpreting them for the patient and bringing unconscious conflicts to light. Many other psychoanalytic approaches exist, today, however.
Psychoanalysis can be looked at in two ways, as a type of treatment or as a theory. The theory is largely based on human nature and the individuality of people (in short what makes each person tick, what motivates them to do something). In this case, we are talking about the term as a treatment.
Professionals use psychoanalysis to try and understand patterns that arise from the unconscious mind of the client. A typical session involves the client speaking freely to the therapist who listens intently and tries to find the root causes of current issues in that person’s life.
Example: A Freudian psychoanalyst suggests to his patient that a terrifying teacher figure in her nightmares could represent the patient’s own overbearing mother.
A great resource for a more in-depth look at psychoanalysis can be found here: http://www.apsa.org/