Hearing about psychoanalysis might lead you to imagine a patient lying on a comfortable sofa while a therapist sits in a nearby chair asking probing questions and taking notes. Although psychoanalysts may no longer use sofas these days, they still ask probing questions. But why?
It is interesting to sit opposite a psychotherapist and field one probing question after another. It can also be overwhelming. You might find yourself wondering why a complete stranger wants to know so many personal details of your life. Truth be told, the probing questions are rooted in the very foundation of psychoanalysis.
What’s Under the Hood
People often confuse psychoanalysis with psychology and psychiatry. While it bears some similarities to those other two disciplines, psychoanalysis is something completely different. It is a means of analysing and treating patients based on deeply rooted thoughts and emotions. Essentially, psychoanalysts want to know what’s under the hood.
London psychoanalyst María R. de Almeida explains that psychoanalysis rests on the understanding that we all experience unrecognised thoughts, emotions, and desires that motivate our actions. These motivations are often unconscious. That’s why they go unrecognised. It is the psychotherapist’s job to uncover them so they can be dealt with.
Patterns and Behaviours
At first, not all of the probing questions may make sense to a patient. They can seem like random questions that have no bearing on the present and are not linked in any way. But to a trained psychoanalyst, what seems incoherent to patients is incredibly valuable. The answers a patient provides open the door to understanding the patterns and behaviours that motivate the patient’s actions.
For example, you may have a patient with some sort of eating disorder. Psychoanalysis reveals this person has repressed feelings of rejection and abandonment as a result of an abusive childhood. Those repressed feelings motivate the patient to seek refuge in food.
The original founders of psychoanalysis were firm in their belief that the subconscious plays a significant role in conscious behaviours. Furthermore, when the subconscious is ruled by negative patterns and behaviours, the outward manifestations of those patterns and behaviours are also negative.
Talking Is the Best Way
Another thing to consider about psychoanalysis is the method of practise. Psychoanalysts ask a lot of probing questions because it helps them figure out what’s going on. But there is another benefit: questions and answers facilitate discussion. That is key to successful psychoanalysis.
Talking is simply the best way to get negative feelings, thoughts, patterns, and behaviours out in the open. And once they are out there, they can be dealt with – which is the ultimate goal. A psychoanalyst wants to develop a solid and long-term rapport with each patient, a rapport that leads to productive discussions during every session.
Part of the Treatment
When a medical doctor asks questions about physical symptoms, their only motivation is to figure out what the physical issue is. That is often true in psychiatry as well. But in the field of psychoanalysis, questions are more than diagnostic tools. They are also part of the treatment.
Answering questions forces a patient to really think about what is going on. Talking gives the patient an opportunity to let go of pent-up feelings. It offers an opportunity to express those secret desires, frustrations, and fears. Just the simple act of talking it out can be incredibly therapeutic.
Now you know why psychoanalysts ask so many probing questions. Questions are a diagnostic tool to help the therapist figure out what the problem is. They are a therapeutic tool in the sense that they give patients an outlet.