Sunday, May 15, 2011

No, I'm not analyzing you!

Whenever I tell someone that I'm a psychotherapist they almost always respond by asking, "So, are you, like, analyzing me right now?"  Um, no.  When someone asks if I'm "analyzing" them I assume they are referring to psychoanalysis.  Everyone seems to have some vague idea of what psychoanalysis is but if people fully understood what it entails they would know that one person does not psychoanalyze another by observing his or her social interactions (while simultaneously trying to socialize with him or her, I might add).  In fact, I would argue that even if I was a psychoanalyst - which I'm not (more on that in a minute) - it would be difficult if not impossible to conduct an analysis under such circumstances.  A psychoanalyst does not watch a person from afar and draw conclusions about the inner workings of that person's psyche.  A psychoanalyst analyzes what a person SAYS.  (And not just what a person says in casual conversation with a buddy).  Psychoanalysis involves specific types of conversations and uses specific techniques that are designed to reveal unconscious conflicts in the person being analyzed.  Psychoanalysis takes place in a specific environment - one that is nonjudgmental, accepting, and confidential.  (It does not take place in a bar over beer and pretzels).  Psychoanalysis is a process that occurs over time - several days a week for a year or more - not a judgment one makes about a person after one social encounter.

So obviously, I (nor anyone else, for that matter) am not analyzing someone I meet at a party, at a bar, or through a friend at a restaurant.  In fact, I personally do not analyze anyone (except for myself, which I am perfectly entitled to do, in my opinion).  I am not a psychoanalyst; I am a psychotherapist.  They are not one and the same.

A psychoanalyst is a type of psychotherapist.  All psychoanalysts are psychotherapists but all psychotherapists are not psychoanalysts.  Psychoanalysis is a particular type of therapy, one that requires a very specific type of training.  It is also a treatment that has become less and less popular over the years.  The mental health field as a whole has moved away from psychoanalysis.  For one thing, insurance companies typically won't pay for it; this is because there are other treatments that will reduce or alleviate a patient's symptoms in a fraction of the time (and for a fraction of the cost).  Psychoanalysis is not a very practical treatment option for most people.  Take, for example, any person working a nine-to-five job.  To participate in psychoanalysis, he or she would probably have to leave work early three (or more) days a week for about a year (or more).  (This is assuming that the person's analyst keeps "regular" office hours, which is typically the case; still, I am sure there are some who do offer evening hours).  Even if the person had an extremely understanding boss who allowed him or her to do this he or she would probably have to pay for every session out of pocket (remember, insurance companies won't cover psychoanalysis).  At $60, $80, $100, or even more per session, this would quickly become unaffordable for a typical, middle-income adult.

In addition, the mental health field has shifted towards a preference for evidenced-based treatments.  Since psychoanalysis as a treatment does not easily lend itself to study via the scientific method there is not a large body of evidence demonstrating its efficacy.  Universities, training programs, businesses, institutions, and individual practitioners typically prefer to invest their time and money in teaching and learning those treatment modalities that do have a large body of research demonstrating their efficacy.

So I'm not a psychoanalyst.  Even if I was a psychoanalyst, I still wouldn't be able to produce an assessment of the inner working of an individual's psyche on demand.  A feat like that does not fall under the realm of those trained in psychology, psychiatry, or mental health.  If you want an instant summary of your hidden inner world, you'd be better off going to a psychic.


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