Psychoanalysis is a set of theories and therapeutic techniques related to the study of the unconscious mind, which together form a method of treatment for mental-health disorders. The discipline was established in the early 1890s by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud and stemmed partly from the clinical work of Josef Breuer and others. Psychoanalysis was later developed in different directions, mostly by students of Freud such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav Jung,[a] and by neo-Freudians such as Erich Fromm, Karen Horney and Harry Stack Sullivan. Freud retained the term psychoanalysis for his own school of thought.
Psychoanalysis is a controversial discipline and its validity as a science is contested. Nonetheless, it remains a strong influence within psychiatry, more so in some quarters than others.[b][c] The proportion of practitioners of Freudian psychoanalysis has declined as evidence-based medicine has increased the use of cognitive behavioral therapy. Psychoanalytic concepts are also widely used outside the therapeutic arena, in areas such as psychoanalytic literary criticism, as well as in the analysis of film, fairy tales and other cultural phenomena.
The basic tenets of psychoanalysis include:
- a person's development is determined by often forgotten events in early childhood, rather than by inherited traits alone;
- human behaviour and cognition are largely determined by instinctual drives that are rooted in the unconscious;
- attempts to bring those drives into awareness triggers resistance in the form of defense mechanisms, particularly repression;
- conflicts between conscious and unconscious material can result in mental disturbances such as neurosis, neurotic traits, anxiety and depression;
- unconscious material can be found in dreams and unintentional acts, including mannerisms and slips of the tongue;
- liberation from the effects of the unconscious is achieved by bringing this material into the conscious mind through therapeutic intervention;
- the "centerpiece of the psychoanalytic process" is the transference, whereby patients relive their infantile conflicts by projecting onto the analyst feelings of love, dependence and anger.