Prof Dr Nikola Atanassov (1955-2020) was one of the key figures of the psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic movement in Bulgaria. He was one of the founders and first presidents of the Bulgarian Psychoanalytic Society, of the Masters programme in Clinical Psychology - Psychoanalytic Perspective in the New Bulgarian University, former president of the Bulgarian Association for Psychotherapy, a training and supervising analyst who was fully devoted to the clinical practice and the organisational and scientific life of the analytic community as well as a close colleague, mentor and collaborator of so many. This web page is devoted to his life and work.
Ass. Prof. Nikola Atanassov

Why Psychoanalysis?

Generally speaking, psychoanalytic therapy helps people by broadening their self-knowledge, allowing them to overcome disturbing personal problems and experience more joy in their lives.

What kind of problems?

Sigmund Freud created the method of psychoanalysis to treat psychogenic disturbances – i.e. disturbances that are rooted in the human psyche and in the way people experience their lives.

The reasons for seeing a psychoanalyst may include many different symptoms: feelings of anxiety and depression, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and compulsives actions, sexual problems, eating disorders, and bodily complaints. These may all be symptoms of emotional conflicts. Together with the analyst, a client works on problems created by his/her character traits that intervene with a successful, high functioning private or professional life. Common problems include disappointments in interpersonal relationships or problems with colleagues. A client can also work to overcome negative emotional experiences, such as those following the loss of a loved one or living in isolation and loneliness. Psychoanalysis may also be helpful to people who have experienced psychic trauma – like childhood sexual abuse – that often causes chronic anxiety.

There are also people who are quite successful in their work and who have been able to create a stable family, but nonetheless, they feel dissatisfied with their lives. This might be a consequence of internal emotional conflicts that a psychoanalyst can help them deal with.  People may also call a psychoanalyst because they want to learn more about themselves and their inner life.

Psychoanalysis can be a treatment of choice when other shorter and less intensive therapies have failed.

Seeking help from a psychoanalyst does not mean that a person is less valuable or less capable than others. Through engaging in such an activity, one can obtain self-knowledge that is not obtainable in any other way. A person becomes better able to understand his/her own psychic life, as well as the psychic life of other people. Psychoanalytic therapy is a highly qualified service that has found its place in the mental health field in many countries.

What should we know about psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis is a long-term intensive psychotherapy requiring a high level of motivation from the patient. When starting psychoanalytic treatment, one cannot know how long it will last, but the patient should know that treatment could take multiple couple years. The frequency of the sessions is negotiated in each individual case by the therapist and the patient; however, it cannot be less then 3 times a week, with each session lasting about 45 – 50 minutes. Clearly, this is a very serious challenge in terms of time, considering how busy people are nowadays. However, psychoanalysis deals with problems and personality traits that have developed in the course of many years, starting in early childhood. They cannot be analyzed in a short period of time.

What are the characteristics of the analytic setting? The patient and the analyst fix the days of the week and the hours of the day they want to meet; usually these fixed appointments remain unchanged during the entire course of the analysis. During the session the patient lies on a couch and the analyst sits behind the couch. The patient is the more active participant; he is supposed to freely express his thoughts and ideas as they occur in the session. The analyst listens, based on the assumption that the communications of the patient contain the unconscious motives that are behind the complaints. By gaining insight into the unconscious motives through the help of the psychoanalyst, the patient is able to bring them under his conscious control.

Of particular importance is the creation of an enduring relationship between the analyst and the patient, where they feel free to analyze what is going on within their personal relationship as well as in the psychic life of the patient.

How much does analysis cost? The fee as well as the method of payment, too, is negotiated between the patient and the analyst. Because it is a long-term therapy with a high frequency of sessions, the price is usually high. Health insurance companies in Bulgaria do not pay for psychoanalytic treatment. However, if you want to start psychoanalysis but have financial difficulties, you can ask for a referral to institutions offering reduced fees.

What is psychoanalytic psychotherapy?

The name “psychoanalytic psychotherapy” usually refers to a kind of treatment based on the principles of psychoanalysis but differs from psychoanalysis proper in terms of the setting. In psychoanalytic psychotherapy, the patient and the therapist usually meet one or two times a week and sit face-to-face. This method could be a treatment of choice for people who, for a variety of reasons, are not able to engage in psychoanalysis proper, or for those who because of emotional instability are not able to tolerate the frustrations accompanying the traditional setting. It any case, you should try together with your therapist to find out which kind of therapy is best suited for you.   


You can consult a psychoanalyst about different questions related to the field of mental health. If necessary, the analyst can refer you to another professional.

The qualifications of the analyst

Psychoanalytic practice is based on training that is longer and more intensive then all other kinds of psychotherapy training. The most important part of this training is the personal analysis of the candidate. Additionally, candidates in training analyze patients under the supervision of more experienced analysts; they have clinical seminars and study the theory of their method as well. And they must have internships in mental health institutions.

The respective training institution should guarantee the quality of training. The International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) is an international body serving the task of ensuring the high quality of training offered by its component societies and their training institutions. The accreditation by the IPA is a guarantee that the training is being conducted according to its standards. But in many countries, there are also possibilities for training outside the IPA.  

In Bulgaria, we currently do not have an IPA institute, but we are on our way to creating one. We have seven psychoanalysts who are members of the IPA. One of them was trained at the institute of the Paris Psychoanalytical Society, and the other six were trained at the Han Groen-Prakken Psychoanalytic Institute for Eastern Europe of the IPA. There are also other professionals in an advanced stage of their training who are authorized to conduct psychoanalysis. 

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