The method of free associations is widely used inpsychology for quite some time. Its author is one of the most famous and scandalous psychoanalysts in the history of Sigmund Freud. It was he who proposed this method and used it throughout his career, passed it on to his students and included it in the so-called psychoanalysis, thanks to which he gained his fame. If you want to learn more about the method of free associations, what it is and what it is used for, this article is for you.

Sigmund Freud

free association method

If we talk about the method of free associations,then it is necessary to mention the one who introduced this method, namely Sigmund Freud. He lived and worked in the second half of the nineteenth and in the first half of the twentieth century. He was born in the Austrian Empire in the city of Freiberg, which at the moment belongs territorially to the Czech Republic. He made a huge contribution to psychology, and his works are still used and appreciated, studied in universities and applied in practice, although not as active as before. He founded the three-component structure of the psyche, introducing the concepts of "I", "it" and "super-I". It was Freud who told the world about the psychosexual phases of human development, he described the protective mechanisms of the human psyche and much more, which resulted in a full-fledged psychological and psychiatric direction, which was called "Freudianism." And it is within the framework of Freudianism that so-called psychoanalysis exists that shocked the world of psychology and psychiatry in its time. Its key component is the method of free associations, so you can not talk about it without telling directly about psychoanalysis as a whole.

What is psychoanalysis?

method of free association of Freud

So, what place does psychoanalysis takefree associations? Freud based his work on this method. Therefore, we can safely say that it is fundamental for psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis is the direction of psychology,the founder of which is Sigmund Freud. He believed that each person's psyche is divided into the conscious and the unconscious. And psychoanalysis, unlike all other areas, was focused on working with the unconscious. This meant that the study of the patient's situation, his help, his treatment was carried out using not the most traditional methods, which included even the interpretation of dreams. Over time, of course, these methods have become generally accepted, and the method of free associations, examples of which will be discussed below, in general became one of the leading in psychology and psychiatry.

What is this method?

free association method

The method of free associations in psychoanalysis, like youhave already understood, occupies a leading place and plays an important role. But what is he like? As already mentioned, Freud's psychoanalysis is aimed at the unconscious in the human psyche, and it is on this basis that the method works. The essence of it is that the psychoanalyst does not try to work with the rational thoughts and ideas of the patient, he tries to get to the very depths, to the point that the human mind tries to hide from everyone around him and even from himself. But how does it work? How to get to that secret place in the human psyche? The method of free verbal associations is the ideal tool to get exactly what the psychoanalyst needs.

How is this method carried out?

method of free association in psychoanalysis

So, the essence of the method is thatthe psychoanalyst allows his patient to say absolutely everything that comes to his mind. He does not ask leading questions and does not try to learn something concrete. He does not ask to restrain any emotions - the patient can and must tell everything that comes to mind, even the most indecent and vulgar things. The job of a psychoanalyst is to listen to the patient, record everything that flows in the stream of consciousness from the patient's mouth, and then justify the name of his profession, that is, analyze the information received. At first glance this may seem a little absurd - what can be learned from a verbal flow that is not limited by anything? However, in reality everything is not as simple as it might seem. Freud would not have become so famous if it was a normal stream of consciousness, and not something more.

Working with the unconscious

Young Method of Free Associations

So what is the secret that makes so popular andeffective method of free association? Interpretation of the information received from the patient is not a search for common sense grain in the stream of delusions, as it seems to many. In fact, Sigmund Freud believed that the division of the psyche into the conscious and the unconscious is available to every person, and psychoanalysts until that time only addressed to the conscious. This means that they asked their patients logical questions, to which they deliberately gave logical answers. However, consciousness did not allow the most profound problems to come out - no one consciously wanted to admit them, and often could not even, because they did not suspect their existence, since consciousness reliably protected them. How does the method of free association differ? The thing is that this method removed all limitations of consciousness - the patient was forbidden to think about what he was saying, trying to weigh words, filter ideas. He had to say absolutely everything that came to his mind. It was through this that the path was made to the most hidden problems in the depths of the subconsciousness that the patient did not want or even could not tell his psychoanalyst when he was asked directly or indirectly, that is, turning to his conscious, and not unconscious.

Non-Free Associations

method of free verbal associations

Despite the fact that this method is calledThus, Freud himself did not consider associations specifically "free." He was of the opinion that they are all controlled by a subconscious process. And thanks to this method, the patient's consciousness can no longer restrain all that was hidden in its depths. It misses this information, since it often goes not in a straight line, but in a symbolic form - it is here that an experienced psychoanalyst enters into the business, which should decipher the symbols obtained.


free association method

Interpretation is no less importantan instrument of psychoanalysis than free associations. Without it, this method will not work, because the psychoanalyst will remain simply with a stream of consciousness written down on paper. Interpretation is a process of psychoanalysis, through which verbal associations are deciphered and take the form of the essence of the problem that the patient unconsciously tried to convey. And then it is already possible to work on its solution. As you can see, Freud's psychoanalysis turned out to be a real breakthrough in psychology and psychiatry, allowing people to get to the most intimate problems that they could not express consciously. Only with the help of the unconscious was it possible to get to the point, and that's why Freud's psychoanalysis became so popular and entered all textbooks on psychology, psychoanalyst and even psycholinguistics.

Example of using the method

So, a session of psychoanalysis using the methodfree associations occurs as follows: the patient lies on the couch, and the psychoanalyst sits on a chair near his head. In most cases, the patient can not see the psychoanalyst or sees only a small part of it. This is done so that nothing distracts him from a kind of rendezvous with the unconscious. The psychoanalyst does not ask direct questions, as in a standard session - he only helps the patient to dive into the unconscious flow to get to the heart of the problem, which is hidden because of the defense mechanism of consciousness. As a result, the psychoanalyst receives information, which often comes not in the form of direct text, but symbolically. Then he as a professional psychoanalysis uses his skills to read the essence of the problem in the images and help the patient solve it.

Other types of free association method

However, not only Freud used this method,other scientists also applied it in their practice. One of the most famous among them was Carl Gustav Jung. He also had his own psychoanalysis - now it is even common to divide psychoanalysis into Freudian and Jungian. However, Jung used the method of free associations a little differently - he made more emphasis precisely on the fact that associations are free, while Freud himself acknowledged their lack of freedom, subordination to the general process, and he himself concentrated directly on associations. But both of these approaches were incredibly successful and eventually became world famous.