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Psychodynamic Therapy – Key Concepts, Techniques, and Much More

Psychodynamic Therapy – Key Concepts, Techniques, and Much More

Updated on Jun 14, 2022 | Published on May 19, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD , Certified Psychiatrist

Psychodynamic Therapy - Meaning, Key Techniques, History & Much More

Key Takeaways


  • Psychodynamic therapy is a type of talking therapy.
  • It is based on the idea that when you talk about your problems, you feel better and can resolve life issues much better.
  • Psychodynamic therapy improves a person’s ability to make wise choices in life.
  • The therapy aims to delve deeper into the unconscious mind.
  • It analyzes the thoughts and feelings of the person.
  • It helps to resolve unhealed trauma, break self-defeating patterns, and improve relationships with others.

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on understanding the ‘self’ with pros and cons.

It is a talking therapy that focuses on self-reflection and understanding the deeper aspects of oneself.

The therapy addresses the unconscious mind and reveals what lies beneath the emotional sufferings. 

With the help of a trained therapist, the patient comes into direct contact with their fears and insecurities, anger and frustration, pains and sufferings.

Patients speak about their random mind musings through free association. 

During the therapy, the therapist identifies the repressed materials lying in the unconscious mind of the client, thereby helping them to overcome the problematic behavior.

In this article, we will highlight the key concepts and techniques, benefits, and criticism of the therapy.

Read On…

What is psychodynamic therapy?

SUMMARY
Psychodynamic therapy is a form of psychoanalysis. It aims to unleash the repressed content of the unconscious and helps the person develop better self-awareness.

Psychodynamic therapy is a type of talk therapy. This type of therapy is based on the idea of talking with a mental health professional. This professional is often called a therapist.

The therapist listens to the patient or client’s problems. They then offer expert advice and solutions to the client’s problems.

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on a deeper understanding of an individual’s unconscious thoughts. This allows individuals to gain insight into their thoughts and feelings.

Thus, people can improve their knowledge of their own selves. This allows individuals to lead better lives.

This is the main idea of psychodynamic therapy. This type of therapy focuses on catharsis and the free association where the client feels safe to share their deepest feelings with the therapist.

The therapy focuses on the release of negative emotions and helps in maintaining peace of mind. 

You can say that catharsis is a type of purification process where suppressed emotions are brought to conscious awareness for complete healing.

The therapy has its roots in traditional psychoanalysis formulated by Sigmund Freud. Later on, many other psychologists started using this approach in different ways.

It is to be noted that revealing the secrets of the unconscious into the realm of the present situation is difficult. It involves pain and cuts that are not healed.

The aim of the therapy is to teach clients how to resolve old conflicts and remain conscious of their internalized feelings, and beliefs.

The therapist helps the client to deeply explore, develop awareness, heal the wounds, and live better lives.


History of Psychodynamic therapy

In order to understand the history of this therapeutic technique, we will have to briefly analyze the contributions of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler.

Freud and his psychoanalysis

Many people consider Austrian Neurologist Sigmund Freud to be the proponent of this form of therapy.

But German physiologist Ernst Wilhelm von Brucke was the first person who introduced the idea of psychodynamics.

Readers should note that von Brucke did not coin the term ‘psychodynamics’. His student Sigmund Freud did that years later.

The Principle of Energy Conversion in Thermodynamics heavily influenced Von Brucke. He stated that all living beings including humans are also energy systems.

Freud used this idea to explain his psychoanalytic theory.

Freud said that the sexual energy or libido of every person controls their actions.

In 1900, Freud published his major work on dream analysis. The book was titled “The Interpretation of Dreams”.

In this book, Freud explained how every individual’s dreams have a relation with their unconscious desires.

Later, in 1920, Freud also wrote an essay titled “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”.

In this article, he claimed that the human mind has three components. These are the id, ego, and super-ego.

Freud further explained his concepts in another book titled “The Ego and the Id”.

According to this theory, the id is the completely unconscious part of the human mind. Freud stated that the id is impulsive and even child-like.

The id works on the ‘pleasure principle.’ It controls all basic human impulses and primal urges.

Researchers often use the ‘iceberg model’ to describe Freud’s theory. This states that all functioning of the id is limited to the unconscious human mind.

