What Are The Benefits Of Psychodynamic Therapy?

Updated July 12, 2019

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Psychodynamic therapy began back in the 1880's 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,andmodern 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, and this alleviates the symptoms.

Psychodynamic therapists are interested in the past; they want to know all about their clients past because this information is the basis for present behavior patterns. Behavior patterns are responses that are repeated over and over, and traumatic events in the past may be the reason for the patterns of behavior. An example of a past event that can trigger behavior patterns is divorce. A child of divorce may grow up to have abandonment issues if one of the parents does not take part in their lives after the divorce.

There are many reasons for present unwanted behavior patterns and unwanted recurring thoughts. The job of the therapist is to investigate the past and discover events that have led to present behaviors and thoughts then work with the client to get rid of those behaviors and thoughts. Understanding the event that led to the problems is the first step;a therapist will work with a client 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, there is more work to be done; there may be other events and experiences that 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.

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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 foster 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:

  • Physical problems caused by stress and anxiety
  • Anxiety
  • Panic disorders
  • Depression
  • Other depression-related disorders
  • PTSD
  • Personality disorders
  • Borderline personality disorders
  • Physical symptoms without a physical basis
  • Sadness
  • Loneliness

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 provide relief of symptoms, and this understanding grows even after treatment is over. The following is a list of benefits psychodynamic therapy can provide:

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  • The ability to recognize symptoms before they get out of control
  • Confidence
  • Self-awareness
  • Coping skills
  • A deeper knowledge of self
  • Acceptance
  • Long lasting, effective relief

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 provides answers to 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 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 used, but the actual modes of therapy can be different. The following is a list of the different types of psychodynamic therapy available:

  • Group Psychodynamic Therapy - This therapy involves a group of individuals who are dealing with similar problems. The group is monitored and guided by a therapist, and those in the group are encouraged to share their histories.
  • Family Psychodynamic Therapy - This type of therapy can be both individual and group. The therapist works individually with family members and guides group therapy sessions with the family. This therapy is effective for creating and maintaining healthy family dynamics and easing transitions through life events such as divorce, death, and any other event that affects the entire family.
  • Individual Psychodynamic Therapy - This therapy is done one on one with the therapist. The therapist encourages talking about the past and working through present problems using the information gained. Individual therapy can help with everything from PTSD to abandonment issues.
  • Improvisational Psychodynamic Music Therapy - This is a new therapy, but it is designed to help individuals gain a deeper understanding of themselves through music. The therapy is guided by a therapist trained in music and music therapy. Client's have access to different types of musical instruments,and they are encouraged to play and express themselves regardless of their ability to play.
  • Long-Term Psychodynamic Therapy - this type of therapy can take as long as two years to complete.
  • Short-term psychodynamic therapy - This therapy is shorter than the time it can take for long-term therapy.
  • Play Therapy - Play therapy is used when working with children, the play is monitored indirectly by the therapist,and sometimes it is guided by the therapist.
  • Art Therapy - This is a creative therapy that is used to relax the individual and help them express themselves and learn about themselves through art.
  • Drama Therapy - Acting/drama is used to express emotions and creativity and to learn about self.
  • Dance Therapy - Dancing is used to express emotions and creativity, to learn about self.
  • Body Therapy -This therapy is used when there is a problem between the mind and body,and it uses techniques such as massage, exercising, and talking.
  • Transpersonal Therapy - The therapist approaches the client/therapist relationship and the problem itself using a spiritual understanding of consciousness.
  • Brief Therapy - Addresses a specific problem and approaches it with direct intervention.
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy - This therapy is time-based,and it is designed to address interpersonal interactions.

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 the one that 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 is showing 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.

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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 along with other therapies depending on the mental health symptoms and diagnosis.


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