How to Differentiate between Psychology and Psychoanalysis

Many terms are applied to this branch of science that we know involves the mind, the psyche and all areas of human development and behaviors.  So it is not difficult to confuse any or all of those terms,  given that they are indeed interlinked in many vital ways.  It might be beneficial,  therefore, to begin by stating a simple definition of each term before offering more detailed explanations.  This will hopefully, clarify the difference between psychology and psychoanalysis at the outset.

PSYCHOLOGY:  This is best described as the study of human development, behavior and mental activity.

PSYCHOANALYSIS:  This can be described as therapy for the treatment of behavioral disorders, chiefly emanating from the mind and emotions.  It was first developed by Sigmund Freud, on whose theories its practice was based. 

Looking at psychology first, this field of study includes mental disorders, which is one possible reason for confusing the two terms under discussion here.  Psychology also includes examining the relationship between experience and behavior with brain functioning, known as neuropsychology.  It also looks at human perceptions,  emotion,  personality and thinking,  and how an individual adapts to society.

Because of the vast range of study areas contained in psychology,  it can be seen to overlap with other scientific disciplines that pertain to the human condition, such as philosophy, physiology and social anthropology.  Branches of psychology include ‘developmental’ which looks at how children develop emotionally and cognitively.  Social psychology examines behavior in the social context, while ‘cognitive psychology’ is about studying thought processes.  ‘Applied psychology’ puts the knowledge gained in the whole field of study into practical application in areas such as industry and education, for example.  As can be seen, psychology is a vast discipline with many interlinking areas of study. 

Psychoanalysis is all about putting theories and learning from  the field into practical use.  It encompasses many forms of therapeutic treatment for behavioral and mental disorders.  Freud is often described as the “father of psychoanalysis.”  He theorized that the subconscious and unconscious drive human behavior, through the Ego, Id and Superego; most of his hypotheses were based on sexual development, conflict and the interpretation of dreams.  The practice of psychoanalysis allows therapists and practitioners to work with patients or clients using free association, interpretation of dreams, expression of repressed conflict and often, transference to the analyst.  Many people spend years in psychoanalytical therapy, which has developed further since the early days of Freud.

Should you wish to look further into other theories and areas of psychoanalysis, the following list of links may be of interest:

Carl G. Jung   Alfred Adler    Erich Fromm      Melanie Klein

It is safe to assume that the study of psychology feeds into and informs the practice of psychoanalysis.  Both disciplines are concerned with the mental health of humanity, and the desire to assist the individual in reaching his or her full potential.  The more that is known about any field of study, the better that knowledge can be applied in practical terms.  So when considering the difference between psychology and psychoanalysis, the way to remember is that one studies and gains knowledge, which the other then puts into practice.