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Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques and Why They Are Helpful?

If you practice Psychodynamic Therapy and you’re looking for other methods to conduct your sessions better, check out this guide on Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques you can use!

By Karina Jimenea on Jun 16, 2024.

Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques

Hello there, friend! If you stumbled upon this guide, then you’re likely to be a therapist who practices or is looking to practice Psychodynamic Therapy as part of their work! Or, perhaps you’re just interested in knowing what this type of therapy is all about.

Please note that this particular guide is all about the different techniques you can use when conducting Psychodynamic Therapy sessions! While we will discuss what this therapy is about, we’ll only do so for just a little bit after this preamble. If you want a general overview of Psychodynamic Therapy, we have a separate guide for it. 

If you already know what this therapy entails, keep reading to learn more about specific techniques! We hope you find what suits your patient and your style!

What are Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques?

Before we dive into what Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques are, let’s discuss what Psychodynamic Therapy is in broad strokes!

Psychodynamic Therapy is a form of talking therapy. Through conversation, the therapist and client will collaborate to unearth the factors causing the client’s mental health issues. These factors can include their hopes and dreams, upbringing, childhood memories and experiences, beliefs, values, relationships, and even unresolved conflicts. This type of therapy frames these as factors that have shaped clients into what they are today. These factors can also explain why they have certain mental health issues.

This type of therapy aims to examine the client’s past and examine how they affect the client’s present (whether the client is conscious of it or not).Through this process, therapists have the opportunity to uncover these factors, bringing them to the client's awareness (if not already present), and assisting in freeing them from the adverse effects of their early life experiences. This enables the client to live with a sense of self-assurance, emotional autonomy, and empowered decision-making.

To help therapists achieve this goal, they will take advantage of Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques, which are methods they can use to explore the unconscious minds of their clients. This can be as simple as letting the client speak about themselves or whatever they want without judgment, showing empathy, by having the client imagine the therapist as a certain person so they can express how they feel about said person, and by analyzing dreams.

Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques are essential to establishing rapport and trust with the client. If the therapist establishes themself as someone that the client can trust, they will be more willing to open up. The more they feel comfortable with the therapist and the more they open up, the more insights the therapist can gain about their client while they conduct each session.

Why are Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques helpful?

Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques are helpful because they can benefit both the client and therapist in different ways.

On the part of the therapist, they will be able to properly assess the client’s mental health and gain insights into why their client is the way they are now. These insights can help them break down any defense mechanism the client puts up when confronted with pieces of their past. This is important because the therapist can’t go anywhere if the client resists. Once the client’s defense mechanisms are down, the therapist has the chance to instill self-awareness in their clients through these techniques.

On the client's part, Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques will be helpful for them in various ways. They can help clients determine healthy emotional responses and coping mechanisms they can use during situations that could cause them psychological distress. They can also gain self-awareness, which is an essential thing to have when confronting their past and how it plays a part in their present life.

These techniques can also aid in helping the client recover their self-esteem and find a sense of self-worth, which might be just what they need to finally realize that they can take control of their life and live on their terms without the negative impact of their past. It can also help them develop better ways of communicating with others so they can establish and maintain healthy relationships.

7 Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques you can use:

  1. Free Association -

This is the most common technique that therapists take advantage of during Psychodynamic Therapy sessions.

This technique is simple! The therapist sits back and allows the client to freely discuss things about themselves or pretty much anything they want to talk about. If you’re wondering how this is beneficial, do note that Psychodynamic Therapy is based on Freud’s psychoanalysis, which revolves around the unconscious mind. By having the client talk freely (and without judgment), unconscious material might emerge from the discussions. These unconscious materials will serve to provide insights later on.

  1. Transference -

This approach requires therapists to maintain a sense of detachment. Its purpose is to enable clients to perceive the therapist as a person they are familiar with, particularly someone they may be experiencing communication difficulties with, disappointment in, or resentment towards. By allowing them to do so, they can talk to you as if they were that person. They might say things that the therapist might take note of, like what the client’s tone is, what they tend to say, etc.

  1. Countertransference -

This is similar to the previous technique, but this time, it will be on the therapist's part. The therapist will react to how the client talks to them during Transference. This is so they can see how the client would respond. This will give the therapist insight into what the client is like emotionally and verbally whenever they get into heated conversations with their significant relationships. It’s best for the therapist to explain what Transference and Countertransference are to the client before practicing this technique so that they are aware of why this is being done, and so they don’t take anything personally (hopefully).

  1. Dream Analysis -

This technique can be employed only when the client discusses their dreams. Since this type of therapy is based on psychoanalysis, the therapist should know how to do close reading and interpret things as if they were analyzing literature. What the therapist will do for this technique is to take note of any symbols or certain things of interest from the client’s dreams. They will interpret these so they can gain insight into the client’s unconscious desires and conflicts.