Psychodynamic therapists explore the unconscious materials of the id through talking therapy.

The term ‘dynamic’ denotes something or some process that changes with time.

Freud noted that the unconscious motives of a person also change with time. Thus, he incorporated the concept of dynamics into the field of psychology.

This is how Freud laid the foundation for the psychodynamic approach to psychology. Later, several other scientists and researchers contributed to this field.

Contribution of Carl Jung

Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung contributed extensively to the field of Psychodynamic therapy.

Originally, Jung was Freud’s student. In the initial years, they performed research together.

But in later years, their points of view started differing. In 1912, Jung published his own book titled “Psychology of the Unconscious”.

This book started the rift between Jung’s and Freud’s ideologies.

Like Freud, Carl Jung believed that the human psyche has three levels: The conscious, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious.

Our ego is the center of consciousness. It comprises thoughts, feelings, and memories that are within our realm of awareness. 

The personal unconscious carries the residues of past trauma, repressed feelings of pain, and suffering that were never allowed to surface in reality.

The collective unconscious refers to the storehouse of the latent memory traces, common to all. It is a way to feel connected with others.

According to Carl Jung’s model, psychodynamic therapy is a four path stage. They are as follows:

1. Confession

It refers to sharing secrets and revealing inhibited emotions. The patient shares his/her story, experiences, and problems with the therapist. 

The process of therapy helps the ego to restore a balance through a cathartic process, by giving vent to the materials stored in the unconscious.

2. Elucidation

This process helps clients to gain insight into their personal unconscious and become more accepting of their shortcomings. It also involves the interpretation of a person’s dream.

3. Education

Here, the insights are expanded and extended to social and behavioral aspects. Education entails helping clients to draw themselves new and adaptive habits so that they can replace their self-defeating habits.

4. Transformation

Transformation means change. It implies changing and altering maladaptive thoughts and attitudes into more healthy and adaptable ones.

Jung later developed his own concept known as analytical psychology. 

Contribution of Alfred Adler

Austrian doctor and psychotherapist Alfred Adler also worked with Freud. Together, they refined the concepts of the psychoanalytic theory.

But much like Jung, Adler also disagreed with Freud’s ideologies in later years. Adler later introduced the concept of individual psychology.

He believed that human life is purposeful and every child possesses qualities that shape their personality and overall behavior.

Moreover, Adler also valued the role of socialization in shaping a person’s behavior. The stages of therapy given by Adler are as follows:

  • Engagement – rapport building with the client
  • Assessment – in-depth analysis of the person’s life and the problems faced. You can say it is a combination of background checks and mental status examinations.
  • Insight – the client is encouraged to self-reflect on their life in general; to access those parts of ‘self’ that were never accessed before.
  • Reorientation – Reframe new beliefs and behaviors

Other significant contributors to psychodynamic therapy

Austrian psychologist Melanie Klein also contributed extensively to psychodynamic therapy. She famously developed the ‘object relations theory.’

Klein used the psychodynamic perspective to analyze the behaviors of children. Apart from that, she also did some theoretical work on Freud’s ideas.

Before ending this section, we must also mention Anna Freud.

Anna was Sigmund Freud’s youngest daughter. She followed in her father’s footsteps by doing extensive research on psychoanalytical therapy methods.

She was one of the founders of the concept of psychodynamic child psychology. This was especially aimed at dealing with the behavior analysis of children.

Anna also wrote a book titled “The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense”. In this book, she mentioned various defense mechanisms that the human mind exhibits.

This book highlighted the importance of Sigmund Freud’s theoretical work.


Goals of psychodynamic therapy

Like most other forms of therapy, psychodynamic therapy involves sharing traumatic experiences.

Through the psychodynamic therapy sessions, both the therapist and client gain insight into the client’s unconscious thought patterns. 

Thus, the goals of psychodynamic therapy also involve this concept.

We will discuss these goals now.

1. Making mindful choices

‘Mindfulness’ means being aware of one’s surroundings and their own thoughts related to the present moment.

Generally, when we face a problematic situation, we react on the basis of our reflect actions.

These actions are often uncontrolled and sudden. The outcome may not always be favorable.

Psychodynamic therapy helps an individual be more aware of the situation.

They are also more knowledgeable about their own capabilities.

