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Do you need long-term, in-depth therapy? Are you aware that the experiences and selves you had in the past contribute to your current problems, and would like to explore and troubleshoot this connection? There may be a good fit between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

Psychoanalysis: what is it?

Today’s modern talk therapies trace their roots back to Freud’s psychoanalysis (although many others have contributed to psychoanalytic theory and practice since then).

The idea behind psychoanalytical psychotherapy is that most of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are beyond our conscious control. In reality, they are dictated by our ‘unconscious,’ where we hide all our painful or traumatic childhood experiences.

Often, we use the metaphor of an iceberg, where we see the tip above the water (our conscious mind), but are unaware of the bulk, hidden below (our unconscious mind).

Defense mechanisms and their role

In order to avoid emotional pain, we use defense mechanisms to hide our memories in our unconscious. The denial of a fact despite clear evidence is an example of a defense mechanism. As an example, repression occurs when we completely block a memory of an event even though it happened.

Even though such defense mechanisms can help us short-term when we are surviving a difficult childhood, in the long run, they can lead to depression or anxiety in adults.

The top ten defense mechanisms


One of the most common defense mechanisms is denial. Reality or facts are refused when you refuse to accept them. It is common for people in denial to block external events or circumstances from their minds so they do not have to deal with the emotional impact. By avoiding painful feelings or events, they avoid pain.

It is also one of the most widely known defense mechanisms. “They’re in denial,” refers to someone who avoids reality despite what may be obvious to others.


Having unsavory thoughts, painful memories, or irrational beliefs can upset you. Unconsciously, people may hide these thoughts in hopes of forgetting them.

It does not mean, however, that the memories are completely lost. Behaviors and future relationships may be affected by them. This defense mechanism may not be apparent to you.


You may feel uncomfortable about some thoughts or feelings you have about another person. They misattribute those feelings to the other person when they project those feelings.

Instead of accepting that you dislike your new coworker, you tell yourself that they dislike you. In spite of the fact that they do not actually dislike you, you begin to interpret their words and actions toward you in the worst possible light.


You direct strong emotions and frustration toward someone or something that does not seem threatening. By doing so, you satisfy an impulse to react, but you don’t risk significant consequences.

Getting angry at your child or spouse because you had a bad day at work is an example of this defense mechanism. Though neither of these people is the target of your strong emotions, your subconscious may think reacting to them is less problematic than reacting to your boss.


A person who feels threatened or anxious may unconsciously “escape” to an earlier stage of development.

Young children are most likely to exhibit this type of defense mechanism. People who have experienced trauma or loss may suddenly act as if they are younger again. As a form of regression, they may even wet the bed or sucking their thumb.

It is possible for adults to regress as well. A struggling adult may sleep with a beloved stuffed animal, eat comfort foods, or chain smoke or chew pencils or pens as a way to cope with events or behaviors. Feeling overwhelmed may also cause them to avoid everyday activities.


You may feel comfortable with your choice even if you know on another level it’s not right if someone tries to explain undesirable behaviors with their own set of “facts.”

Someone who didn’t get a promotion at work might claim that they didn’t want it anyway.


The use of this type of defense mechanism is considered a mature, positive strategy. It’s because people who rely on it redirect strong emotions or feelings to an appropriate and safe object or activity.

You decide to take a kickboxing class instead of lashing out at your coworkers during a stressful shift. Music, art, and sports are other ways to funnel or redirect your emotions.

Reaction formation

This defense mechanism allows people to recognize how they feel, but they choose to behave differently.

Those who react this way may feel they should not express negative emotions, such as anger or frustration. Instead, they choose to react positively.


Many aspects of your life can be protected by separating them into independent sectors.

If you choose not to discuss personal life issues at work, you compartmentalize that area of your life. While you’re in that mindset or setting, you don’t have to worry about anxieties or challenges.


It may be beneficial to remove all emotion from your responses when facing a challenging situation.

After being laid off, a person may employ this strategy by creating spreadsheets of job leads and opportunities.

Expert Therapy offers psychoanalytic therapy

You can begin to understand your past and childhood in a safe, confidential setting with your psychoanalytical psychotherapist. As a result, you will gain a deep understanding of your unconscious processes and how they govern your current relationships and life choices.

Our psychoanalytic practitioners are hand-selected for their training at top institutions, and have years of experience working with clients just like you. Get in touch with us to schedule an appointment, or book online now.

How does psychoanalysis work in practice?

An average psychoanalysis session lasts 50 minutes, and it takes place in a relaxed environment where you can feel comfortable. The therapist will listen to your innermost thoughts, feelings, and experiences in order to interpret and recognize important patterns between your past experiences and present behavior.

A psychoanalyst is not a ‘quick fix,’ but a long-term commitment, and there is no limit to how many sessions you may need.

Relationship between client and therapist and ‘transference’

It is your therapist’s job to act as a blank canvas for you to express your deepest thoughts and feelings about yourself, your loved ones, and other important individuals in your life.

The process of transferring information is known as ‘transfer’. The idea comes from Freud’s observation that his clients developed strong feelings towards him, which were a reflection of feelings towards another significant person from their past, such as a parent or sibling.

Using transference allows the therapist to gain a deeper understanding of your childhood experiences and how your childhood relationships have impacted your current behavior as an adult.

Analyzing dreams, free association, and other psychoanalytic techniques

Psychoanalysis uses free association as a classic tool. It involves saying whatever comes to mind without censorship. You can identify hidden experiences and thoughts by making ‘Freudian slips’ during free association. Also, your therapist might ask you about your dreams, working with you to understand what meaning they might be conveying.

What is the difference between psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy?

In reaction to psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy developed. As a result, it shares several concepts with psychoanalysis, and it also focuses on your past for answers. On the other hand, psychoanalysis may be thought of as more in-depth and focused on the unconscious mind’s workings.

Psychoanalysts may also prompt you less than psychodynamic therapists, saying very little during a session. Psychoanalytic therapists may not speak in great detail, but they will observe your body language and other aspects of your behavior, providing insight into your inner thoughts and feelings.


Related topics

  • Sigmund Freud’s main theories in psychoanalysis: A summary
  • Freud vs Jung – Similarities and differences
  • ‘Freud: A Very Short Introduction’ (2001) by Anthony Storr
  • ‘Jung: A Very Short Introduction’ (2001) by Anthony Stevens
  • ‘A Short Introduction to Psychoanalysis: Short Introduction to the Therapy Professions’ (2011) by Jane Milton, Caroline Polmear, Julia Fabrici.


Frequently asked questions

What is psychoanalytic psychotherapy?

A psychoanalytic psychotherapy involves bringing unconscious, unpleasant, or repressed memories to consciousness in order to discover how they affect the patient in their everyday lives.

Typically, how much does psychoanalytic therapy cost in London?

Psychoanalytic therapy in London typically costs around £180 per 50-minute session. The results of this type of therapy are often good, and it is often a long-term therapy.

Is psychoanalytic psychotherapy available on the NHS?

The NHS does not usually offer psychoanalytic psychotherapy; however, it does offer short-term psychodynamic therapies based on some psychoanalytic theories. Nevertheless, you may have to wait on long waiting lists, and there may be limitations on the number of sessions you can get, plus you might first be offered CBT.

Does Expert Therapy offer psychoanalytic psychotherapy in London?

At Expert Therapy, we offer psychoanalytic psychotherapy in London, and we have a number of therapists who offer this service.