The words therapy, counseling and analysis are used interchangeably when people talk about seeking mental health. The following is my understanding of them and how they differ.
Supportive therapy and/or counseling is the same thing. Usually given by a LCSW (Licensed Certified Social Worker) that holds a Masters degree in Social Work or a practitioner with a Masters in Psychology. The patient or client sits in comfortable furniture facing the therapist and discusses the issue(s) at hand in a conversational setting.
Psychoanalytic psychology with a Doctor of Clinical Psychology (PhD) uses the technique in which the patient lies on a couch facing away from the analyst. The analyst sits in a chair behind the patient and takes notes. The reason for this is that when we face each other we make eye contact. As people talk, they naturally interact and respond to facial gestures and body language from the other person causing them to subconsciously edit and alter their stories. This will cloud and stall the progress of analysis. Non-face-to-face counseling helps to facilitate and reveal material from the ‘pre-conscious’ mind as opposed to the conscious mind that can inhibit analysis with its ‘defensive maneuvers’.
Therapy or counseling are shorter in duration. If a person has an issue, relationship, or situation with which she/he needs help in order to better understand how to handle it; these supportive techniques can help. Supportive therapy is the verbal massaging of information and experiences to find the center of an issue thus relieving emotional pressure. With a new understanding and clarity, given in a supportive environment, the patient feels better equipped with tactical ideas to help address the situation.
For most of us, these problems are often symptoms of deeper, more foundational issues. Supportive therapy/counseling can help the client find relief to satisfy the problem at hand, but it doesn’t necessarily find the root cause of the issue. Even if it does, identifying the cause doesn’t necessarily mean it will create change because these foundational causes are at a pre-conscious level.
While supportive therapies may identify the base issues and give the person some relief and better understanding, it will not fundamentally change the their behavior or the tendency to continually ‘write the same scripts’ (choosing the same type of people and situations) that lead to unhappiness and repetitive experiences. By understanding base issues (or how one is ‘crazy’) through the long-term commitment to psychoanalysis, a person can learn what the various triggers are that lead them to that wrong emotional place. Psychoanalysis will help a person to develop a skill set to handle his/herself and their experience of the world more effectively. Ultimately, he/she can be significantly happier, more successful and can better manage their interpersonal relationships by shedding old defensive maneuvers to protect the self and actualize healthier defenses.
Why do I always choose the same unsupportive people? Why do I always find myself in toxic situations? Why is there always the same conflict in my interpersonal relationships? Why am I always disappointed? Why do I come back to this place time and time again?
If these questions or questions like them sound familiar, and you are interested in finding the answers, then you are an excellent candidate for psychoanalysis.