Relational psychoanalysis is a more intensive form of relational psychodynamic psychotherapy. It includes increased session frequency to three or more times per week. There is a greater focus on the transference-countertransference relationship that develops between us. And there is a greater focus on unconscious fantasy and dreams. It can include use of the couch. Relational psychoanalysis can be especially beneficial for survivors of childhood traumatic abuse.
Why increased session frequency?
The stories that are deeply embedded in your unconscious mind and bodily experiences, especially in the case of traumatic abuse, can be painful, frightening, and at times overwhelming to bring into awareness. Meeting more frequently helps to build the strength of our therapeutic connection allowing you to go to vulnerable emotional places that might be hard to access meeting once or twice per week. It also allows the time and space of the therapy relationship to provide containment. It is a balance between keeping unconscious processes alive enough for the necessary work while protecting against too much intrusion into your daily life.
What is the transference-countertransference relationship?
It is the part of our relationship that is the living experience of the wishes, fears, and vexing patterns of relating that you are trying to understand and to transform. It is also the place where experiences that are vague and haunting can take shape and be named and understood. Think of transference as the way your mind reveals what you don’t have the words to express. The countertransference is my effort to emotionally resonate with you. I’ll help you learn to observe along with me the thoughts, feelings, bodily experiences, images, fantasies, and memories that reveal themselves within this aspect of our interactions.
Unconscious fantasy and dreams
Fantasy takes different forms and has different purposes in our minds. There are fantasies about the way we wish things were that we imagine consciously and often unconsciously. Fantasies can be vague and based on experiences we’ve had that were intense and confusing often from early infancy and childhood. It is like an incomplete picture or story in our mind that can feel haunting and disruptive.
Our earliest memories are processed as emotional, physical, and imagistic. From infancy and early childhood, the foundations of our sense of self and sense of attachment to others are formed. These experiences are unconscious because they become part of what feels like the unquestioned norms of our life. They are also unconscious because we actively keep painful and dangerous experiences out of our awareness. We also need fantasy as a source of inspiration and creation of new possibilities for self-expression, relating, and meaning.
You’ll find that with increased session frequency and focus on bringing the unconscious to light that you might dream more often and more vividly. Your dreams can be a great resource for deepening our understanding of your emotional struggles and of your efforts to create new experiences of healing and growth.
Psychoanalysis and the couch
The idea of psychoanalysis is to help you relax your mind enough to open the flow of your thoughts, feelings, and inner experiences. The couch can provide a comforting space where you can more fully let your guard down outside of the gaze of another person. It can be a helpful part of our work although not required. There might be times when face to face contact is more important.