So, when the individual now faces difficulty in life, they can control their own actions. They can react in a way that is best suited to deal with the situation.

2. Getting rid of the past

Many people have a misconception that psychodynamic therapy dwells on the past.

This misconception exists because this therapy involves re-telling past traumatic events. These may include childhood experiences of trauma.

But psychodynamic therapists use this past information to strategically provide clinical advice.

The clients become aware of some habits and actions that they use in their daily lives.

They also learn which of these habits and actions are ineffective. Thus, they can get rid of these habits.

3. Improving relationships

Through psychodynamic therapy, clients can understand how they interact with others.

After many sessions, they can also improve their interaction and communication skills.

This helps the clients improve their relationship patterns in life.

They learn to voice their needs and can set clear boundaries between themselves and their partner.

At times, they also get better at choosing partners. For example, they can successfully choose a partner who is emotionally responsive. They can choose someone who will support them mentally.


The key concepts in psychodynamic therapy

Many people refer to psychodynamic therapy as psychodynamic psychotherapy. So, it is essentially a form of psychotherapy.

Psychodynamic therapy also involves developing a relationship between the client and the therapist.

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the following areas.

  • It focuses on the emotions expressed by the client.
  • The therapist investigates the client’s defense mechanisms against uncomfortable situations. These uncomfortable situations arise from traumatic experiences in the client’s early life.
  • The therapist looks for recurring emotional themes in the client. Let us explain what this means. Usually, every individual’s thoughts and behavior follow some fixed pattern. An individual may face a particularly difficult situation many times in his or her life. But generally, they tend to react the same way every time they face that particular situation. The therapist tries to understand this pattern.
  • After establishing a safe space, the therapist urges the client to discuss past traumatic experiences. The therapist then analyzes how these past events affect the client’s daily life in the present day.
  • Psychodynamic therapy also focuses on relationships. This also includes the therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist. The client can speak freely only if a good, safe relationship has been established. Similarly, the therapist can offer clinical advice only if a stable relationship has been established.

As we have mentioned before, psychodynamic therapy obtains much of its background from Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory.

The key concepts of Sigmund Freud

Freud highlighted four key concepts that are important in the context of psychodynamic therapy.

1. Conscious, pre-conscious & unconscious:

Freud divided the human mind into three parts – the conscious, pre-conscious & unconscious. 

Many psychologists often give the analogy of an iceberg to explain this concept. The tip of the iceberg represents the conscious mind. 

This part controls everything that we are aware of, and our immediate thoughts.

The part slightly below the tip is the pre-conscious mind. This part is slightly submerged in water.

The preconscious mind controls everything that is about to surface. Has this ever happened to you when you are about to say something? 

You feel like it is at the tip of your tongue, but you just cannot remember it. The preconscious mind is responsible for this.

The unconscious is the large part of the iceberg. This part is completely submerged under the water. This part contains all hidden or suppressed thoughts, behaviors, and feelings.

Psychodynamic therapy aims to unlock this unconscious mind.

2. Id, ego & super-ego

Freud stated that the unconscious mind contains three conflicting forces. They are as follows – the id, the ego, and the super-ego.

The id represents all basic human desires.

The super-ego controls the moral conscience of every human being. This includes the Do’s and Don’ts that our parents, teachers, or society teach us from childhood.

The ego acts as the mediator between the id and the super-ego.

The id and the super-ego are often conflicting forces. The ego contains some defense mechanisms to deal with these conflicts. These defense mechanisms can be fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, etc.

If the conflict between the id and super-ego becomes too great, the ego cannot handle this conflict. In that case, one or more defense mechanisms can become dysfunctional.

3. Unconscious drives

The unconscious drives refer to those basic needs of an individual which he or she is not aware of.

These unconscious drives impel an individual towards relatable situations.

In the context of psychodynamic theory, these drives present themselves in dysfunctional patterns. 

Unconscious drives are of many types. They are sexual drives, aggression, the urge to feel a sense of importance, etc.

4. The influence of childhood experiences

Childhood experiences play a major role in psychodynamic therapy.

Early life experiences can severely affect human behavior in adolescence as well as adulthood.

These experiences can include the following. They are bad parenting, various types of bullying, separation from the primary caregiver, abuse, etc.

