Psychoanalytic Therapy: Free Association, Dream Analysis and Transference & Resistance

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  • 0:01 Techniques in…
  • 0:43 Free Association
  • 2:08 Dream Analysis
  • 3:52 Analysis of Transference
  • 4:54 Analysis of Resistance
  • 5:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Psychoanalytic therapy has many techniques. This lesson will explore four of these techniques: free association, dream analysis, and the analysis of transference and resistance.

Techniques in Psychoanalytic Therapy

Bob is about to start psychoanalytic therapy. He has met his therapist, Jane, and is comfortable with her, but he still feels a little bit nervous. He has never been in therapy before. What kind of things are going to take place during his therapy sessions?

Psychoanalytic therapy contains many different therapeutic techniques. These techniques are intended to increase awareness and foster insight into the client's behavior. Four techniques will be discussed in this lesson:

  • Free association
  • Dream analysis
  • Analysis of transference
  • Analysis of resistance

We will follow Bob as he experiences these four techniques in his therapy sessions.

Free Association

Free association involves exploring a person's unconscious through spontaneous word association. Clients are encouraged to say whatever comes to mind when the therapist presents them with a word, no matter how trivial, illogical, or irrelevant the response may seem. It is the therapist's job to interpret the responses as patterns in the associations that are identified.

Bob has recently gone through a divorce. Dealing with this is what led him to seek therapy. Since Bob's therapist, Jane, knows this, she will ask Bob to do some free association with words he may relate to relationships or marriage.

It would look something like this:

Jane says 'wife,' and Bob says 'mine.'

Jane says 'wedding,' and Bob says 'promise.'

Jane says 'husband,' and Bob says 'power.'

Jane says 'love,' and Bob says 'obedience.'

Jane says 'commitment,' and Bob says 'important.'

Jane had hoped this technique would uncover a theme to explore further in Bob's therapy, and she wasn't disappointed. A number of Bob's responses indicate that he associates marriage with control over someone. This is something that they can explore further in therapy. This is a central technique in psychoanalytic therapy. It is used to uncover unconscious desires or intense emotions that have been blocked by the client.

Dream Analysis

Dream analysis is the investigation of repressed feelings that can be expressed in our dreams. Psychoanalytic theory believes repressed feelings often manifest themselves in our dreams. This happens because our defenses are lowered when we sleep. Dream analysis helps uncover this unconscious material.

Dreams have two levels of content:

  • Latent content, or hidden motives, wishes, or fears
  • Manifest content: This refers to the dream as it actually appears

Dream analysis takes place as the therapist uncovers the disguised, latent content within the actual, manifest content of the dream. Usually this involves identifying symbolic meaning in the dream. Sometimes, free association with different dream elements is used in the process.

Jane has asked Bob to write down any dreams he has had and to bring it with him to his next therapy session. The night before his therapy session, Bob had a dream that he was trying to bury something. No matter how deep he dug the hole or how much dirt he put back in, the object could not be covered up. He also could not see what it was he was trying to bury.

Jane asks Bob to do some free association with her about the dream. Jane says 'hole,' and Bob says 'endless.' Jane says 'bury,' and Bob says 'failure.' The responses continue in a similar manner. This leads to an interpretation of the dream. It appears that Bob is repressing feelings of failure and hopelessness. Interpreting a dream's meaning not only uncovers repressed material but provides insight into a person's present functioning.

Analysis of Transference

Transference is the transfer of feelings from the past to someone in the present. Usually, it involves these feelings being transferred from the client onto the therapist. This situation is considered valuable to the therapeutic process because it allows the client to re-experience feelings that need to be resolved.

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