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What is Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is a way of listening, a way of living, a philosophy and an art form; a theory about the human condition and a clinical practice. It is an experience of being listened to, accepted, heard and validated; an experience of being “alone in the presence of another,” yet feeling utterly connected. Psychoanalysis is a form of clinical practice that allows for an understanding of oneself, ones thoughts, feelings and behaviors and an awareness of who we truly are as human beings.

Many people still harbor the misunderstanding that psychoanalysis pathologises the individual and puts people into pre-determined categories that feel judgmental, invalidating and diminishing. In truth, psychoanalysis emphasizes the uniqueness of everyone’s experience and seeks to create meaning, specific to each person’s unconscious and history. Oftentimes in psychoanalysis, we have to sit with the unknown, the anxiety-provoking and the uncomfortable.

Psychoanalysis and the unconscious 

Psychoanalysis is a practice of profound respect for the human condition that comes from a place of empathy, acceptance and personal experience with anguish and pain. As psychoanalytic clinicians, we all have our own psychoanalytic experience to refer to. We listen to our own reactions when sitting with clients and use our knowledge of the workings of the unconscious to guide them into understanding their own. We work with dreams, fantasies, play, art, memories, feelings, thoughts, actions and body symptoms, all of which are ways of communicating that, which cannot be otherwise spoken about.

Psychoanalysis and the couch

We still use the couch but not just for laying. Many psychoanalytically oriented clinicians, including myself, see clients once a week sitting up. We see children, adolescents, adults, couples, sometimes moms and babies and even families. There is such thing as psychoanalysis off the couch. We consult in schools and non-for-profit organizations; we work in residential treatment centers, provide supervision, milieu therapy, and discuss movies, art and social issues all from a psychoanalytic point of view.

Unveiling the mystery of psychoanalysis

If some of this sounds mysterious, that is because it can be. What I am hoping to do in this blog is to unveil some of the mysteries of psychoanalysis for you. Together, we will look at practical psychoanalysis, the way I experience it in my daily life and therapeutic practice. We will look at modern issues, culture, movies, people and common mental health issues affecting you and your family. We will see how to apply psychoanalytic thought to children’s behavioral and emotional development and how to address practical parenting questions from a psychoanalytic perspective. 

To learn more about practical psychoanalysis, click here.

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What is Psychoanalysis

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

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APA Reference
, . (2015). What is Psychoanalysis. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Feb 2015
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