Deciding to see a therapist is a big step; and for people with anxiety, it's the first one in what can be a life-altering journey.
If you're considering therapy for anxiety, make sure that you’re seeking the right type. Even with hundreds of therapy types out there for anxiety issues alone, psychoanalysis might be worth your consideration.
Here's how psychoanalysis can be beneficial for anxiety, when to seek treatment, and what happens in a typical session.
How psychoanalysis helps ease symptoms of anxiety
Sessions with a trained psychoanalyst are designed to help you gradually draw attention to the connection between your unconscious and the conscious.
With more knowledge about yourself and these two factors, you may observe or sense positive changes in:
- How you feel about yourself
- Your interactions in the world
- Your relationships
- How you work
- Your physiological (body-based) symptoms
Over time, the feeling of greater mastery of these areas may decrease your anxiety symptoms.
When to seek psychoanalysis for anxiety
Just like all therapy methods, there’s a time and a place for the use of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis might be best for you if:
- Your anxiety is disproportionate. This recurring feeling can be overwhelming, even when the precipitating event is objectively small. This shows there’s more under the surface.
- Your anxiety is getting into your relationships. This might look like repeated feelings of anxiety surrounding intimate or interpersonal relationships – which might cause conflict between you and your partner.
- You can’t turn your brain off. You have excessive worry, rumination, and difficulty making any decisions, even the day-to-day ones.
- You feel stuck. You feel like you’re repeating patterns that are not doing anything to help you, but are unsure how to "break free."
- Your past is on your mind. There’s something, some big event, that may not be obvious to others – but it affects you in ways you can guess at but don’t totally understand. In addition to making you feel anxious, this might also lead to symptoms of depression or anger.
- Your work really gets you wound up. Past the regular stress that comes with work, you might feel increasingly anxious about competing, functioning, performing and it’s something that you think about even outside of the work hours.
- Your creativity won’t flow. Whenever you sit down for a project or task, you feel a block and that causes feelings of debilitating anxiety.
What happens in a psychoanalytic session for anxiety
Psychoanalytic sessions will differ for each person, since you'll discuss your own personal background in depth. But you can expect a few key elements to remain consistent:
You'll discuss your incentive for seeking therapy
When first starting with this method, the analyst will gather an understanding about what brings you to treatment.
He or she might ask questions about childhood, early development, your current thoughts, feelings, and motivations for treatment.
Not only is this a time for learning about your background and who you are, but it is also a time for the two of you to build a trusting relationship.
You will try to speak freely and openly, allowing greater access to your unconscious
The therapist will then encourage you to try as much as possible to say whatever comes into your mind.
Without filtering what you say, you might start getting a sense of the thoughts and feelings behind your presenting problem. Any unfiltered reactions are helpful – whether they’re reactions to life events, a book, a bodily feeling, and also to the therapist.
There will be a period of intentional reflection about your dialogue
After you've expressed your reactions, the therapist will ask you to reflect on what you just said.
The focus might be on the way that you feel about that reaction, how it felt to say aloud. This increasing awareness to moments of feeling and the connected thoughts will ultimately be helpful when you begin to look at your reactions to anxiety.
From an awareness grows mastery over old, partially hidden, perhaps non-adaptive patterns from your unconscious.
When looking for a psychoanalytic therapist, prioritize personal fit and expertise in anxiety
As with any therapy or treatment, finding the right person to support you is detrimental and can make or break your progress.
Find a therapist who:
- Has worked in the past with individuals with similar presenting problems
- Has a deep understanding of the psychoanalytic method, including extra trainings and certifications
- Feels like he or she wants to work alongside you rather than just tell you what to do
Tapping into the unconscious is quite reasonably a difficult idea for most of us, but finding a good therapist who will support you in productive, individualized ways will not only make you feel comfortable, but help you reach your full potential as a client of psychoanalysis.