  1. Empathic Reflection -

Whenever the client is speaking, and what they are talking about is heavy, the therapist can jump in at times to show empathy and acknowledge what their client feels. This is important when establishing rapport and trust with the client. The therapist must also be genuine when showing empathy. If the client trusts the therapist, they will be more willing to talk about themselves and about things that they normally don’t discuss.

  1. Confrontation -

This should only be done when the therapist has enough information and insights about the client and the client’s past. This should also be done only when the client trusts the therapist enough. The timing of this technique within the therapy program is crucial because clients often employ defense mechanisms when confronted with their past, symbols, recurring themes, and so on. Breaking these mechanisms is down in order to instill self-awareness in the client to help them confront the negatives of their past, the impact they’ve had on the client’s life, and how it dictates the way they are right now.

  1. Ego Strengthening -

Once they client is self-aware about the causes of their mental health problems, they can develop the willingness to better their lives. What you can do is motivate them by stroking their ego for a bit. This is so you can help them build self-esteem, recover any sense of self-worth they might have lost prior to this, and give them the confidence to develop better and healthy coping mechanisms, and emotional responses, plus, even set goals that will help them reach a better life and state of mind.

3 Psychodynamic Therapy Interventions:

  1. Psychodynamic Couples Therapy -

This is a type of intervention where the therapist conducting couples counseling or therapy will apply psychodynamic principles and techniques into the program to assess how couples communicate, their attachment styles, what their unconscious dynamics are based on recurring themes and topics, as well as any unresolved conflicts they might have. The goal of this type of psychodynamic intervention is to resolve any conflicts they may have between them and to improve how they communicate with each other.

  1. Psychodynamic Family Therapy -

This is similar to the first one, except that it is much larger in scale since it will involve an entire family. Psychodynamic principles and techniques will be used to see how each member of the family communicates with other members, what each member’s attachment style is, what unconscious family dynamics they have, and if they have unresolved conflicts with each other. This therapy will try to zoom into their family history and how certain generations of the family were raised to identify any intergenerational patterns that are recurring even in the family’s current generation.

  1. Psychodynamic Art Therapy -

This type of intervention will allow clients to exercise their creative muscles. Here, the psychodynamic technique of Sublimation will be employed. Sublimation is a technique that redirects a person’s unconscious desires and impulses that may be deemed unacceptable (by some, most, or all) into creative outlets and socially acceptable activities. This is similar to the regular version of Psychodynamic Therapy, but this time, they can create anything they want through art. Down the line, the client might make something that might be worth noting down, especially if they become a recurring thing in the things they make. The therapist will then use Dream or Symbol Analysis to interpret their client’s artworks in order to gain insight into what their client is like.

5 Psychodynamic Therapy Exercises:

  1. The Empty Chair -

This exercise is related to Transference. Instead of the therapist playing the role of a certain person in the client’s life, the chair will take on that role instead. For this exercise, the patient will speak to the chair as if it were a certain important person in their life (whether it’s a person they love or resent). While the client talks to the chair, the therapist will note down anything they say that is interesting or points to something related to the client’s unconscious mind.

  1. Role Reversal -

This exercise is also related to transference. How this goes is that the client will take on the role of a certain person in their life. The therapist will take on the role of the client. The client (as another person) will talk to the client the way that certain person talks to them. This is a way for the therapist to learn how the client thinks others perceive them or what they actually have to deal with at certain times of the day.

  1. Drawing (or other forms of art) -

This exercise lets the client create an artwork based on their emotions, conflicts, and experiences. They can make several. The therapist handling them must be knowledgeable about interpreting art and symbolism to properly analyze any recurring symbols or themes in the art that the client produces. These symbols and themes should give an insight into the patient as to what they might be dealing with.

  1. Letter Writing -

This epistolary exercise has the client write letters to certain people in their lives, whether alive or dead. This is a good way for the client to express emotions and thoughts they have in writing. They might even reveal unresolved conflicts. This exercise might benefit the client in a way by providing them closure (if at all possible) and catharsis. They might even become aware of how they truly feel about certain relationships that they have.

  1. Sentence Completion -

This can be done verbally or through writing! Therapists who include this exercise in their Psychodynamic Therapy should go with what their client is comfortable with. For this exercise, clients only need to complete certain sentences like:

  • I feel…
  • I think my parents…
  • I think my siblings…
  • I think my friends…
  • I wish…

Therapists should tailor-fit the prompts to their clients, especially if they want to get certain information from them. This is a good way to get clients to express themselves since they will decide how they want to complete the sentences. That way, therapists will be able to identify certain statements that might be indicative of certain aspects of the client’s life.

