Your Questions Answered...

How can psychoanalysis help problem drinking?

1. What is psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis is both a theory of the functioning of the mind as well as a mode of psychological treatment for emotional and psychological difficulties.

Psychoanalytic theory has two basic premises: 1) a great deal of our mental activity is beyond our conscious awareness, that is, it is unconscious, and 2) what we think, feel, and experience in the present is affected by our past

2. How does psychoanalytic treatment works?

In psychoanalytic treatment the patient meets with the analyst many times a week (4 or 5) in order to explore and understand as intensively as possible the origins of his or her current life difficulties.

The analyst and patient examine the patient's ideas, wishes, fears, activities, relationships with others, dreams, etc. the patient's relationship with the analyst serves as a model for the significant relationships in the patient's life.

Thus, a great of the analytic work involves examining the nuances of the relationship between patient and analyst.

3. How is psychoanalysis different from other types of treatment?

The most important difference between psychoanalysis and other treatment modalities is that in analysis, the individual nuances of the patient's life are respected and understood.

4. How can psychoanalysis help me get free of my deep pain?

By understanding the origins of the deep pain and by developing better adaptive devices in your real life to feel in greater control of your life.

5. How shall I approach my family member or friend in advocating the need for help?

Only you can really know how to speak to those who are close to you. Usually honestly expressing your needs is most effective.

6. My child might be drinking excessively -- how shall I approach the problem?

Often young people are reluctant to speak with adults about their drinking because they anticipate that they will be "lectured" in a way that feels to them like a condemnation.

Therefore, as with any problem, it is best to express your concerns to your child with respect and empathy.  An open statement about why you are concerned and sharing information about both your and your child's views about the risks of drinking are usually a good way to begin.

If your child acknowledges that he or she has been drinking excessively, this is an opportunity to discuss the kinds of pressures and feelings the child may experience that lead to drinking.

Often young people feel a great deal of peer pressure, or feel that it is important to drink to be grownup, but they may not have anyone to talk with about these pressures.  If you are concerned without being judgmental, you may be an ally in their own efforts to drink responsibly.

7. Should I go into professional consultation if my loved one has an alcoholic problem?

It is helpful to see someone professionally if you are feeling overwhelmed, uncertain or confused about how to deal with the problem. Sometimes, it is sufficient to have validation of your feelings and some advice about how to think about alcoholism.

At other times, the situation may have provoked a strong reaction in you that itself deserves treatment,for instance because you feel depressed.

Consulting with a professional who is knowledgeable about both alcoholism and emotional distress can be a wise first step to figure out what path to follow.

Written by Leon Hoffman, M.D. and Lance Dodes, M.D.

(copyright APF)Permission to reprint this is freely granted. Please let us know of your use of this material (email