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Psychoanalysis is the most intensive form of the talking therapy, devised by Sigmund Freud one hundred years ago, but developed continuously and radically since then. Patients attend three to four 45 minute sessions weekly, usually for several years, working with their psychoanalyst to examine and to explore unconscious conflicts of feeling, emotion and phantasy that are at the root of their symptoms and the problems that are troubling them.

Psychoanalytic theory suggests that it is by no means only genetic and constitutional factors that make up the personality. Other central influences include the experience of birth, of the early relationships with parents, of sexuality, of love and hate, of loss and death. These crucial experiences, worked over and lived out in the core relationships of the family, lay down patterns in the mind of feeling, phantasy and relationship - patterns which provide unconscious templates, or models of relationships. Such unconscious versions of relationships are often at the root of the problems which lead people to seek help.

The regular sessions of psychoanalysis provide a setting within which these unconscious patterns can be brought into awareness and worked on with a view to change. The relationship with the analyst is influenced inevitably and powerfully by the patient's unconscious ways of behaving and itself becomes a central area of study, enabling light to be thrown on the patient's patterns of relationship in the immediacy of the sessions.

The work of psychoanalysis is long and arduous, for both patient and analyst. When successful, however, psychoanalysis can be a unique and profound experience that often leads to long-term development in close relationships, work and creativity. Success depends on both analyst and patient and on the quality of their joint work.