17 Psychodynamic Therapy Questions you could ask your clients:

If you need guidance on initiating the conversation, here is a collection of questions that you may find helpful when engaging in Psychodynamic Therapy sessions with your clients:

  • What brings you here today? (This is probably best only during initial sessions.)
  • What do you hope to gain or achieve through our work together? (Also best to ask during initial sessions.)
  • What are your expectations or goals for therapy? (Another one that’s best during initial sessions.)
  • How are you feeling right now, and what thoughts or emotions are coming up for you?
  • Can you describe your relationship with your parents or guardians during your childhood?
  • Can you describe your relationship with your parents or guardians now?
  • Can you share any memories from your early childhood that seem significant to you?
  • Are there any current or past relationships that have been particularly challenging or influential for you?
  • Can you identify recurring patterns or themes in your relationships or life experiences?
  • Are there any unresolved conflicts or unfinished business from your past that continue to impact you today?
  • How do you typically handle stress or difficult emotions? Do you have any coping strategies or patterns you rely on?
  • How do you view yourself and your identity? Are there any aspects you struggle with or feel conflicted about?
  • Have you noticed any particular dreams that have stood out to you recently?
  • What are your hopes for the future?
  • How do you view your future? Where do you see yourself a year from now? What about in five or ten years?
  • What significant life events or transitions have you experienced recently?
  • Can you describe recurring thoughts or beliefs that seem to influence your self-perception or behaviors?

When to use Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques:

There are many different kinds of Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques, and each one has an appropriate time to use them.

For example, you have a client who suddenly talks about troubles with their relationships with family, a significant other, or a friend. That’s the best time to start explaining to your client what Transference and Countertransference are, then conduct an exercise like the Empty Chair or Role Reversal exercises to see if you can gain insight as to how they view their relationships, the people in their life, and how they interact with these people. By getting insight on what the client is like when it comes to their most important relationships, the therapist can help them develop better ways of communicating and maintaining their relationships.

Free Association is commonly used for this therapy, so therapists can use this technique whenever they want. It’s standard to let this be the first and primary technique for this type of therapy because it’s a good way to let the client know and feel that they can talk about what they want in a place where they won’t be judged.

It’s all situational, and it is under the discretion of the therapist as to when certain techniques, interventions, and exercises should be used.

Why use Carepatron for Psychodynamic Therapy-related work?

Carepatron is a platform you’ll love to use and rely on because we have a wide variety of resources that you can take advantage of, especially the ones that revolve around therapy-related work!

We’re all about helping healthcare professionals, including you, with their work by streamlining their workflows and providing them with clinical resources, from worksheets to assessments!

We have many Cognitive Behavioral and Dialectic Behavior Therapy worksheets like the Decatastrophizing worksheet, Self-Compassion Letter to Yourself, and a whole lot more that you might find to be beneficial for your Psychodynamic Therapy sessions. Since one of the goals of Psychodynamic Therapy is to help clients reframe themselves so they can have a healthier mental well-being, the Decatastrophizing worksheet might be a good choice because that worksheet aims to help patients reframe their negative thoughts and worries into something more positive and actionable to avoid worst-case scenarios.

Not only do we have resources you can download for free, but we also have a nifty storage system where you can store all your therapy-related documents in a HIPAA-compliant manner! This is a great feature for any healthcare professional because storing your files with us is the equivalent of making digital backups of your files. If you lose physical copies of your files, you can just download them again from the storage and re-print them!

It’s our mission to help improve your work as well as to preserve them!

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Commonly asked questions

Can I combine Psychodynamic Therapy techniques with other therapeutic techniques?

Yes, you may. If you think it’s best to incorporate Cognitive-Behavioral or Dialectical Behavior Therapy techniques with your Psychodynamic Therapy techniques, go ahead! Tailor-fit your therapy program to your patient. You might be able to cover more ground that way.

Is there a limit on how often I should use a particular Psychodynamic Therapy Technique?

Not really. You can use any technique as many times as you want for the same client. Just make sure that it is necessary. It’s best to mix things up, of course.

Some techniques are designed to be used several times during the course of the therapy program, like Transference. Repeating this technique might lead to a breakthrough. Do note that Transference can be mentally exhausting, so you might want to avoid using this in succession. Again, mix things up.

Since Psychodynamic Therapy tries to look into a client’s past, does that mean all Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques are geared toward that?

In a sense, yes. However, the objective of these techniques is to shed light on the past and explore strategies to address the negative aspects of it. This allows the client to cultivate a positive present life and, ideally, a healthy future, particularly in terms of their mental well-being.

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