Children often develop a sense of role for themselves based on their experiences. In adulthood, they may continue to want to maintain these roles. This often leads to conflict and relationship problems.


9 techniques of psychodynamic therapy

The basic techniques of psychodynamic therapy are centered on making the thoughts of the unconscious mind come to light.

A psychodynamic therapist may achieve this by using one or more of the following techniques:

1. Free association 

Freud viewed therapy as making the unconscious conscious. He developed the important technique of free association.

In this technique, the therapist encourages the client to not suppress or edit what comes to mind. 

The therapist also asks the client to not always focus on a specific topic. Instead, the client should verbalize their unconscious feelings in a stream of consciousness. 

The therapist encourages the client to set aside restrictions on thoughts. 

The client also reports the feelings of embarrassment, shame, or fear that they are going through while engaging in the process. 

The technique of free association also helps the therapist to get a better understanding of the play of the different defense mechanisms.  

2. Content vs process  

This is nothing but understanding the patient’s communication at various levels. 

Content means what the patient is saying at the conscious level. In this case, the patient himself understands everything that he is saying. 

Process means how this information is presented. When the client says something, it may include certain clues to the client’s unconscious mind. These clues can be non-verbal cues, errors in speech, etc. 

The therapist has to carefully listen to the patient in order to successfully understand these clues. 

3. Transference

Transference is the process by which the client transfers their feelings to the therapist. These feelings were originally intended for a different person in the client’s life.

Transference can be of two types – positive and negative. 

Positive transference refers to the expression of good feelings toward the therapist. These feelings might include the following. 

They are feelings of love and its many variations, manifested in trust, admiration, etc.

Negative transference, on the other hand, refers to equally intense bad feelings towards the therapist. These feelings include hate, anger, mistrust, etc. 

Clients do not always recognize the process of transference when it occurs. This means that it may or may not happen consciously.

When transference occurs, a trained therapist can identify the connection. This helps the client to discover the actual source of their suppressed emotions

This also helps the client to identify unresolved conflicts in their life. Through the therapy session, the client and the therapist can work together to resolve these conflicts. 

4. Counter-transference

Counter-transference refers to transference in the reverse direction. In this case, the therapist develops unconscious feelings toward the client. 

Well-trained therapists need to understand their own issues. Otherwise, these issues may have an unwanted influence on the therapy session. 

The therapist can use counter-transference as an effective tool. They use it to understand the patient’s experiences. Thus, they can have a more prepared approach to the therapy session. 

5. Clarification 

This includes techniques of questioning the patient. This also involves repeating what the patient has told the therapist. 

These questions serve as a mechanism of feedback. This helps both the patient and the therapist better understand what is being discussed. 

6. Interpretation 

It is the therapist’s response to what the client is saying. It involves telling the client in a convincing way that there is an unconscious process at work in their thinking. 

In a complete interpretation, the therapist explains to the client exactly why and how these unconscious processes work.

7. Catharsis 

Catharsis is the process by which the patient releases a suppressed emotion. 

When a therapist’s interpretation is accurate, the patient tends to exhibit a change in behavior. This may include an increased emotional expression. 

Examples of these can be tears, laughter, anger, and many more. It may also include sudden silence or immediate retelling of recent or distant memory. 

In catharsis, the patient may experience an increase in trust toward the therapist. This allows the therapy session to proceed more smoothly. 

8. Working through 

The working-through process involves the repeated examination of the same topic. In this step, the therapist highlights the unresolved conflicts. 

These conflicts have been discussed earlier.  The therapist also provides an emotionally safe space to resolve these conflicts. 

Through this process, patients become fully aware of their own tendency to repeat certain dysfunctional behavior patterns. They also learn about their early life roles. 

They learn to change these dysfunctional patterns and abandon these roles. Thus, patients can take control of their own life and choices.

9. Dream analysis and Freudian slips

Dreams and errors are ways in which the unconscious gets reflected in the conscious world. 

Freud believed that all dreams are meaningful and if interpreted through the symbols that they carry, may hold important meanings related to what is stored in the unconscious.

Freud believed that dreams are ways to fulfill wishes, address impulses, and an outlet for those thoughts that cannot otherwise be brought into awareness.

