Psychoanalysis began as a method for treating emotional suffering. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the founder of psychoanalysis, made many discoveries by studying patients with symptoms such as excessive anxiety (fear that is not realistic) or paralysis for which no physical cause could be found. He became the first psychoanalyst (often called analyst) when he developed the method of free association, in which he encouraged his patients to say whatever came to mind about their symptoms and their lives. He found that by talking in this way, his patients discovered feelings and thoughts they had not known they had. When they became aware of these unconscious thoughts and feelings, their symptoms lessened or disappeared.
Psychoanalysis as a form of psychotherapy continues to be an effective method for treating certain forms of emotional suffering, such as anxieties and inhibitions (inner constraints) that interfere with success in school, work, or relationships. It is based on the understanding that each individual is unique, that the past shapes the present, and that factors outside people's awareness influence their thoughts, feelings, and actions. As a comprehensive treatment, it has the potential to change many areas of a person's functioning. Although modern psychoanalysis is different in many ways from whatwas practiced in Freud's era, talking and listening remain important. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is a modified form of psychoanalysis, usually with less frequent meetings and more modest goals.
From the beginning, psychoanalysis was more than just a treatment. It was, and continues to be, a method for investigating the mind and a theory to explain both everyday adult behavior and child development. Many of Freud's insights, which seemed so revolutionary at the beginning of the twentieth century, are now widely accepted by various schools of psychological thought and form the basis for several theories of psychological motivation, most theories of child development, and all forms of psychodynamic psychotherapy. Some of Freud's ideas, such as his theories about women, turned out to be wrong and were revised by other psychoanalysts during the 1970's and 1980's. Other ideas, such as those about the nature of dreams, although rejected by some scientists during the 1980's and 1990's, were revisited by other scientists by the beginning of the twenty-first century. Psychoanalytic ideas and concepts are used in communities to solve problems such as bullying in schools and can be applied in many other fields of study.
In the early years of psychoanalysis, Freud trained most psychoanalysts. Later, different schools of psychoanalytic thought branched out from this original source. Groups of psychoanalysts joined together in organizations, and each organization developed its own standards for training psychoanalysts. There were no nationally accepted standards for psychoanalytic training in the United States until the beginning of the twenty-first century, when several of these groups joined together to establish an Accreditation Council of Psychoanalytic Education. This council agreed to core standards for psychoanalytic institutes (schools that train psychoanalysts). Psychoanalytic psychotherapy, while practiced by trained psychoanalysts, is also practiced by psychotherapists, who are not trained as psychoanalysts.
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