Psychotherapy or Jungian Psychoanalysis?

In this entry I want to say something that could be helpful in deciding among psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and Jungian analysis.  People offering these services may be M.D.’s (psychiatrists) Ph.D.’s (psychologists or other advanced clinical disciplines), L.C.S.W.’s (Licensed Clinical Social Workers) or M.F.T.’s (Marriage, Family, Child Therapists). These specializations each offer ways to work with problems that surface in our emotional and relational lives.  They usually involve the patient coming to a set place at a specific time to talk about the problems they are wrestling with in life, and to talk about what they think and feel about them.  The therapist or analyst makes room for the patient to bring their concerns as fully as they can.  This requires a contraction of the sort of everyday kinds of interactions we have in social situations.  Therapists and analysts strive to practice the art of listening, which means knowing how to help others tell their story, and particularly being skilled at assisting to tell those parts of the story for which there are not yet words, maybe not even consciousness.  Perhaps the story is embedded in a feeling in the body or within an as yet to be reckoned with dream.   The work of a skilled helper lies in patiently being with another person in ways that may not know the untold and unknown story but sense that it is there and respect what it has to say.

In this way, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and Jungian analysis are built on a working relationship between the patient and the therapist or analyst.  The working relationship, as well as the structure or frame for the work, are what allow for the safety required to tell the story that needs to be accepted and narrated.  They each rely on unconscious dimensions of the helping relationship, usually referred to as “transference” and “countertransference”  or in a more modern view based on field theory stressing the mutual nature of therapeutic interaction, the transference matrix or something like that.

So what are the differences between psychotherapy and analysis?   It is hard to generalize and in truth there are more commonalities than differences. In brief, however, the differences between therapists and analysts often lie in the level of experience and education – although there are psychotherapists who are not analysts and have been practicing for decades while there are new analysts who have not been practicing as long.  However  psychoanalysts have always been psychotherapists prior to the long training it takes to become certified as an analyst, so there is often more experience and there is certainly a specialized, long period of education and training.  Additionally, to become an analyst one is required to undergo his or her own extensive personal analysis as well as receiving many more hours of close supervision of clinical work by senior analysts. This is not a requirement for psychotherapists.

Now what about the difference between Jungian and other types of psychoanalysts?  Jungian analysis, in contrast to its Freudian counterpart, is not defined by a particular number of sessions per week or by the patient  laying on a couch.  People can come one or more times each week and most do not lie down when they are in the consulting room.  Rather, Jungian analysis is characterized more fully by its openness to working with the patient’s unconscious through dreams and other creative processes, and are usually interested in looking at present and future development rather than focusing more exclusively on influences from the past.  Jungians are also very interested in the spirit, as reflected in symbols, myths, stories, and the arts, and often rely on methods of working that engage the imaginative faculty of the mind to deepen understanding.  Like their Freudian counterparts, Jungian analysts also rely heavily on the therapeutic relationship as a means of promoting change and development.

Meta-analysis (compiling many individual studies and looking at their results as a whole) of many research studies of the effectiveness of psychotherapy and analysis show that the various schools of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis – whether Freudian, Jungian, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – are effective to the degree that the patient experiences the therapist or analyst as caring.  To talk about caring in this respect is not about sentiment or pity.  It is more a way of talking about the ability to help another based on the finely honed skill of empathic listening: being able to really “see” who the other person is, as he or she reveals him or herself to us.  To do this effectively often takes years of learning, mostly about how to get out of the way of a natural unfolding process.  But there is something more, and that is the experience of knowing oneself, particularly one’s own blind spots and what we Jungians call “complexes.”  What effective therapists and analysts do is to hold their reactions and work with them, using their own humanity as a way into understanding the experience of the patient more fully and realistically.

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