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Understanding the Principles of Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is a branch of psychology that specifically delves into the unconscious state of the human mind. Nationally certified psychoanalyst Williard Ashley Sr. employs this therapeutic technique in his practice in Montclair, N.J.

Psychoanalysis traces its origin to the late 19th century and to Sigmund Freud, the Austrian physician who pioneered the study of human emotions and related behavior. His study of the unconscious came about somewhat by accident, however, when he encountered the patient of a fellow doctor who was experiencing symptoms of an illness that could not be explained through normal medical practices. The underlying reasons could only be revealed through the study of the person's thoughts that had over time been repressed. This theory was developed into the practical science of psychoanalysis, the name invented by Freud himself.

The basics of psychoanalysis were themselves expanded upon by the followers of Freud, including psychiatrist Carl Jung and philosopher Erich Fromm. Despite some differences in opinion about its basic tenets, the principles of psychoanalysis would become an important role in psychological treatments in the 20th century.

Under psychoanalytic principles, the development of the human mind is largely determined by experiences occurring early in childhood. Additionally, the behavior of humans later in life can be traced to the unconscious mind and are directly related to these repressed thoughts. A conflict between the conscious and unconscious mind can create psychological problems that include anxiety, depression and the illness known as neurosis. Psychoanalysis works through the way it reveals to the patient thoughts that have been repressed.

Unconscious thoughts are brought to the conscious level through different psychoanalytic techniques, including dream analysis and through inadvertent comments made by the patient. Commonly referred to as "Freudian slips," these comments can be useful in helping the therapist understand the underlying issues affecting the patient. The main principle of this type of treatment involves what is known as transference, in which a patient will relive and convert thoughts into outward behavior, which can range from anger to feelings of love.

A typical psychoanalytical treatment period will involve as many as five sessions per week that last last 45 minutes. The term "on the couch" is appropriate because the patient is normally in a reclined position while the therapist is out of direct view. This technique enables the patient to better recount and the therapist to better understand these hidden thoughts, dreams and fantasies. The therapist will occasionally intervene, perhaps asking the patient to elaborate on specific thoughts or to clarify certain issues.

Psychoanalysis does require the proper "fitting" of patient and therapist. Patients should have a desire to understand the origin of their thoughts and, in turn, the underlying cause of their problems. Those who lack this desire may not be suitable for psychoanalysis and may require some other type of psychological treatment. Psychoanalyst Willard Ashley Sr. is available to help his patients obtain the treatment that is best for them.

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