As the title character of FREUD'S LAST SESSION, Sigmund Freud is an iconic figure of the 20th century. An Austrian doctor known as the Father of Psychoanalysis, he was the first to suggest treating mental illness by means of conversation between doctor and patient. Here is some more background information about Freud and his theories.
Freudian therapy involved the patient lying on a couch (now famous) and speaking freely about their symptoms and thoughts. He developed exercises such as free association to help uncover hidden patterns causing distress.
The Subconscious: in the early 1900’s, Freud developed a model for the mind where only a small part of it is known (the conscious mind) and the rest is unconscious, or unaware, using the comparison of an iceberg. From this he developed concepts of the id, ego, and supergo.
Psychosexual Stages: one of his more controversial theories, tracing sexual development of a person from infancy forward, including his famous Oedipus Complex. Sexual pleasure, for Freud, was a broader term meant to include all pleasure. He postulated that people seek pleasure from different objects throughout their lives, and have a variety of behavioural and psychological problems based on where their development was stunted.
Dream Analysis: considering sleep to be a time when the ego’s defenses are lowered, he believed that a person’s unconscious desires and neuroses came through in dreams.
Freud’s theories are considered controversial within the behavioural sciences. Scientifically his methods were suspect as he employed case studies through which he generalized to the population as a whole. His theories as a whole came from study of himself and his patients. However, his theories have permeated culture as a whole, referenced regularly in art and entertainment to this day.