It’s a good idea to screen your potential therapist either in person or over video or phone. During this initial introduction, ask the therapist:
How they may help with your particular concerns
Have they dealt with this type of problem before
What is their process
What is the treatment timeline
A psychodynamic therapist is a licensed, experienced social worker, psychotherapist, or other mental health or medical professional. In addition to finding someone with the appropriate educational background and relevant experience, look for a psychodynamic therapist with whom you feel comfortable discussing personal problems. The psychodynamic therapist will review an individual’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, experiences from early life, and the beliefs that they hold. There are training and certification programs in contemporary psychodynamic theory and therapeutic techniques available.
Note that not all types of therapy are covered by insurance, call your carrier for information.
What is psychodynamic therapy?
Psychodynamic therapy is a form of talk therapy. It’s designed to help you find relief from mental or emotional stress. For example, your doctor may recommend it if you have depression.
Proponents of psychodynamic therapy believe your present day problems are linked to unconscious conflicts arising from events in your past. They believe you must identify the roots of your psychological pain before you can find relief. Your therapist will promote self-reflection and self-examination. In particular, they will help you explore your past family relationships. This may help you develop a better understanding of present challenges. Your therapist may also help you develop coping techniques.
What is psychodynamic therapy used for?
Your doctor may recommend psychodynamic therapy if you have depression. It’s used to treat some other mental health conditions and situations as well. It may help you manage:
- panic disorders
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder
- stress-related physical ailments
- physical symptoms that lack a physical basis
- persistent feelings of isolation and loneliness
- prolonged sadness
- sexual difficulties
Your doctor may encourage you to combine psychodynamic therapy with medication or other treatments.
What does psychodynamic therapy involve?
In psychodynamic therapy, your therapist will try to help you understand how past events are affecting your mental and physical health today. Advocates believe that people feel and act the ways they do for specific reasons. Your past experiences shape how you act and see the world. Your therapist will help you explore these experiences. They may also help you develop coping techniques so you can respond to challenging situations in more positive and effective ways.
You will likely meet with your therapist several times a week for several months, and in some cases, for several years. Your therapist might request more frequent meetings. Each session will typically last 45 to 50 minutes.
Your therapist will try to establish a supportive environment where you feel comfortable talking about your experiences. They will likely allow you to speak freely during sessions. They may occasionally interrupt to ask questions or redirect the discussion. They don’t typically share their opinions on what you say. This neutrality may help strengthen your therapeutic relationship.
You may communicate with your therapist on multiple levels, sometimes by indirect means. For instance, they may examine your dreams and fantasies and help you to discover their meaning. Your therapist will try to help you understand how they have influenced your life. Some people hide or are unaware of traumatic experiences. Your therapist may be able to help you access and talk about them.
What do experts say?
“Psychodynamic therapy may be the most commonly practiced type of therapy,” says Daniel L. Buccino, LCSW-C, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “It incorporates aspects of psychoanalytic thought in its attempt to look at dynamic patterns of interactions and responses.”
Psychodynamic therapy is similar to other forms of psychotherapy. It poses minimal risk. You may struggle with the emotional impact of reliving or sharing the past. But it may improve your long-term well-being and ability to cope.
If you suspect that you have depression or another mental health condition, make an appointment with your doctor. Depending on your condition, they may prescribe a combination of medication and therapy.
Psychodynamic therapy is a common type of therapy. It may help you understand how past experiences affect your current life, and it may help you develop long-term coping strategies.
Psychodynamic therapy is a branch of depth psychology that aims to reveal the unconscious content of the psyche. This kind of treatment aims to interpret mental and emotional processes and alleviate psychic tension. Rooted in ego psychology and self-psychology, psychodynamic therapy was developed as a more straightforward, short-term alternative to traditional psychoanalysis. It can offer many benefits to those experiencing emotional and mental symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.
Psychodynamic Therapy: What Are the Core Principles?
Psychodynamic therapy is sometimes confused with psychoanalysis. Where it differs is that the psychoanalytic approach is purely Freudian, whereas psychodynamic theories include both Freud’s theories and the theories of his followers.