Freudian slip is a term used to describe those errors, omissions, or mistakes that hold latent meaning. They hold the potential for revealing secret desires and wishes.


Conditions that can be treated with psychodynamic therapy

Like other types of therapy, psychodynamic therapy can also be used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions, such as

  • Depression: Many medically reviewed studies have found that psychodynamic therapy can help individuals deal with depression. We will discuss the impact of psychodynamic therapy on the treatment of depression in a later section.
  • Anxiety: Patients suffering from anxiety disorders can also find help from psychodynamic therapy. Research has found that psychodynamic therapy is especially beneficial for social anxiety disorders.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD): In a psychodynamic therapy session, the client shares their past traumatic experiences. This helps them recover from that trauma.

Psychodynamic therapy also helps in the following cases:


Psychodynamic therapy types

There are various types of psychodynamic therapy. They are

1. Brief psychodynamic therapy

This therapy takes only a few sessions. At times, only one session is enough to help patients uncover their repressed unconscious thoughts and feelings.

This method is useful for people who feel stuck in their personal problems and seek resolution for the same. 

The brief sessions are useful for:

  • Traffic accident sufferers who suffer from anxiety
  • Rape victims
  • Trauma due to divorce or breakup

2. Psychodynamic family therapy

This therapy is used in family setups between family members, or issues with partners, children, grandparents, etc.

This form of therapy is usually long-term and consists of many sessions that are spread over a few months. Follow-up is also called for by the therapist after the treatment is over.

All the unconscious elements and trauma related to family relationships are treated in this therapy. The family members are reminded of their close connections. 

In some cases, patients are helped to resolve their hidden conflicts with their family members.

This type of family therapy is used to solve relationship issues and maladjustment on the home front. This technique is useful to understand the family dynamics in a clear-cut way.

3. Psychodynamic Art or Music therapy

This therapy includes art therapy and music therapy in treating patients. This is a non-structured technique where the client is asked to draw and paint whatever they feel like.

The client does not need any special artistic talent. They are allowed to do their part in the therapy. There is no direction from the therapist. They only play the role of an observer.

The client uses their art or music talent to express their deepest emotions. 

It might reveal past stories of pain, scenes of childhood memories, or any person in their life who had given them a bad taste sometime in the past.

This method uses deep communication with the client by accessing their deepest thoughts and emotions that actually call for healing.


Cognitive behavior therapy vs. psychodynamic therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is another form of psychotherapy.

Some aspects of CBT and psychodynamic therapy might be similar. But, they are actually very much different from each other.

We will illustrate these differences in the following table.

Psychodynamic TherapyCognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
Psychodynamic therapy is insight-oriented.CBT focuses on a more skill-based approach.
Psychodynamic therapists help the clients gain insight into their own unconscious thoughts and behaviors.In this case, therapists work to identify negative thought patterns in the client. They then try to change these patterns and behaviors through skills.
In psychodynamic therapy, the goal is to increase the client’s self-awareness. Therapists achieve this by finding the root cause of the issues.The goal of CBT is to find practical solutions to the client’s present-day problems. Therapists do not pay attention to the root cause of the problems.
When a patient leaves a psychodynamic therapy session, the therapist does not give the patient any tasks to do before they come in for the next session.In CBT, the therapist gives homework assignments to the client. These assignments can be writing journals, meditating, etc.
Psychodynamic therapy does not have a fixed timeline. Long-term therapy can last up to several months or maybe even years. ‘Brief psychodynamic therapy’ is usually shorter. But even in that case, it is longer-term than CBT.CBT is usually a short-term form of therapy. It can take 8-12 weekly sessions, lasting 2-3 months.
Psychodynamic therapy can be useful for dealing with many disorders. For example depression, social anxiety disorders, PTSD, etc.CBT can be helpful in the treatment of depression, eating disorders, insomnia, etc.
Psychodynamic therapy vs. Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Differences between psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapy

Sigmund Freud was the first person who coined the term ‘psychoanalysis’ in the year 1896. 

Both psychodynamic and psychoanalytic theories consider the importance of unconscious processes.

They also take into account the childhood experiences of an individual. Hence, both of them are closely related. 

Many people use the two terms interchangeably. But there are certain differences that exist between the two perspectives. 

Now let us look at the table given below. It shows the differences between the two perspectives. 

