Psychodynamic therapy began back in the 1880s with Sigmund Freud’s development of psychoanalysis. Modern psychodynamic techniques are the result of Freud’s work. Sigmund Freud’s contributions pushed the envelope of psychology into a new era, and modern psychodynamics owes its existence to Freud and his research.
The focus of psychodynamic therapy is to uncover the unconscious reasons for conscious behaviors. It is the study of unconscious psychological drives and impulses that may be the result of early experience. Psychodynamic is a study of how conscious and unconscious motivations are related.
How Does Psychodynamic Therapy Work?
Unwanted thoughts and behaviors can stem from unconscious triggers that were developed in response to early life experiences. Psychodynamic therapy is designed to uncover the psychological processes that formed during early life experiences. Once the processes are uncovered, the client begins to understand their motivations and behaviors, alleviating the symptoms.
Psychodynamic therapists are interested in the past; they want to know all about their client’s past because this information is the basis for present behavior patterns. Behavior patterns are repeated repeatedly, and traumatic events in the past may be the reason for behavior patterns. An example of a past event that can trigger behavior patterns is divorce. A child of divorce may have abandonment issues if one of the parents does not participate in their lives after the divorce.
There are many reasons for present unwanted behavior patterns and unwanted recurring thoughts. The therapist’s job is to investigate the past and discover events that have led to present behaviors and thoughts, then work with the client to eliminate those behaviors and thoughts. Understanding the event that led to the problems is the first step; a therapist will work with clients to help them understand the relationship between the event and the present behaviors.
Behaviors and patterns will begin to lessen once the past event is completely investigated, evaluated, and understood. If the patterns continue, more work is done; other events and experiences may have led to the present problems. Another reason for the behaviors and patterns to continue is a lack of understanding; it can be difficult to see the relationship between the event and the present behavior.
What Mental Health Symptoms Does Psychodynamic Therapy Treat?
Psychodynamic therapy treats a wide range of mental and emotional symptoms, behaviors, and behavior patterns. Self-awareness or self-knowledge is the goal of treatment, and most mental health conditions respond to this treatment. Psychodynamic therapy can also help an individual deal with present issues resulting from an event such as divorce. Talking through problems, emotions, and traumatic events fosters a deeper self-awareness enabling the individual to understand “why.”The following is a list of some of the mental health problems/symptoms psychodynamic therapy can treat:
Some psychology researchers and other mental health care professionals believe that psychodynamic therapy can even help those with mental health disorders such as schizophrenia. The benefits of receiving psychodynamic therapy are real, and they stem from the ability to recognize behaviors and their triggers. The idea is that once an individual recognizes behaviors and their triggers, they can effectively work through the symptoms by recognizing them for what they are, symptoms.
Benefits Of Psychodynamic Therapy
The goal of psychodynamic therapy is to provide the client with a practical understanding of themselves that will relieve symptoms, and this understanding grows even after treatment is over. The following is a list of benefits psychodynamic therapy can provide:
The benefits of psychodynamic therapy are rooted in the understanding that recognizing behaviors for what they are can help clients build healthy coping mechanisms. Psychodynamic therapy answers why we do what we do, tying past events and subconscious constructs into present behaviors and behavior patterns. Once there is an answer for why it is easier to address the behavior for what it is. The benefits of psychodynamic therapy are long-lasting because there is an answer to the behavior and coping skills to alleviate the symptoms.
Types Of Psychodynamic Therapy
There are some different types of psychodynamic therapy. The core principles are the same no matter which type of psychodynamic therapy is used, but the actual modes of therapy can be different. The following is a list of the different types of psychodynamic therapy available:
Psychodynamic therapy is practiced by many different health care professionals such as; school counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, psychiatric counselors, family therapists, divorce therapists, clinical psychologists/psychiatrists, and others. Many practitioners of psychodynamic therapy have expertise in the type of therapy they offer. Therapists who offer music therapy have a background in music; those who offer art therapy or dance therapy usually have experience in those fields but can also be used by any healthcare professional.
There are many other psychodynamic therapies; a trained therapist can help choose what is right for you. Sometimes elements from several different therapies are combined to create a custom psychodynamic therapy. Most therapists use components for all therapies to find the best possible combination. The classic image of lying down on the couch and being questioned by a psychiatrist shows psychodynamic therapy. The psychiatrist questions and writes down notes while probing through the past for answers to the present. This is the most basic form of psychodynamic therapy, and it is still the most popular used today.
There is a manual for psychodynamic therapy, not the DSM diagnostic and statistical manual, but the PDM, psychodynamic diagnostic manual. This manual was created in 2006 to create a framework for therapists and mental health professionals when working with psychodynamic therapies. Many in the mental health field use this manual. It is not used to diagnose mental illness using symptom guidelines. Instead, it describes experiences in a subjective rather than diagnostic way.
