What is psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis was founded over a century ago by Sigmund Freud. It is an intensive and in-depth form of psychotherapy, based on creative explorations of the unconscious mind. Freud believed that, starting in our earliest years, we all have painful thoughts and fantasies that we keep out of our everyday awareness. Without our realizing it, these repressed thoughts and feelings can affect how we feel in our daily lives and relationships. Psychoanalytic work provides you with the opportunity to access these unconscious parts of yourself, to cultivate greater empathy and self-understanding, and to experience greater satisfaction in your life.

Contemporary Practice

Although many have heard of psychoanalytic theory and practice, most are not aware of how dramatically it has changed and expanded since Freud. Currently, it is more open and flexible than in the early days. It is now understood that, while early experiences from childhood are psychologically formative, later relationships, work situations, and social and cultural circumstances can also profoundly influence your emotional life. We now also recognize that while we keep things in the unconscious mind to protect ourselves from pain, we can then also lose touch with our creative potentials. Greater access to unconscious processes allows us to discover new things about ourselves, and to feel freer to imagine ourselves and our lives differently.

How Can Psychoanalysis or Psychoanalytic Therapy Help Me?

You might be imagining the kind of therapy in which the psychoanalyst silently takes notes behind the couch, while you lie down and struggle to figure things out, wondering how long the process will take. With this image in mind, you might be questioning how psychoanalytic work can help you, especially in your busy, time-pressured life. Or, you may feel guilty and believe you should be able to sort things out on your own, rather than with the help of a therapist. If this is the case, remember that it has long been recognized that there is tremendous value in talking through problems with a trained individual. At some point, we all need help, and you don’t have to go through this alone.

During our psychotherapy sessions, we will discuss whatever you bring into the hour. Our work is based on the ability to form a trusting relationship. The process is collaborative and creative, involving two minds working together, not one person working alone. Because you are a unique individual with your own personal experience, our sessions will vary. At times, if uncomfortable feelings come to the surface, you may experience pain or frustration. At other times, you may be pleasantly surprised by learning something new about yourself.

When you’re able to identify and express thoughts, feelings, and sensations that have been hindering you, you will find yourself more open to new ways of thinking and being.

In your busy life, it can be difficult to find time to yourself to reflect. These in-depth therapy sessions provide you with a designated time to sift through current difficulties and issues that may have been bothering you for a long time. In my office, you have the opportunity to spend time in a safe environment with someone who listens deeply without criticism. Many people find this calm setting relieving and empowering. I invite you to consider a psychoanalytic approach, as it can help you to express all parts of yourself, to identify and understand the problems you face, and to come more fully into being who you truly are. With your continuing psychic growth comes the ability to understand your experiences, desires, and emotions; to overcome what is getting in your way; and to expand your horizons.

What Is A Psychoanalytic Session Like?

In my office, you can either lie on the couch or sit comfortably on the chair. Together, we will explore those innermost feelings and experiences that you wish to share. We may explore how lingering issues from your past may be affecting your current life and relationships. Dreams, fantasies, and spontaneous thoughts may be part of our conversations. We may engage in animated conversation together, laugh, or share a joke. At other times, we may be silent, allowing time and space for deeper feelings or thoughts to emerge. Throughout our work together, I will offer my thoughts and invite yours, while always allowing space for your private thinking.

During psychoanalytic sessions, you can talk about whatever is on your mind. We may discuss a broad range of topics, emotions, thoughts, and sensations—ranging from issues you’re aware of to fantasies or images that bubble up into focus. No topic is too big, small, trivial, or embarrassing for us to discuss.

Through our conversations, you will discover feelings, thoughts, and parts of yourself that you may previously have been unaware of. I am here to listen deeply and carefully, without judgment, and to offer my understanding and insights about possible root causes of your distress. We will work together to understand why certain things make you feel bad, guilty, or ashamed, and to replace self-criticism with compassionate self-awareness. We will work with respect and honor for you as an individual with your own unique strengths. As you learn more about what keeps you stuck, we will continue working together at a pace that is comfortable for you. When you’re ready, you will find it easier to generate new perspectives about your life and to pursue the changes that you desire.

The length of time the therapy lasts depends on your individual needs and comfort level. Regardless of the amount of time you can spend here, the psychoanalytic approach is in-depth and ultimately offers enduring life changes.

What Is Your Experience As A Psychoanalytic Clinician?

For over thirty years, I’ve helped people from all walks of life overcome a variety of difficulties. I’ve worked with many people with problems arising from such things as anxiety, loneliness, grief, and relationship difficulties. I’ve also seen people with more severe problems, including dissociated states and debilitating depression. I find my clinical work profoundly rewarding and transformative, and I’ve seen many people attain lasting change. I, myself, have experienced the lasting impact of psychoanalytic work. It is my hope that you will also experience how liberating and rewarding this type of reflective process can be.

During the time I’ve been in practice, I’ve been involved in numerous training seminars, workshops, and consultations. I have taught analytic theory and practice in most Bay Area Graduate schools and am currently on the faculty at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California.

Schedule an Appointment

If you’re interested in the profound experience of psychoanalytic work or would like to learn more, please call (510) 531-5212 or email anniesweetnam@gmail.com to schedule an appointment. I am happy to offer a free—no obligation—phone consultation to answer your questions or concerns about my psychoanalytic practice in Oakland, California.