Psychodynamic TherapyPsychoanalytic Therapy
Sigmund Freud proposed this therapeutic approach. Many of his supporters helped to further develop the theory. Though, some of them later contradicted him about some of his concepts. This form of therapy originates from the clinical works of Freud.
Many neo-Freudians supported this approach. Some of them were Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Karen Horney, Melanie Kline, and others.Freud was the only proponent of psychoanalysis.
This therapy focuses on how the social environment influences an individual. It also de-emphasizes sex. Psychoanalytic therapy focuses on how libido, sexuality, and childhood experiences influence a person.
This form of therapy usually occurs once a week.Psychoanalytic therapy occurs several times a week. The patient lies down on a couch during the therapy session.
This therapeutic approach is less intensive and lasts for a brief period of time.Psychoanalytic therapy is more intensive and lasts for a longer period of time.
psychodynamic therapy vs. psychoanalytic therapy

How does psychodynamic therapy help depression?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), depression is the most common mental disorder worldwide.

People with depression exhibit a lack of interest and pleasure in their daily tasks. In most cases, depression can be treated with a combination of medicines and therapy.

Psychiatrists can provide medical advice to depression patients. This may include both medication and therapy.

Depression is often treated using three different therapy techniques. These are

  1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  2. Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
  3. Psychodynamic therapy

Among these three forms of therapy, researchers consider CBT to be the most effective.

The main difference between these three forms of therapy is the nature of their focus.

In both CBT and IPT, the therapist focuses on understanding certain behavior patterns exhibited by the client.

Then, the therapist and the client work together. The goal is to change the maladaptive behaviors of the patient in a systematic way.

CBT and IPT have certain differences in their outlook and procedure. But we will not discuss that in this article.

Use of psychodynamics in depression

Psychodynamic therapy is vastly different from both CBT and IPT.

In psychodynamic therapy, the therapists help the client to explore the full range of their emotions. This includes the unconscious thoughts and behaviors suppressed by the client.

In both CBT and IPT, the sessions have a formal, structured outline. But psychodynamic therapy sessions are very much open-ended.

This is because psychodynamic therapy relies on the concept of free association. This means that the clients can talk about anything that is on their minds.

Through these conversations, their unrecognized feelings, behavior patterns, and suppressed emotions become apparent. 

The client can then become more aware of their own hidden thoughts and behaviors.

With the help of the therapist, the client learns to control these thoughts, behaviors, feelings, and emotions. Thus, they can take control of their own lives in a better way.

Until recently, many people did not believe that psychodynamic therapy is effective in treating depression. 

However, in the past two decades, there have been many scientific studies in favor of the success of psychodynamic therapy.

In 2010, a report was published in an American journal titled “American Psychologist”. This report was a review of several past studies on depression.

The authors concluded that psychodynamic therapy was successful in treating depression. Moreover, the benefits of psychodynamic therapy were also long-term.

Another important study in this context was published in 2015. In this study, researchers aimed to find the effectiveness of psychodynamic therapy in the treatment of different mental disorders.

The authors found that psychodynamic therapy was effective in treating several mental disorders. These included depression, eating disorders, and some forms of anxiety disorders.


Psychodynamic therapy in relationships

SUMMARY
Psychodynamic therapy is used to resolve relationship issues among partners who are passing through unspoken conflicts between them. The therapy aims toward adjustment and healing.

The therapy is used in relationship issues where partners seek professional help to resolve their daily conflicts.  

You can say that this is a kind of Couples therapy where principles of free association and catharsis are used to understand the mindset of the two people.

In this process, the therapist analyzes the respective conflicts of each one of them, so that their emotional and communications needs are evaluated for further treatment.

Past issues are clarified with each partner. Their fears and insecurities surfaced on the table.

Moreover, the relationship with parents, siblings, in-laws, and friends is also assessed to get an overall idea about their behavior in social circles.

The relationship therapist looks for building mutual trust and understanding between the partners.

They are helped to resolve past issues and become more tolerant and adjustable toward each other.

Thus, the couples develop a deeper understanding of each other’s mental processes, needs, and wants. In this way, healthy patterns of behavior are set that can make life beautiful for both.


