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Psychodynamic Therapy and Why It's Important?

Help your clients work through their issues through Psychodynamic Therapy! Learn more about it in this guide.

By Joshua Napilay on Feb 29, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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Psychodynamic Therapy

If you are looking for new ways to help your clients work through their mental health problems, then consider adding Psychodynamic Therapy to your repertoire!

This type is a type of  talking therapy, centered on finding ways to help clients through conversation. Having your client talk about their problems without fear of judgment is key to motivating and helping them develop the strategies and skills they need to combat their mental health problems.

By conversing with the client, you can examine various aspects of their life, such as their childhood, significant experiences in their formative years and contemporary times, the environments they are usually in, etc. Doing so will help both you and the client identify the causes of the client’s mental health problems.

Learn more about this type of talking therapy, what it entails, and what it’s based on through this mini-guide!

What is Psychodynamic Therapy?

Psychodynamic Therapy is a form of talking therapy. Through conversation, the therapist and client will collaborate to unearth the factors that are causing the client’s mental health issues. These factors may include the following:

  • Childhood experiences and trauma
  • Relationships, past and present
  • Unresolved conflicts
  • Environments they frequent or frequented
  • Upbringing
  • Beliefs and values
  • Dreams
  • Wants and needs
  • and even what their expectations are, for themself, others, and the future

Psychodynamic Therapy acknowledges that all of these elements exert influence over the patient's current mental state.

Therapists practicing Psychodynamic Therapy concentrate on the client's previous experiences and explore their infiltration into the client's present circumstances. Through open dialogue, the therapist unravels the client's past, shedding light on its impact on their current state. The goal is to assist the client in liberating themselves from the past's influence, fostering self-awareness (if lacking) and enabling emotional detachment. This process empowers them to reflect on themselves and take proactive steps towards a better life, free from the detrimental effects of their past.

Those practicing Psychodynamic Therapy create safe and non-judgmental spaces that allow their clients to freely talk about themselves; explore their inner worlds and lay them bare in a way that therapists also explore these worlds; explore their fantasies; discuss their problems, and even avoid their distressing thoughts and emotions.

As their clients speak, therapists will sit back, listen, and observe. They will pay close attention and note any patterns, recurring themes, and emotional reactions (or even outbursts) of their clients. By noting all these down, they will record valuable information and insights regarding their clients and their unconscious minds. This is important during the phases where they need to take a look at all these things that may be contributing to their client’s respective mental health issues.

Therapists will also offer empathy and support as their clients talk to reassure them that they are around to provide help when needed. This is important when establishing rapport because the better the relationship between the client and therapist is, the more willing the client is to talk about themself.

What are the theoretical underpinnings of Psychodynamic Therapy?

Psychodynamic Therapy is rooted in the theories of psychoanalysis, the branch of psychology heavily influenced by the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud.. It focuses on the unconscious mind and how it influences a person’s behavior and cognition. Freud believed that if you try to bring forth unconscious drives and desires, a person will attempt to repress them as a defense mechanism.

Psychoanalysis is considered to be controversial in the realm of psychology, and its validity and efficacy as a therapeutic practice have been questioned numerous times over the years. However, it has retained popularity in psychiatry, literary and film criticism, and Psychodynamic Therapy.

The fundamental approach of Psychodynamic Therapy revolves around encouraging clients to engage in self-expression and to actively identify recurring patterns and themes in their narratives. These will be used to try and examine the past of a client to see how their experiences, upbringing, and instilled beliefs have affected them as children, influenced how they are now, and how they have impacted their mental health over the years.

Moreover, this type of therapy aims to have the client face their past, acknowledge them, and help them break free from its shackles so they can develop better, healthier ways to cope with their mental health issues, and eventually eliminate them completely, if at all possible.

How do Psychodynamic Therapy sessions usually go?

Psychodynamic Therapy programs will take place over the course of several months. Sometimes, even a whole year!

Therapists must first create a safe and non-judgmental space for the patient to make them feel comfortable enough to talk about themselves, especially their pasts (willingly or in passing).

Once such a safe environment has been established, the therapist can start to dig into the unconscious mind of their client, but passively. How they do so is that they let their client partake in free association, which is simply just giving the client the freedom to discuss their thoughts, emotions and feelings, memories, or anything about themself without worrying about being censored or judged.

As their client speaks, the therapist has to be attentive and observe how the client expresses themselves. They need to pay attention to what they usually talk about, recurring themes (if any), how they feel when talking about certain topics, and more. At times, they should offer a bit of insight or provide comforting words and show empathy to make it known to the client that they care. As the client begins to trust in their therapist more, they will be more willing to talk about things they don’t usually talk about.

During a Psychodynamic Therapy program, the therapist will also have to discuss what they have observed with the client, but they will do so in a way they that they don’t sound judgmental. The reason for this is that they have to pierce through the client’s defense mechanisms like repression and denial. If they approach them without care, the client will definitely push back, but if a therapist approaches this part of the program with care and empathy, their client might just let their guard down and be willing to face what the therapist will bring forth.

