Sigmund Freud developed a clinical treatment for people’s neuroses which he called Psychoanalysis. The aim of the treatment is to re-establish a harmonious relationship between the ego, id and super-ego, and to resolve unconscious and often repressed emotional conflicts.
Freud discovered that when clients were encouraged to talk about their earliest memories and occurrences of any neuroses and fantasies, their symptoms began to disappear. He discovered that people’s neuroses were often buried in the deepest recesses of their unconscious mind, but could still have an emotional impact on their daily lives. Freud initially experimented with hypnosis, but abandoned this to further develop a ‘talking cure’ which he called ‘Free Association’.
The role of the psychoanalyst is not to offer problem solving suggestions or advice. Instead the therapist uses a relaxing environment, free of any strong sensory stimulation, and encourages clients to talk freely about anything that comes to mind. Sessions last for approximately an hour, and can take place several times a week. The therapist says very little so that the train of thought of the client is never broken. The task of the therapist is to help the patient recognise, and overcome, their own natural resistances, which may exhibit themselves as hostility towards the therapist. Freud called this hostility ‘transference’. By discovering, and being encouraged to confront, their unconscious conflicts Freud believed the client could be ‘cured’ (what we now call a ‘corrective emotional experience’).
The cure is seen as a release of psychic energy, the repression of which caused the neurotic illness to begin with.