Jungian Analysis

What is the difference between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy?
The short answer is that analysis requires more training of the analyst, is more effective, and goes to a deeper level.

Here’s the longer answer:

  • Only someone who has completed a post-graduate analytic training program at an authorized institute is qualified to practice psychoanalysis.
  •  The goal of analysis is to become more aware of what has been unconscious, in order to bring about significant personal change, rather than just immediate symptom relief.
  •  In order to do this, analysis focuses on process—what happens in the sessions themselves—in addition to content, the events of our lives.

The historical differences between traditional Freudian psychoanalysis, and psychotherapy were that analysis required attending 3-5 sessions per week, and that in analysis the patient laid down on a couch, facing away from the analyst, while psychotherapy did not require so many meetings, and patient and analyst sat face-to-face.

The distinctions between the two are no longer so clear, however, and are more a matter of degree. Much of the psychotherapy that is done these days is described as “psychoanalytic psychotherapy,” and is based on the technique of analysis, understanding unconscious process by watching what happens in the therapy session, even if there are only one or two meetings each week. Further, most schools of analysis, other than Freudian, sit face-to-face rather than using the couch model.

The media have often portrayed analysis as imposing a cold, authoritarian relation between patient and analyst. Thankfully, this is usually not the case. In contrast, many people say that the therapeutic relationship itself was the most helpful aspect of their work.

Analytic training takes place after receiving a graduate degree, and includes the analyst going through their own analysis so that their personal issues don’t get in the way of the therapeutic process. This broader and more intensive training helps the analyst to see and work more deeply, with a better understanding of what actually happens in the session itself.

How is Jungian analysis different from other forms of analysis and therapy?
C. G.  Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist for whom Jungian analysis is named, split from Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, when their ideas were no longer compatible. Disagreeing with Freud, Jung felt that we had many motivations other than the sexual drive, and that one of these motivations was actually for the process of psychological growth.

Jung’s idea was that we develop symptoms when we fail to integrate the many potential aspects of our personality. Failure to do this is often what causes the psychological problems that bring us into therapy. If we don’t understand these deeper causes, the problems are likely to resurface in other ways, such as relationship problems or emotional blocks.

The focus in Jungian analysis is less on a reductive understanding (for instance, how our parents’ shortcomings led to our difficulties), and more on a prospective understanding: What are we trying unconsciously to work out through our problems?  It is certainly important to understand how the deficits and trauma of our history affects us, but it is just as important to understand our inner need to grow into the unique people we potentially are.

The basic goal and attitude of Jungian analysis is to build an ongoing relationship with the unconscious. Rather than seeing it merely as the repository of repressed memories, Jung viewed the unconscious as a source of direction and healing. At the same time, this unconscious also contains our dark side, which is important to face directly and come to terms with.

One of the ways that Jungians actually do this is by working with symbols—images that come up in dreams, imagination, creative projects, and the events of our lives. Symbols carry enormous energy because they connect unconscious and conscious layers of the mind, and they represent the universal, human developmental processes that Jung called archetypes. Recognizing these patterns of experience can help us to facilitate our growth as humans.

Jungian work is explicit in its respect for spirituality, the arts and the unconscious. Jung encouraged us to learn about human development by understanding mythology and religion. His followers have continued to develop these ideas, also using research from science and other schools of therapy.