Once the client has their guard down, the therapist will discuss their insights about everything the client has talked about so far. These insights will be issued to try and make connections to the client’s past. Through these insights, the therapist will try to get the client to elaborate on their past. This is the chance for the therapist to instill a sense of self-awareness in their client. This is important because one of the next steps that they need to do is to work with the client to develop healthy coping strategies and better ways of thinking whenever they face psychological distress. 

By being self-aware and by having better coping mechanisms, the client has the chance to take control of their life, improve their self-esteem, and establish healthy bonds.

When is Psychodynamic Therapy often used?

Psychodynamic Therapy is applicable in various situations when clients seek assistance or support for specific concerns.

It is commonly used to address depression, anxiety, or some other mental health issue. Psychodynamic Therapy aims to delve deep into the underlying causes and contributing factors of clients' psychological distress, enabling a comprehensive understanding of their experiences.

An example of a good time to employ Psychodynamic Therapy is when a client talks to you and their main concern is relationship problems. Psychodynamic Therapy can dig into their past in terms of their relationships with people and if they have any unresolved conflicts with anyone. Doing so can identify what their attachment style is, how they normally try to relate to people, and more. This can lead to clients developing better ways to communicate with others and help them improve their relationships.

Another example would be when a client discusses their fears of the future and their feelings of being meaningless and despair. Psychodynamic Therapy can create a space where they can discuss their dreams, their hopes for the future, their sense of identity, and even questions about the meaning of life. 

Through this type of therapy, therapists can explore their client’s past in terms of their upbringing, what beliefs and values were instilled by them, and what experiences challenged or even shattered their beliefs. Psychodynamic Therapy might just help them consider different perspectives and chart new directions for them to take in order to live life on their terms.

What are the benefits of Psychodynamic Therapy?

It can help clients regulate their emotions and become self-aware.

Psychodynamic Therapy can assist clients in cultivating healthier coping mechanisms to navigate situations that would otherwise lead to feelings of sadness or emotional outbursts. Instilling self-awareness in a client can help them create the distance they need to think about more positive ways to respond to certain negative scenarios so that they can ward off whatever impact they would have on their emotions and mental health.

It can improve how clients approach their relationships.

Psychodynamic Therapy can help elucidate a client’s attachment style and unresolved conflicts that have influenced how they communicate as they grow older. By identifying these, therapists and clients will have the opportunity to create strategies that can help clients set boundaries for themselves, learn effective and positive ways of communicating and how to adjust depending on who they are talking to, plus, how to build, keep, and maintain healthy relationships.

It can boost a client’s self-esteem.

One of the goals of Psychodynamic Therapy is to free clients from the negative influences of their respective pasts. Doing so can help them recover their self-esteem and develop a sense of self-worth and empowerment. If they have felt hopeless and defeated before, this type of therapy might make them feel better about themselves to the point that can make positive life choices that will allow them to reach their goals, their full potential, and hopefully, a sense of satisfaction.

Overall, Psychodynamic Therapy has the chance to bring a long-lasting positive change in a person’s life, even after therapy. Based on the findings of the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2014, Psychodynamic Therapy has a response rate of 70% and a remission rate of 40%. This means that this type of therapy has a good chance of improving a client’s mental well-being for the better.

Why use Carepatron for Psychodynamic Therapy-related work?

Carepatron’s mission is to help make healthcare accessible to everyone. Part of that is to help healthcare professionals by providing support in terms of streamlining their workflows and giving them resources, especially the latter. Think of Carepatron as a repository of resources.

You can read guides covering numerous topics, such as this mini-guide about Psychodynamic Therapy and other Psychodynamic-related topics, such as Psychodynamic Techniques. Not only that, you can also download worksheets, assessments, surveys, general treatment plans, and a whole lot more that can help you expand your work and cover more ground.

Our roster of mental health-related worksheets and assessments can be useful when gauging your patients, whether during the Psychodynamic Therapy program or not.

Not only do we have guides and clinical resources that you can take advantage of, but we also have a nifty storage system where you can store all your important files in a HIPAA-compliant manner! 

Let’s say you downloaded mental health therapy-related worksheets and assessments from us. You can store filled-out versions of those resources and secure them with access permissions! Storing them through us will essentially create digital backups, so just in case something happens to your clinical or hospital and you lose your physical copies, you have digital copies to re-download and print.

Not only will Carepatron help you streamline your workflow, but we can also help preserve your work by securing them!

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Commonly asked questions

For how long do psychodynamic therapy programs go on?

This depends on the needs of the client, but psychodynamic therapy can go on for several months (six to eight) and it can even go up to a year or so. It depends on how quick progress is made as well.

Can Psychodynamic Therapy be used on any mental health issue?

While it can address mental health issues like depression, anxiety, relationship problems, etc., it may not be the best choice for certain problems. It’s always best for the therapist to gauge the patient enough to know what type of therapy suits their patient best.

Are childhood experiences really necessary for this type of therapy?

Childhood experiences are highly useful when it comes to therapy because they can provide insight into why a person behaves and acts in certain ways, why and how they think about certain things, how they interact with people, etc. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that clients must talk about them. They can go with early life experiences, which may have occurred during their teens or even their early 20s.

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