What Is Psychodynamic Therapy?

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Many mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, can be treated with psychodynamic therapy, which requires fewer sessions than traditional psychoanalysis.


What Is Psychodynamic Therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy is a type of talk therapy. It is also known as psychodynamic psychotherapy or dynamic psychotherapy. Understanding your thoughts and emotional patterns and their roots in early life experiences, according to psychodynamic theory, helps break down unconscious defense mechanisms and allows you to cope with your problems in a healthier way.

Adults, adolescents, and children are treated by psychodynamic therapists for a variety of mental health conditions such as depression, social anxiety disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.


What Is the Difference Between Psychodynamic Therapy and Psychoanalysis?

The psychodynamic approach is based on the work of Sigmund Freud and shares similarities with psychoanalytic theory (or Freudian psychoanalytic psychotherapy), but unlike traditional psychoanalysis, which requires many years of multiple weekly sessions, psychodynamic treatment requires fewer therapy sessions over a shorter time. Brief psychodynamic therapy (or short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy), for example, may entail meeting with your psychotherapist once or twice a week for a limited number of sessions spread out over six months.


How Does Psychodynamic Therapy Work?

Psychodynamic therapy assists you in recognizing the emotional forces that drive your behavior, understanding and changing how you respond to different situations, and improving your self-esteem and overall mental health. During your therapy session, your therapist can assist you in the following ways:

Examine mental illness: Though the focus of psychodynamic therapy is on identifying patterns and emotions, your therapist may also collaborate with a psychiatrist to diagnose and treat a mental health condition.

Identify harmful patterns: Psychodynamic therapists assist you in recognizing how past experiences have shaped your response to specific emotional stimuli, resulting in a pattern of unconscious behavior and suffering that no longer serves you. To avoid being vulnerable, you might push people away if they get too close. Building a therapeutic alliance with your therapist can help you overcome relationship intimacy fears.

Determine defense mechanisms: When you are experiencing difficulty, you may resort to self-defeating defense mechanisms such as isolating yourself or blaming others for your problems. Your therapist will assist you in identifying your defense mechanisms so that you can recognize them when they arise.

Improve your relationships: Your therapeutic relationship with your therapist allows for transference, which allows you to express your feelings about an external relationship to your therapist directly. Transference can help you break unhealthy relationship patterns and practice healthier conflict resolution behaviors.

Recognize your emotions: Psychodynamic psychotherapy is effective in helping you understand, explore, and process your feelings, according to evidence-based clinical trials. This skill is related to recognizing behavioral patterns because emotions influence how we behave in many situations. The more you understand your feelings, the more likely it is that you will recognize when they are driving undesirable behavior.


Six Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques

Among the most common techniques used in this type of therapy are:

1. Increasing your emotional resilience: During treatment, you and your therapist may discuss ways to increase your emotional resilience during stressful times in order to avoid reverting to old, harmful behavioral patterns.

2. Talking about your relationships: Your therapist may ask you to talk about your loved ones, including details about friends, family, partners, and anyone else who has an emotional impact on your life, in order to improve your relationships with others.

3. Free association: Your therapist will encourage you to discuss whatever comes to mind, including fantasies, desires, and fears. Free association means talking about whatever comes to mind without fear of censorship or embarrassment.

4. Modeling healthy relationships: Your therapist can help you understand a healthy relationship based on trust and communication by using transference.

5. Talk therapy allows you to process the full range of your emotions: During your sessions, your therapist will create a supportive environment in which you can process any feelings you may have, including unconscious feelings and emotions felt during past events.

6. Releasing the Past: Your therapist may encourage you to link your childhood experiences to your current behavior.


Example of Psychodynamic Therapy

As an example, suppose you suffer from depression. Following your selection of a psychodynamic therapist (the American Psychological Association's (APA) website lists psychologists by area), your therapy experience may proceed as follows:

1. Initial consultation: The first time you meet with your therapist, you'll spend some time openly discussing your feelings and relationships. This will most likely take place seated and face-to-face. Your therapist may tell you at the end of the appointment how frequently you should have sessions each week.

2. Regular appointments: Depending on your needs, you'll most likely meet once a week or more for several months or even years after that. The majority of appointments last about an hour.

3. Free association with guidance: During your appointments, your therapist will allow you to talk about whatever is going on in your head at the time, then ask you questions to help you understand your behaviors and patterns. Your therapist will refrain from forming strong opinions about your thoughts and will instead allow you to come to your own conclusions.

4. Identify repeating patterns and feelings: Over time, you'll be able to identify repeating patterns and feelings and see how responses to previous experiences may have created a blueprint for current behaviors. These realizations will assist you in developing healthier habits, increasing your self-esteem, and living a more balanced and serene life.

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