Psychoanalysis in Psychology

Psychoanalysis is a specialty in psychology that is distinguished from other specialties by its body of knowledge and its intensive treatment approaches. It aims at structural changes and modifications of a person's personality. Psychoanalysis promotes awareness of unconscious, maladaptive and habitually recurrent patterns of emotion and behavior, allowing previously unconscious aspects of the self to become integrated and promoting optimal functioning, healing and creative expression.

Advanced Scientific and Theoretical Knowledge Germane to the Specialty

Psychoanalytic training typically requires four to eight years of advanced study after completion of a doctoral degree in psychology acceptable to the American Board of Professional Psychology.

It requires specialized training at free-standing psychoanalytic institutes, postdoctoral university programs, or an equivalent training secured independently that is acceptable to the American Board and Academy of Psychoanalysis.

Preparation typically follows a tripartite model of personal and training analysis, didactic coursework, and supervised work with patients in analysis. 

Training institutes base their educational models on diverse psychoanalytic traditions including classical Freudian analysis, ego psychology, object relations, self psychology, relational analysis, Lacanian psychoanalysis, Jungian psychoanalysis, developmental and archetypal perspectives, and new emerging approaches including neuropsychoanalysis [eclectic] approaches. These models are continually augmented and revised by analytic experience, clinical outcomes, ongoing research and advances in related health care and basic science fields.

Parameters to Define Professional Practice in Psychoanalysis in Psychology

Professional practice requires the completion of a postdoctoral psychoanalytic training program, and the successful completion of the board examination process of the American Board and Academy of Psychoanalysis.


Psychoanalysis in psychology has expanded from a primary focus on the individual to include the treatment of couples, families and groups. There is extensive research literature supporting successful psychoanalytic treatments for these populations.

Biographical and cultural analyses of historical figures and human productions, such as works of art and literature, have also been subject to psychoanalytic investigation.


Psychoanalysis in psychology addresses a wide range of human relational problems and emotional health problems in adults, adolescents and children.


Analytic procedures vary with the approach and the patient's needs:

  • Psychoanalytic assessment of cognitive and emotional functioning.
  • Regular appointments as determined by analyst and patient.
  • Attention to boundary issues and a consistent frame of treatment.
  • Investigation of significant present and past relationships.
  • Attention to the analyst/patient relationship and its complexities.
  • Attention to the symbolic meaning of emotional and physical symptoms, and the systematic integration of insights.
  • Use of empathy, free association, active imagination, dream analysis.