First and foremost, psychoanalysis is a theory of human potential that is based on the belief that individuals are often unaware of what contributes to their feelings and behaviors. Psychoanalysis is anchored by the belief that the unconscious not only motivates thoughts and feelings, but it is through the understanding of its dynamics that can yield unparalleled insight as well as a life less burdened by the past. Psychoanalysis also helps move a person beyond intellectual comprehension of his/her difficulties to a deeper emotional understanding of what has transpired in his/her life.
Procedurally, psychoanalysis differs from psychotherapy in that the patient will typically come four times a week, lies on a couch, and is given the task of trying to freely say what ever comes to mind no matter how difficult or seemingly insignificant. Essentially, psychoanalysis creates a setting whereby a person can become aware of their inner experience -- Dreams, fantasies, blocked creativity, unacknowledged talents, and exploration of old relationship patterns all become part of the analytic journey.
Psychoanalysis also holds that the relationship between analyst and patient is vitally important. Oftentimes, it is through the re-experiencing of feelings from the past with the analyst that leads to decreased symptoms and meaningful change. While undertaking a psychoanalysis can be rigorous and requires a significant time commitment, many patients find it to be a deeply meaningful experience that not only increases their appreciation of themselves and others, but also allows for greater freedom in their life. Readiness for psychoanalysis is multifaceted and is ultimately determined through mutual discussions and exploration between therapist and patient.