What is Psychodynamic Psychotherapy? - feelya

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What is Psychodynamic Psychotherapy?

9 min read

Firstly, what is psychodynamic theory?

The underlying theory of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy centres on the relations between the conscious motivation (the thoughts and feelings you are fully aware of) and the unconscious motivation (the thoughts, feelings, urges that exist but we are unaware of).

It looks at how events in your past may have contributed to your current unconscious thought patterns and how unconscious thought then influences your present behaviour.

As with many roots of psychological theory, it can be referred back to Freud’s psychoanalytical approaches – this was the origin of psychodynamic theory which has subsequently developed to include other theories based on his work, such as by Carl Jung, which are all included under the wider umbrella of psychodynamic theory.

What is psychodynamic psychotherapy and what does it focus on?

So, moving on from the history lesson, how does it work in practice? In brief, it’s a therapeutic process that focuses on the client’s unconscious processes. By interpreting these mental and emotional processes, and how they are manifested in a person’s present behaviour you can in-turn begin to change those potentially problematic behaviours. This can include focusing on past events and experiences in order to understand how these are driving someone’s current actions.

Real-life examples might include understanding how childhood experiences may be affecting your emotions as an adult. For example, this theory might suggest that a traumatic childhood experience of witnessing some form of violence could manifest itself with some form of issue as an adult – such as depression or anxiety.

Which therapies use psychodynamic psychotherapy?

In practice, Psychodynamic Therapy is a form of talk therapy where the focus of the therapist is to work with the client to help them understand the basis of their current behaviours. They will typically do this by encouraging the client to talk freely about their emotions in order to help identify recurring patterns of thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.

Psychodynamic therapy relies on the relationship between the client and the therapist which aims to draw out emotions and experiences from the client as mentioned above. The different approaches to this could include:

  • Free Association: an open, free and spontaneous approach where the client leads the session by talking about whichever thoughts and emotions they think of first. This is more typically associated with psychoanalytical approaches and less common nowadays.
  • Therapeutic transference: this is the redirection of thoughts and emotions towards specific people in the client’s life, onto someone else, generally the therapist.
  • Interpretation: the therapist will interpret the thoughts and emotions being expressed by the client by interjecting and helping explore certain thought patterns.
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