Psychodynamic therapy works well with other therapies such as drug treatment therapies. This therapy is used alone and in conjunction with most modern psychological therapies. Depending on the therapist or doctor, individual therapy may contain psychodynamic theories and other therapies depending on the mental health symptoms and diagnosis.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Psychodynamic therapy involves focusing on the origin of emotional suffering. Using self-reflection and examination, a patient and therapist can discover and understand the causes behind problematic patterns in a patient’s behavior and life.
Rather than newer forms of therapy, psychodynamic therapy aims to understand and fix the root cause of a psychological disorder rather than focusing solely on the symptoms of the psychological disorder. This, in turn, helps to teach the patient healthier coping mechanisms and helps guide them to make healthier choices in their lives.
Long-term psychodynamic therapy involves focusing on the events and situations at the root of a patient’s mental health problems rather than just focusing on the symptoms. According to the American Psychological Association, psychodynamic therapy is a non-directive, global therapy for this reason.
Psychodynamic therapy aims to help patients learn about therapy and learn how to address the things in their lives that are causing their symptoms to emerge and progress. Understanding the underlying cause of a condition allows the therapist to find a treatment option that aligns with the psychodynamic diagnostic manual (PDM) that will help a patient overcome their traumatic events and learn to thrive.
Per the American Psychological Association, psychodynamic therapy aims to help a patient better understand and come to terms with the unresolved conflicts. The therapist finds a treatment that helps the patient develop self-awareness while enabling them to confront their past, reach catharsis, and heal.
One of the best classical examples of psychodynamic therapy is what you may have learned about Sigmund Freud. He believed that everything could be traced back to childhood events and how a person was raised and that the only way to truly understand a person was to have them relive their childhood memories, particularly ones that may have been dormant until the of treatment.
No. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing a patient's behavior to help them with the symptoms and effects of their mental health condition. On the other hand, psychodynamic therapy focuses on the root cause of the condition and the events that lead to it and helps the patient achieve self-awareness and self-empowerment.
Whereas CBT focuses on helping you solve day-to-day challenges and is a relatively short-term therapy, psychodynamic therapy is non-directive. It can take years of working with the same therapist. Psychodynamic psychotherapy understands the root cause of a diagnosis, and the treatment plans per the psychodynamic diagnostic manual (PDM) are significantly different from CBT.
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the psychological association between a patient’s past and their present. A therapist will likely utilize the psychodynamic diagnostic manual (PDM) rather than the DSM to make their diagnosis. Psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on the events and situations of a patient’s past and guides them to understand their present.
In a typical psychodynamic therapy session, the therapist will have their patient talk about whatever they would like to. From there, they will ask you questions about the subjects you are talking about. This is to help bring your awareness to what is important about these events and how they tie into your past experiences.
Sessions are typically open-ended, and as a patient speaks about the things that are on their mind, patterns of thoughts and behaviors will begin to emerge that can then lead to a better understanding of what is troubling the patient.
Expect to discuss your thoughts, emotions, and past freely and openly with your therapist with this approach.
According to the American Psychological Association and the psychodynamic diagnostic manual (PDM), there are 5 main techniques and tools used in psychodynamic therapy. These tools are:
Unlike other forms of therapy, psychodynamic therapy tends to utilize more pseudoscience and relative methods of deduction to determine the underlying issues a patient is facing.
There is a lack of empirical proof that psychodynamic therapy works, and it has been widely criticized for its lack of specific scientific background. Some find flaws in the approach because it emphasizes a lack of free will by making a person’s behavior seem like the events of their childhood predetermine it.
Because of this, it can seem like people are unable to change or that a person will always end up a certain way due to the way they were raised. This is a source of constant debate among psychologists, particularly those that focus on behavioral therapy.
Additionally, many of the core tenets of the psychodynamic approach are considered outdated and false today, such as the stages of psychosexual development, Oedipus complex, and penis envy. Psychodynamic therapy has remained largely unchanged since its inception and creation, unlike other psychological fields that have developed along with scientific developments.
When you learn about therapy, there are key differences between other therapies and psychodynamic therapy. The key features of psychodynamic therapy are:
There are three main methods used in the psychodynamic approach:
The psychodynamic approach is unique because it focuses on the root cause of a patient’s conditions and utilizes the psychodynamic diagnostic manual (PDM) to make a diagnosis based on experiences rather than symptoms as in the DSM.
Additionally, unlike many other forms of therapy, typically short-term, psychodynamic therapy will usually last years to help a patient fully. Psychodynamic therapy brings the ball to the patient’s court by allowing them to speak freely and use free association techniques to express and understand their emotions.
The four types of talk therapies are:
Today, the psychodynamic approach is used primarily for major depressive disorder, addiction, social anxiety disorder, and eating disorders. It can help those who have lost meaning in their day-to-day lives and those who have difficulties maintaining and forming relationships.
On average, short-term psychodynamic therapy takes between 25-30 sessions, each averaging 50-60 minutes each over the course of 6-8 months. This type of therapy is typically used for social anxiety disorder and minor forms of depression.