Effectiveness of psychodynamic therapy in children and adolescents

In child psychotherapy and teen therapy, this technique helps in the following ways:

  • Helps to sort out disturbing emotions in children
  • Identifies aggressive and other maladaptive tendencies
  • This therapy helps to treat self-image and self-esteem issues
  • Allows children to safe and healthy expression of their emotions.
  • The therapy helps to teach healthy interpersonal behavior to the child in social settings.

How to do psychodynamic therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy has some steps that need to be followed to achieve efficacy and success.

  • Initial phase – rapport building and mental status examination of the patient
  • Free association – client talks about their problems, why they have come for the therapy, past trauma or relationship issue, and much more.
  • Making the unconscious revealed in the conscious existence – the therapist may ask questions or just listens to the patient without saying anything.
  • Helps the patient develop their inner ‘self’ and get back the lost confidence.
  • Through catharsis, patients feel better about their condition.
  • Follow-up is suggested to the patient for a few months until the client has gained enough insight into how to resolve their everyday problems in a healthy way.

Role of the psychodynamic therapist

SUMMARY
The main role of the psychodynamic therapist is to work with the clients to discover the root cause of their problems.

Firstly, the therapist has to create a safe space. This allows the client to be comfortable.

The therapist has to assure the client that they will not be judged or laughed at. Furthermore, the client can talk about their past experiences.

Discussions about the client’s traumatic past and childhood experiences are a major part of a psychodynamic therapy session.

Through these experiences, the therapist has to understand the client’s unconscious feelings. These feelings control the client’s behaviors.

Besides, the client and the therapist must work together. They must find ways to deal with the problems faced by the client in their present life.

Most importantly, a skilled psychodynamic therapist acts like a different person while they are conducting a therapy session with a different client.

This is because the therapist’s personal experience also plays a factor in determining the success of the therapy session. 

In fact, this relates to the principle of counter-transference that we have discussed in an earlier section.

In general, we can say that a psychodynamic therapist performs the following tasks:

  • Create a safe space for the client.
  • Help the client explore their own unconscious thoughts and feelings.
  • Work with the client to develop constructive solutions. These will help the clients deal with their present problems. These will also help them to recover from past traumatic experiences.

Benefits of psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy can have several benefits for an individual. Some of these can be short-term; some others can be long-term benefits.

  • It helps a client gain more insight into their own unconscious thoughts and behaviors.
  • It can help a client become more aware of their own actions.
  • With help of psychodynamic therapy, clients can develop more resistance to psychological trauma.
  • It can help clients deal with issues that have been suppressed unconsciously.
  • It can benefit individuals who are suffering from anxiety, depression, eating disorders, etc.

Psychodynamic therapy books

If you are interested in self-read a few best-sellers for psychodynamic therapy, you can read the following books.

1. Psychodynamic psychotherapy – A Clinical Manual by Deborah. L. Cabaniss

2. Practicing Psychodynamic Therapy: A Casebook – By Richard. F.Summers

3. Freud and Beyond: A History of Modern Psychoanalytic Thought – By Stephen A. Mitchell

4. Essential Psychodynamic Psychotherapy – An Acquired Art – by Teri Quatman


Criticism of psychodynamic therapy

According to many researchers, the biggest flaw of psychodynamic theory is that it lacks scientific evidence.

Many of Freud’s theories are purely unscientific hypotheses that cannot be proven. For example, researchers cannot conduct experiments on the concept of the unconscious mind.

Freud proved his theories by performing case studies. But in reality, the results of case studies can be prone to researcher bias.

Many researchers also claim that some of Freud’s ideas are sexist in the present context. Some others also claim that some of Freud’s concepts are homophobic.


Summing Up from ‘ThePleasantMind’

Overall, in this article, we have discussed the historical origin and the theoretical basis of psychodynamic therapy.

The success of this form of therapy largely depends on the therapist. The therapist has to uncover the client’s unconscious thoughts from their conversations. 

Then, they must help the client in making connections between their past experiences and present problems.

This helps the client become more aware of their own unconscious mind. They learn to apply positive changes to their present-day issues. They may even recover from past traumatic experiences.

Article Sources


1. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/psychodynamic-therapy/
2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/psychodynamic-therapy
3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/psychodynamic-therapy
4. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/01/psychodynamic-therapy

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