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Job Description For a Psychoanalyst

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A psychoanalyst is not like any other medical doctor. No state or federal law protects the "psychoanalyst" designation and, technically, any person can call himself a "psychoanalyst." To distinguish a genuine professional psychoanalyst from a non-genuine psychoanalyst, inquire about his qualifications. All qualified psychoanalysts must complete at least four years of training at an institute accredited by the American Psychoanalytic Association.


Merriam-Webster, which publishes dictionaries, defines "psychoanalyst" as a person who practices psychoanalysis. Perhaps the most important principle of psychoanalysis is that unconscious factors play a major role in people's lives and that the psychoanalyst needs to address those factors to treat an emotional disorder. For example, an individual who as a child witnessed her parents' divorce may, unwillingly, have problems forming a satisfactory relationship as a grown-up. Psychoanalysis could help such a person by allowing her to revisit the divorce of her parents, becoming conscientiously aware that her own personal life need not repeat the family life of her mother or father.

General Duties

A good psychoanalyst always listens very carefully to what his patients say, paying particular attention to their dreams and what happened in their early childhood. He also encourages patients to identify their emotional states and understand the subconscious factors that drive their behavior. A psychoanalyst's work is strictly confidential; he cannot share the information he receives during psychoanalytical sessions with other people. Psychoanalysts are typically self-employed, and so the amount of hours they work depends on how many clients they have. Psychoanalysts can treat anxiety, phobia, depression and obsessive behavior.

Day-to-Day Duties

According to the American Psychoanalytic Association's website, a psychoanalyst must meet each patient one-on-one about four times per week. Each session lasts about 50 minutes. The patient should lie on the coach, feeling relaxed and ready to talk openly and freely about anything that comes to mind. The psychoanalyst should sit slightly behind the patient and speak to the patient in a casual manner, trying to identify the unconscious factors in the patient's behavior. The psychoanalyst may take notes during the session, but she should write down most of her observations after the patient departs.


In order to become a qualified psychoanalyst, a candidate must study for four years at an institute accredited by the American Psychoanalytic Association. To enter the program, the individual must be a physician who successfully completed a four-year residency program in psychiatry. Alternatively, the candidate can be a psychologist or social worker who completed a doctoral program in his field. In addition, outstandingly qualified researchers, scholars, educators and other professionals may be admitted to the program. During the training program, the candidate attends classes in psychoanalytic technique and theory, undergoes a personal analysis and conducts psychoanalysis under the supervision of experienced analysts.


Deanne Whitmore has been writing child development and education articles since 2000. Many of these articles have been published in newsletters through the Oregon Child Care Resource and Referral agency. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Eastern Oregon University and a Master of Education from the University of Phoenix.