A Headshrinker's Guide to the Galaxy

Psychoanalytic wisdom for everyday life

Why Psychoanalysis? Series Introduction

The what's what of the world's oldest (psychological) profession

I’m about to embark on a series of posts to address an important question that is being raised a lot in my circles lately: Why psychoanalysis?  The inquiring minds of my psychoanalytic colleagues, professional organizations (the American Psychological Association and the International Psychoanalytic Association), patients, blog readers, and even my friends want to know what it's all about.

Derivatives of this question include: What is psychoanalysis? Is psychoanalysis dead or alive? Is psychoanalysis right for me? Does it really help? How will I know if it is working? What kind of changes would I expect to see? How long should it take? Does everyone need it? Do I need it?

With a little bit of Internet research, one can find all sorts of answers to these questions. Psychology Today bloggers certainly have weighed in over the years. Michael Bader wrote an interesting post in 2010 that’s worth checking out, We Need a Practical Psychoanalysis. Jonathan Alpert, a PT blogger, created quite a stir with his April 2012 Op Ed piece in the New York Times, In Therapy Forever? Enough Already. Gerri Luce, Tyger Latham, and yours truly all had a few things to say about Alpert’s ideas.

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Views of psychoanalysis run the gamut from those that worship to those that demonize; from those that express gratitude to those that express contempt; written by those that, as outsiders, know not of what they speak to those that, as insiders, know very much of what they speak. Critics are plentiful, some with acerbic attacks and some with thoughtful insights. When it comes to these myriad views, I’ve got to tip my proverbial hat to the New York Times; the Times is an equal opportunity reporter on the subject of psychoanalysis, spotlighting the failures and the successes, the pending death and the growing vitality of psychoanalysis. With so many conflicting views, it’s enough to make your head spin.

Since I have the honor of writing a blog for PT specifically about psychoanalysis for a general audience, I figure it’s time to put my platform to good use by addressing the most basic questions about psychoanalysis in our current culture and context. I hope to add a thoughtful, experienced, insider point of view which might clear up the picture, if only a bit and if only for a few.

Finding some answers to these questions is important to me and I think it is especially important for those seeking mental health treatment. After all, addressing such questions should be more than some ivory tower debate about the fate of psychoanalysis. It should be an outreach to real people who are trying to cope better with the real challenges of their lives.

If you are a person seeking help with your psychological troubles, you are the audience for this series. I understand that you need to know which modalities could help you and how—and whether or not the great investment required of psychoanalytic treatment could really be worth it to you. Psychoanalysis is not for everyone. But it might be for you. Whether it is or not, I hope I can shed some light on these important questions and help you find your way.

 Copyright 2014 Jennifer Kunst, Ph.D.

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Jennifer Kunst, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, working with adults and couples in her private practice in Pasadena, CA.

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