Psychoanalysis, which is connected to psychological and psychotherapeutic theories, was created by the famous Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud in the late 19th century. Freud’s students and other psychologists have further expanded and adapted his theory of psychoanalysis, giving rise to about 20 different methods. At the basis of psychoanalysis lies human mental development.

Freud formulated 6 tenets for psychoanalysis which describe the topics of his type of therapy. These tenets state that human behaviour is largely irrational and fuelled by unconscious drives. Moreover, humans develop defence mechanisms when they are asked to talk about these drives – as is the case in a psychological setting. Another crucial point in Freud’s theory is that the development of our personality is not only inherited but also largely determined by what happens in our childhood. He also found out that if we repress our feelings, which further exist unconsciously in our minds, this can result in conflicts with our conscious reality. And lastly, the method Freud uses to make unconscious material reappear is skilled guidance.

In psychoanalysis, the patient is asked to formulate what he is thinking, which also includes the verbalisation of dreams, fantasies and other associations to a certain topic. The famous sofa is the central focal point in the office of a therapist: The patient reclines on the sofa while the therapist stands behind them, listening and asking questions. Generally, psychoanalists confront and clarify the patient’s pathological defenses, wishes and guilt, thereby resolving the patient’s conflicts. If these conflicts stay unresolved, they can cause symptoms such as phobias, anxiety, depression and even pain. How much a therapy costs and how long it takes until significant results are achieved can vary from therapist to therapist and from country to country.

Group therapies are also possible in psychoanalysis although the norm is individual counselling. Other forms of counselling, for example advice in child-related matters for parents or couple therapy, originated from Freudian psychoanalysis. Other therapy types, which are especially used for the counselling of children, include play therapy, art therapy and storytelling. These types of therapy enable children to express their wishes and fears through play, which helps the therapist to detect causes for disobedience or withdrawal.