Given that so many therapeutic approaches successfully promote psychological change, it is clear that psychoanalytic treatment is not unique in this respect. Yet, the attention psychoanalysis has assiduously devoted to the therapeutic process sheds helpful light on those factors that might contribute to psychic change.
All schools of psychoanalysis subscribe to the view that clarifying and resolving the patient's idiosyncratic ways of perceiving the world and other people in light of internal reality will help him to perceive the external world more clearly. Broadly speaking, the origins of psychic pain are understood to be not simply the result of an external event(s) that was traumatic but also of the way the event itself is subjectively interpreted and organised around a set of unconscious meanings. Notwithstanding a broad agreement over these questions, there is lesser consensus over how psychic change occurs through psychotherapy and the techniques that drive change. The lack of agreement partly reflects a dearth of empirical research on these matters. This opens the way for hyperbolic claims to be made about a variety of techniques that purportedly lead to change.
There are several versions of the process of psychic change. Each version emphasises different, though sometimes overlapping aspects of the therapeutic process and of the techniques believed to facilitate change. Let us briefly review the most dominant accounts. I shall, however, focus in particular on the account that I find the most persuasive and consistent with the available research.
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