Those who decide to take the road to personal growth through psychoanalysis, try to resolve a difficult moment in their lives. The goal is to not suffer anymore, to really get to know oneself, combat the mechanisms of neurosis and the consequent suffering.
The choice of therapist is one of the most important points on this road, and deserves a lot of attention.
In this type of situation, the family doctor can give some good advice, maybe a specialist he has consulted in the past, or someone who knows the therapist professionally, like the Psychologiac Register.
When the first appointment is made, even though the patient is suffering, s/he must feel free to choose. This means carefully evaluating the first impression had from that meeting. If the patient doesn't feel comfortable, s/he should cancel the next appointment and keep looking.
The ideal conditions that a future patient should find at the psychoanalyst's are the following:
- a clearly defined schedule
- a place where the meetings are held (always the same)
- a fixed length of time for the appointment
- a quiet and undisturbed office
- what Freud called the "rule of free association", meaning being able to say everything that crosses one's mind, jumping from one topic to the next
- the therapist doesn't tell the patient what s/he should or shouldn't do, but through short, "neutral" interventions tries to help the patient understand him/herself.
- the therapist remains relatively "ananymous", meaning that s/he talks very little about him/herself and his/her opinions, but concentrates on what the patient is saying.
- total privacy, which protects everything the patient says, with the utmost professional secrecy
- complete respect for the patient.
These are the basic conditions necessary for a good development in psychoanalysis.
Other elements, however, can be taken into consideration, in the evaluation of the professional to whom such a difficult and important job is to be given.
Firstly, it must be the patient who calls and pays for the therapist. The only exception to this rule is in the case of minors who do not work, or emergencies.
It is positive when the therapist replies directly, sets up the appointment fairly soon, does not ask questions about the pathology on the phone, does not talk about himself and his education, does not give advice or prescriptions on the phone.
The ideal studio, is in a building with other offices, has a waiting room, discreet furnishings, closed windows covered by curtains, and silent rooms. The door to the waiting room should be closed so that when the patient has finished his/her appointment and leaves s/he does not have to meet or see the other patients.
During the first meeting, the therapist has to listen to the patient carefully, ask questions only to clear up certain obscure points, try to help the patient understand him/herself better, say almost nothing personal about her/himself, should not try to physically touch the patient and, after s/he has an idea of how the sitution might be, tell the patient that s/he could be potentially useful, and briefly describe the basic rules for therapy.
As far as payment is concerned, it must be stated clearly, the amount requested must be reasonable, there are to be no discounts. The therapist does not accept gifts or other forms of payment, the price must not vary during the course of the therapy, and must be paid punctually.
At the beginning of the appointment the therapist should help the patient get comfortable and invite him/her to talk. During the meeting, the therapist should talk very little and pay close attention to what the patient is saying, demonstating, even with his/her body language, that s/he is ready to listen. The few times the therapist talks are almost always aimed at helping the patient understand his subconcious and the behaviour deriving from it. In this way, the therapist helps the patient interpret what happens to him, maybe helping him see things from a different point of view.
Along with this hypotheisis, dream interpretation, which Freud called, "the great road to the subconscious," can be added.
In this way, the therapist slowly teaches the patient to really understand her/himself, and gives him/her the interpretive instruments, which could help after analysis, for the rest of the patient's life.
At a practical level, there are a series of rules based on reciprocity: if the patient has to be punctual, so does the therapist. If the patient has to pay regularly, the therapist has to do his/her job just as regularly.
How could a therapist help someone have more self respect, if s/he is the one lacking in correctness and respect?
Based on this principle, many different behaviours can be evaluated.
These few notes are not enough to understand such a complex and delicate subject like psychoanalysis. They can, however, be used as a reference to help find the person who can best help. Psychoanalysis is made to fit, it is not a standard product, that can be bought just because it is in style. Our feelings before, during, and after our appointment can help us make this choice.