How Long Does Psychoanalysis Typically Take (2024)?

If you’ve ever thought of seeking professional treatment or diving deep into your unconscious mind, you’ve probably already got yourself familiar with the psychoanalytic treatment and psychoanalytic training.

Psychoanalysis is a popular form of therapy that helps people understand themselves better. With the help of a trained analyst, you work on discovering your inner thoughts, dreams, and emotions.

You explore the unconscious forces of your mind, and you get to know your deepest repressed memories.

So, before you decide whether or not you want to seek treatment for your emotional disorders, you might be wondering how long it typically takes. What can you expect from psychoanalytic treatment? And how often should you attend these sessions?

In this article, we’re going to talk about how patients make a significant change in their life through psychoanalytic treatment so that you can decide whether this type of psychotherapy is the right choice for you.

Let’s dive in.

What Can I Expect From Psychoanalysis?

Before you decide to work with a specialized therapist to explore your current behaviors, feelings, and relationships, you should first understand psychoanalysis. So what does it entail?

Psychoanalysis is a method of self-exploration done in collaboration with a trained therapist. You and your chosen psychoanalyst work together to understand your past experiences and childhood trauma. Then, you try to connect these subjective experiences to your current behavior and relationship practice.

This is because our earliest memories and experiences tend to linger in our current life, shaping how we form each and every relationship in our life. Psychoanalysis helps you gain insight into your personal psychology and interpretation. 

What is the Goal of Psychoanalysis

How Long Does Psychoanalysis Typically Take
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The goal of psychoanalysis is to understand patients’ deepest fears, fantasies, and thoughts in order to alleviate any pain or suffering that they might have. The patients should be able to speak freely with their therapists about their psychological problems. Sometimes psychoanalysis can help discover a person’s unconscious wishes and repressed memories that they’re not even aware of. Such patients can make impressive improvements through psychoanalytic processes and this type of technique. 

If you decide to discuss your emotional health with a professional psychoanalyst, you can expect to have their understanding and full support throughout this process. You will focus together on determining your diagnosis and exploring your inner life.

In psychoanalysis sessions, the patient is encouraged to say anything that comes to their mind and talk about it with their therapist. By peeling the layers of the patient’s mind, psychoanalysis helps them live a better life and benefit from this type of therapy.

Related post: Therapeutic Process & Therapeutic Steps – Easy Explained

Psychoanalysis Origins

Psychoanalysis has its origin in the works of Sigmund Freud. He based his theories on the fact that every person possesses unconscious feelings, thoughts, desires, and memories.

Apart from his Oedipus complex discoveries, this renowned Austrian neurologist has developed other interesting techniques to help out with human psychology. For instance, his free association is a tool that is now used in psychoanalysis that aims to deepen your self-understanding through word and image associations.

Freud played a significant role in developing evidence-based therapies and helping patients around the globe. You can learn more about the magnificent mind and social work of Sigmund Freud on the World Psychiatry site. He made significant contributions to psychology and helped change patients’ lives around the world alongside the American psychologist G. Stanley Hall.

How Often Do You Go to Psychoanalysis?

How often you should go to therapy depends solely on your state of mind. But when it comes to traditional psychoanalysis sessions, you can typically expect to attend them at least two times a week. Again, the frequency of sessions depends on each individual case. For some patients, one session per week can be quite sufficient.

Traditional psychoanalysis is more frequent, therefore, more intensive. For the patient to fully reap the benefits of psychoanalysis, they need to attend it at least once a week. Anything less than that wouldn’t be so fruitful.

Related post: Average Number Of Therapy Sessions – A Complete Guide

How Long Does Psychoanalysis Take?

Psychoanalysis sessions last around 50 minutes. Just like we mentioned, they can take place once per week, but sometimes even more frequently. The idea is to give the patient enough time to fully dive into their symptoms while still not getting too overwhelmed by the course of the session. 

The therapist sees one individual per session. The patients come in at the same time each week and have their psychoanalysis sessions in the same room.

