Psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic therapies are talking treatments premised on the belief that a part of our mind which is outside of our immediate awareness, the unconscious, can profoundly influence our behaviour and experience. The presence of unconscious processes renders the advice of others or of self-help books inadequate to provide relief, as there is a deeper layer to our symptoms and ultimately to our suffering. Psychoanalysis deals with these layers of meaning and hidden truths which, although unacknowledged, are an intimate part of us and affect the way we relate to the world and others. In psychoanalysis we suppose that a great deal of the relevant material of analysis is unconscious. Therefore, the analytic process involves producing such knowledge that is initially not known to the person who speaks. For some of us it may take some time to believe in this 'Other' in us, that is the unconscious, and to be able to allow ourselves to speak freely and openly in a way that would allow the flow of unconscious ideas and associations to emerge.
One of the aims of psychoanalytic work, then, is to address underlying issues by increasing our awareness of the hidden conflicts and tensions that lie at the heart of our problems. For such exploration to occur, the analytic process cannot be a quick-fix method promising quick relief or immediate solutions. However, by entering the analytic experience, one can make deeper, more lasting changes, and can find creative and individual solutions to their concerns. The analytic relationship helps to develop a social bond within which a person can find his or her unique means of expressions. Difficulties and fears can become more manageable when they are brought into the analytic dialogue.
Another important feature of psychoanalytic practice, particularly of the Lacanian orientation, is that it it a non-normalising therapy. Not only does it not attempt to pigeonhole people into all-inclusive categories, it also does not hold preconceived notions of 'healthy' or 'normal'. Rather than making people conform to widely held social, cultural and sexual norms, it provides a space where things can be questioned and individuality can be asserted.