Psychoanalytic psychotherapy works on our inner world and unconscious patterns.

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Last updated Jan 1, 2021 by Dr. Sheri Jacobson Dr. Sheri Jacobson

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy London at Harley Therapy™

Psychoanalysis offers very useful principles which are adopted in longer-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy. A psychoanalyst aims to uncover the unconscious factors that may underlie your problems. The presence of unconscious factors means that the advice of others or self-help books can fail to provide relief. Psychoanalysis sheds light on these factors, showing how they affect your current ways of living and how you can better deal with the demands of adult life.

Psychoanalysis relies on the method of 'Free Association' (developed by Sigmund Freud). The process entails saying whatever comes into your head without giving any conscious direction to those thoughts. Alongside dream interpretation and analytic transference, free association is helpful in collecting valuable unconscious material to be worked with in sessions.

Psychoanalytical therapy at Harley Therapy™

Call us to schedule an appointment, or book online with a psychoanalytically-trained psychotherapist.

What is psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis is a type of long-term and in-depth therapy that has its roots in the work of the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. This therapy is centrally based around the idea that the majority of an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour are not within their conscious control. Rather, they are hidden within the realms of what Freud termed our ‘unconscious/subconscious’ mind. Much like an iceberg where we are only able to see the tip of this enormous structure above water, Freud believed that humans are only aware of a small percentage of their mind (our conscious) and that we are unaware of the rest of our mind’s workings (our unconscious). Psychoanalysts believe that our childhood experiences, particularly traumatic or painful experiences, are kept deep in our unconscious where they are prevented from causing further emotional pain and anxiety by defence mechanisms such as denial (failing to acknowledge a fact, in spite of clear evidence) and repression (completely blocking the memory of an event even though it happened). These defence mechanisms can cause problems in adulthood as the thoughts and feelings associated with repressed childhood experiences can manifest themselves as depression, anxiety or other emotional problems in the present. Psychoanalysis provides a setting whereby the individual, along with their therapist, can begin to identify and understand their past experiences directly and gain a powerful insight into how these unconscious processes and experiences are shaping them and their relationships in adulthood. 

What does psychoanalysis look like in practice?

The methods and techniques used in psychoanalysis are the same as those used in psychodynamic psychotherapy; however, psychodynamic psychotherapy is generally far less in-depth and is appropriate for more immediate problems.

The role of your therapist

During treatment, the relationship between you and your therapist is an important one. By listening to your innermost thoughts, feelings and experiences, your therapist will try to interpret and recognise important patterns between your past experiences and present behaviour, helping you to gain insight into your current situation. Your therapist will likely act as a blank canvas onto which you are able to transfer and project your deepest thoughts and feelings about yourself, your loved ones, and other important individuals who could have had a significant impact upon you. This important process is called ‘transference’ and stems from Freud’s observation that his clients developed strong feelings towards him, which were a reflection of feelings felt towards a significant person in their life (such as parents or a sibling). Essentially, their feelings were transferred from the past to the present: the transference. This transference allows the therapist to learn more about your childhood experiences and how these important relationships can impact upon your adulthood behaviour. You may gain further insight and understanding from the feelings felt by your therapist about you, a process known as ‘counter-transference’. For example, a therapist after several sessions with an individual may feel a particular emotion or feeling and by explaining this to the client they may open the client up to further understanding. 

Methods used by your therapist

Along with transference, your therapist may use a number of techniques such as dream analysis, free association (saying the first thing that comes into your head without censoring it) and slips of the tongue (commonly known as ‘Freudian Slips’) to help identify hidden experiences and thoughts. Your therapist will often say very little during the therapy session and this may be rather disquieting for some individuals. While from time to time, they may draw attention to some aspect of your thoughts, there may be many sessions where the therapist hardly speaks at all. However, while your therapist may not be talking at great length they will be observing your body language and other aspects of your behaviour that may provide a useful analysis of your inner thoughts and feelings. While there may be long pauses and even silences during therapy, these reflective pauses can provide as much, if not more valuable information than constant conversation.

The session and therapy framework

A session of psychoanalysis takes place in a comfortable, secure environment where you will feel relaxed and able to discuss your deepest thoughts, feelings and experiences. Most sessions last around 50 minutes and the time allocated to you will be at the same time and day each week. Psychoanalysis is not a ‘quick fix’ but is a long-term commitment, and there is no limit on the amount of sessions you may need.

Further reading on psychoanalysis

How to book your session

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Harley Therapy Ltd. “Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist in London • Harley Therapy™”. Harley Therapy, 1 Jan. 2021, Accessed 13 Jun. 2021.


Harley Therapy Ltd. (2021, January 1). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist in London • Harley Therapy™. Retrieved from


Harley Therapy Ltd. "Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist in London • Harley Therapy™." Last modified January 1, 2021. Accessed June 13, 2021.

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