Home » Blogs » Practical Psychoanalysis » How Psychoanalysis Differs from Psychotherapy

How Psychoanalysis Differs from Psychotherapy

The talking cure

Psychotherapy is a rather generic term – social workers, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists can all call themselves therapists. Psychoanalysis is an experience – you cannot call yourself a psychoanalyst without having done your own analysis. The same is not always true for psychotherapy – not all psychotherapists have gone through their own therapy.

Before there was psychotherapy, however, there was psychoanalysis. Freud “invented” the psychoanalytic method, or the “talking cure,” together with his friend and mentor Breuer, a Viennese psychiatrist, who worked with female hysterics (an old-fashioned diagnostic term for what today is classified as conversion disorder).

In his work with his patient Anna O., a pseudonym for Bertha Pappenheim, one of the first feminists, Breuer discovered that after she was able to speak about the origin of her symptoms, they disappeared. Hence, “the talking cure.”

The difference

The presumption that talking has healing powers fuels many psychotherapeutic practices today. No one argues against that. What is the difference between psychotherapy and psychoanalysis then?

First, psychotherapy deals with what we call the ego, the I or the active agency with which you make decisions on a daily basis. In contrast, psychoanalysis deals with the unconscious – those experiences that are beyond language, outside of our awareness; the part of us that was vastly suppressed by culture, social norms, rules and regulations.

Second, the goals of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy are also different. Psychotherapy attempts to restore a persons relationship to the social norms and regulations, while psychoanalysis works to restore a person’s relationship to their sexuality. Psychotherapy works to strengthen the ego, while psychoanalysis works to strengthen the subject’s relationship to their own unconscious.

A different therapeutic relationship

Psychotherapists use their relationship with you, the client, to influence your decision-making, to teach coping strategies, change behaviors or thoughts, and to modify the ways you relate to others. Psychoanalysts use their relationship with you to help you reorganize the way you relate to yourself and your body with all of its human qualities. What happens with your relationships afterwards is secondary and entirely up to you!

To put this visually for you, I created the following infographic:

Psychotherapy versus Psychoanalysis

Like what you just read? Join my email list and get monthly updates on my blog posts and exclusive access to Mental Health Digest electronic magazine, your easy-to-read guide to common mental health issues affecting you and your family, plus some suggestions on how to address them.

For more on Practical Psychoanalysis, check out this article or my Parenting Blog, where parents find helpful resources and practical tips on how to support their child’s behavioral and emotional development.

How Psychoanalysis Differs from Psychotherapy

Mihaela Bernard, MA, LCPC

Mihaela Bernard, MA, LCPC is a licensed clinical professional counselor and founder of Inside Family Counseling, LLC in Chicago. She is a Professional Member of the American Counseling Association and a member of Chicago Psychoanalytic Circle of the Freudian School of Quebec, Canada. She is the author of Mental Health Digest electronic magazine, your free, easy-to-read electronic resource on common mental health issues affecting you and your family, plus some suggestions on how to address them. She specializes in psychoanalytic psychotherapy for troubled children and adolescents, who face behavioral and emotional challenges at home and at school. Her mission is to empower, support and guide children, adolescents and their parents to a happy and healthy family. Mihaela also writes a Parenting Blog, where parents find helpful resources and practical tips on how to support their child and adolescent's behavioral and emotional development. You may find out more about her at

2 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
, . (2015). How Psychoanalysis Differs from Psychotherapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Feb 2015
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.