As far as the duration of the overall psychoanalysis treatment, it can last for several years, depending on the patient’s progress. Every patient is different, so some of them will need more time to relate their unconscious fears to their everyday life. 

Related: What Kind Of Therapy Do I Need – 7 Types Easy Explained

Why Does Psychoanalysis Take So Long

Why Does Psychoanalytic Therapy Take So Long
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Just like every therapeutic process, psychoanalysis can last for a long time. That’s because you need time to process each and every emotion, whether that’s a hidden one or a more obvious one. You need time to develop a relationship with your therapist, then form trust and mutual understanding.

The length of psychoanalytic therapy depends on each individual patient. Psychoanalytic therapy often lasts longer than cognitive behavior therapy because you need time to dive deep into your unconscious mind and understand your inner thoughts and behaviors.

Related post: How Is Behavior Therapy Different Than Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis vs. Psychoanalytic Therapy

In general, psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic therapy are very similar. The key difference is in the frequency of the sessions. While psychoanalytic therapy takes place once to three times per week, psychoanalysis occurs three to five times per week.

Other than that, the therapeutic situation, basic rules, transference, and interpretation are the same for both psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic therapy. The differences are so small that there’s no point in overanalyzing them. 

Both of these have the goal of exploring the patient’s unconscious mind, thoughts, and fear in order to help them live a more fulfilled and self-aware life. 

Why Does Psychoanalytic Therapy Take So Long?

Let’s face it, nothing good in life comes easy. And the effects of therapy are no exception to this rule. You can’t expect wonders to happen after only one or a few psychoanalytic therapies.

Psychoanalytic therapy takes so long because results require time and work. You need time to process your emotions. You can’t cope with everything in just a few hours.

Remember that you will have to face your deepest fears and unconscious emotions. Those are typical emotions that you’ve been hiding for years. And there’s usually a reason behind this coping mechanism that you’ve developed. You probably haven’t had the resources to deal with the pain and suffering of your childhood trauma. But with the help of your therapist, you will find the inner strength to deal with these emotions. 

You will develop a new mechanism that will help you live a better life and have stronger boundaries. That’s why it’s essential for every psychotherapy to last for at least one year. Otherwise, you will quickly get back to where you were when you first started out.

Related: Best Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Books

Is Psychoanalysis Long-Term?

Is Psychoanalysis Long-Term
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Psychoanalysis is often long-term, especially if you go into it fully ready to work on your inner self. There have been many studies and research about the effectiveness of psychoanalysis. The conclusions are almost always positive.

Long-term psychoanalytic therapy or psychoanalysis was an effective treatment, with moderate to large effects on symptom reduction and personality change that appeared to be maintained years after treatment termination.

What Does Research Suggest About the Comparative Effectiveness of Psychotherapeutic Techniques

The research suggests that all psychotherapeutic techniques are effective, each in its own way. However, there has been no research proving one psychotherapeutic technique to be more effective than the others.

It all goes back to each individual person. What works for you doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. And that’s perfectly fine. The goal is to find the therapeutic method that will help you live your best life and help you become the person that you want to be.

How Is Psychodynamic Therapy Different Than Psychoanalysis

Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, psychodynamic therapy is actually not the same as psychoanalysis. Psychodynamic therapy actually evolved from psychoanalytic therapy, and it focuses on more urgent and immediate problems, aiming to provide a quicker solution.

Related: Principles Of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Final Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to read my article. I hope you found it helpful and that you understand psychoanalytic treatment a little bit better.

As you can see, the duration of psychoanalysis depends from patient to patient. It’s very hard to tell how long it will take for you. That’s why it’s important to talk to your therapist and determine how frequently you should have psychoanalytic sessions.

Psychoanalysis is a unique method of self-exploration and journey to self-understanding. If you decide to embark on this journey, be prepared to go all in. No therapy can alleviate your pain in one session. 

Just like every therapeutic experience, psychoanalysis takes time and work. But it’s very much worth it in the end. So good luck!

If I can help you in any way, don’t hesitate to ask. I’d be happy to provide some specific advice on psychoanalysis. Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below; I hope I hear from you soon! 

About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.