Psychodynamic therapy is the oldest of the modern therapies. Psychodynamic therapy grew out of the theories and practices of Freudian psychoanalysis. It is one of the three main types of therapy used to treat depression. Psychodynamic therapy is a long-term form of psychotherapy that recognizes negative patterns of behavior and feelings that are usually rooted in the past and resolving them. Brief psychodynamic therapy approach enables an individual to examine unresolved conflicts and symptoms that arise from past dysfunctional relationships and manifest themselves in the need and desire to abuse substances. Brief psychodynamic therapy is goal-oriented and can take as many as 25 sessions. Psychodynamic therapy can be used for individuals, couples, families, or groups. Psychodynamic therapy works well with other types of therapies as well as medications.

Psychodynamic Therapy Defined

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the unconscious processes that are manifested in an individual’s behavior. By bringing these associations to the person’s attention they can learn to overcome the unhelpful behaviors and feelings which they caused. The goals of psychodynamic therapy are to assist an individual in self-awareness and undressing of the influence of their past on their present. In psychodynamic therapy, an individual is encouraged to talk freely about whatever happens to be on their mind. Psychodynamic therapy involves an exploration of the entire range of a patient’s emotions. Psychodynamic therapy utilizes techniques like free association and open ended questions. Psychodynamic therapy also seeks to lower defense mechanisms people tend to develop. Defense mechanisms may keep painful feelings, memories, and experiences in the unconscious.

There is also an emphasis in psychodynamic therapy on relationships, especially the relationship between the therapist and the individual. With the help of the psychotherapist, the individual finds ways to talk about feelings that include feelings that are troubling or threatening, contradictory feelings, and feelings that the individual may not have recognized or acknowledged from their past. The individual develops ways to manage those internal feelings in a healthy way. Psychodynamic therapy also focuses on addressing and recognizing defense mechanisms reactions and behaviors that individuals use to avoid upsetting thoughts and feelings. Therapists help individuals identify recurring patterns in their thinking, feelings, and behavior, consequently understanding how these patterns are created due to their past. There is no structure in psychotherapy, as compared to cognitive behavioral therapy. Sessions usually occur once a week and are typically 50 minutes each. While other types of therapy may end after 16 to 20 weeks, psychodynamic therapy may go on for more than a year.

What Psychodynamic Therapy Is Used For:

Psychodynamic therapy is primarily used to treat depression and other serious psychological distress, like individuals who have lost meaning in their lives or have difficulty forming or maintaining personal relationships. Studies have found that other effective applications of psychodynamic therapy include:

  • Addiction
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Panic disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Personality disorders (i.e., borderline personality disorder)
  • Stress-related physical ailments
  • Physical symptoms that lack a physical basis
  • Persistent feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Depression
  • Prolonged sadness
  • Sexual difficulties

Choosing a Type of Therapy:

No matter what type of therapy a therapist uses, it is crucial to determine what fits an individual’s personality and their presenting symptoms. It is also important to ensure that the therapist utilizing psychodynamic therapy is qualified. Qualification should include their background, education, certification, licensing, and their areas of expertise. Change does not happen over night and is not one sided. An individual must put the work in with their therapist in order to make changes that they are seeking. The therapist’s job is not to “fix” the individual or make unpleasant situations go away. Psychodynamic therapy elevates the presenting symptoms but also improves an individual’s self-esteem, and a better use of their own talents and abilities, and an improved capacity for developing and maintaining more satisfying relationships.

Resources

  • Healthline. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/psychodynamic-therapy
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment/Psychotherapy
  • PsychCentral. (2019).  Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/lib/psychodynamic-therapy/
  • Psychology Today. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/psychodynamic-therapy
  • WebMD. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/psychodynamic-therapy-for-depression#3