Sigmund Freud defined Psychoanalysis as:
“… the name of a procedure for the investigation of mental processes which are almost inaccessible in any other way, of a method for the treatment of neurotic disorders and of a collection of psychological information obtained along those lines, which is gradually being accumulated into a new scientific discipline.” (Freud, S. Two Encyclopedia Articles, 1923]
Currently psychoanalysis is no longer restricted to neurotic disorders; it also includes other disorders that contemporary psychiatric classifications have called psychoses, developmental disorders, anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, sexual disorders, etc., as well as conditions that do not fit with any psychiatric diagnostic categories.
The field of psychoanalysis has been extended to the treatment of human beings of all ages who suffer from the most diverse conditions, including those that are typically associated with particular stages in life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age.
Psychoanalytic treatment is founded upon the work of exploration and analysis of the patient’s unconscious, which contains the traces of unconscious desires, fantasies and forms of satisfaction that the patient rejects, but which, nevertheless rules his or her life, in ways which are inaccessible to other forms of treatment and research into mental phenomena. Those unconscious desires, fantasies and modes of satisfaction remain unknown and they undermine the person’s efforts in his or her human relations and work.
The unconscious is not only the cause of distressing and pathological mental products: it is also the source of creative endeavours and constructive human activities: the arts and scientific work, and all forms of social and cultural life that enrich human existence. A psychoanalytic treatment aims at facilitating the emergence and development of the creative capacity that all human beings have and which is thwarted by pathological processes and their combination with adverse, traumatic life situations.
Psychoanalysis is now firmly established in the work of social sciences, philosophy and the study of artistic creations, as a conceptual and methodological instrument.