Harvard Women's Health Watch

Psychoanalysis: Theory and treatment

Freud's ideas about treating the troubled mind continue to influence our thinking about human behavior.

Sigmund Freud was born in 1856, and his contributions are being debated, discussed, and celebrated from Vienna to New York at conferences and in publications ranging from news magazines to scholarly journals. Freud's writings about psychoanalysis helped define the field of psychology in the 20th century and are objects of study in such diverse fields as literature, intellectual history, and the history of science. Repression, denial, dream analysis — these are all familiar concepts, thanks to Freud and his contributions to our views on human nature.

The rise of pharmacological treatments for emotional distress and psychiatric conditions has led some to proclaim the end of psychoanalysis — or to dismiss it as having an insufficient basis in scientific data. But it would be a mistake to count this form of talk therapy out. Research suggests that the psychoanalytic approach still plays an important therapeutic role. And Freud's theory of mind remains a fundamental part of many talk therapies, including psychoanalysis.

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