In psychodynamic therapy, your therapist will help you gain insight into negative thought or behavior patterns that have developed over time. This involves the use of four core principles, also known as life factors:
- Early childhood experiences
Psychodynamic therapy is based on the core belief that our early experiences impact our behavior and thoughts – including any psychological problems. According to psychodynamic theory, all behavior has a cause – even if the factors that influence that behavior are unconscious. Freud believed that we provide insight into the unconscious mind through slips of the tongue, now known as ‘Freudian slips.’
Your therapist may ask you to talk freely about your present life, childhood memories, thoughts, beliefs and emotions. He or she may also examine your dreams and fantasies to uncover their meanings.
Who Does Psychodynamic Therapy Help?
Psychodynamic therapy is often used to treat depression, but it can also be applied to many other mental health conditions and psychological disorders:
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Panic disorders
- Sexual problems
- Personality disorders
- Isolation and loneliness
- Physical ailments that have no apparent physical cause
Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques and Goals
Psychodynamic therapy techniques can be used in a variety of ways. They may be combined with other forms of therapy, or your therapist may tailor specific exercises to suit your needs and goals. The main aim of this treatment is to examine the subconscious so it can be adapted to ease your symptoms.
Although the psychodynamic approach is primarily a talking therapy, you may communicate with your therapist in a variety of ways. You might be asked to keep a dream journal, try visualization exercises to uncover subconscious emotions or memories, or to answer questions about your life and past. Neutrality is one of the key psychodynamic therapy techniques – so your therapist is unlikely to voice an opinion on what you say.
Dismantling defense mechanisms is another common technique in psychodynamic therapy. This is because defense mechanisms can keep painful memories and feelings hidden in the subconscious and prevents us from healing from them. Your therapist will work to understand your denial, repression or rationalization of such thoughts or emotions and help you, safely, bring them to conscious awareness so they can be resolved.
What Are the Benefits of Psychodynamic Therapy?
One of the main benefits of psychodynamic therapy is that is has been practiced successfully for decades. It is similar to other forms of psychotherapy, and it poses minimal risks even for those who are unwilling or afraid to share details of their past. It is supportive and encouraging, and it can improve your long-term wellbeing and help you learn new coping skills.
Psychodynamic therapy is an approach that involves facilitation a deeper understanding of one’s emotions and other mental processes. It works to help people gain greater insight into how they feel and think.
By improving this understanding, people can then make better choices about their lives. They can also work on improving their relationships with other people and work toward achieving the goals that will bring them greater happiness and satisfaction.
Psychodynamic therapy is rooted in psychoanalytic theory but is often a less intensive and lengthy process than traditional psychoanalysis. While psychoanalysis tends to focus a great deal on the patient and therapist relationship, psychodynamic therapy also places a great deal of emphasis on a patient’s relationships with other people in the outside world.
What Is Psychodynamic Therapy?
Psychodynamic therapy is a form of talk therapy. It is based on the idea that talking to a professional about problems people are facing can help them find relief and reach solutions.
Through working with a psychodynamic therapist, people are able to better understand the thoughts, feelings, and conflicts that contribute to their behaviors. This approach to therapy also works to help people better understand some of the unconscious motivations that sometimes influence how people think, feel, and act.
This approach to psychotherapy can be helpful for dealing with mental or emotional distress. It can help promote self-reflection, insight, and emotional growth.
By better understanding your emotional patterns and their roots, you are better equipped to manage your problems and develop coping techniques that will help you both now and in the future.
While it is similar to psychoanalysis in many respects, it is often less frequent and shorter in duration. Like other forms of therapy, it can be used to treat a variety of mental health problems.
- Eating disorders
- Interpersonal problems
- Personality disorders
- Psychological distress
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Substance use disorders
Factors that may impact what type of treatment is used include cost-effectiveness, availability, patient preferences, and the severity of the symptoms the person is experiencing. While cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular and effective approach, evidence suggests that psychodynamic therapy can be just as effective for many conditions.
Online therapy is another option that you might consider. Some research also suggests that online psychodynamic therapy may be as effective as online CBT.
How It Works
Psychodynamic therapy helps people recognize repressed emotions and unconscious influences that may be affecting their current behavior. Sometimes people act in certain ways or respond to others for reasons that they don’t really understand.
Psychodynamic therapy helps people learn to acknowledge, bear, and put into perspective their emotional lives. It also helps people learn how to express their emotions in more adaptive and healthier ways.
Some important aspects of psychodynamic therapy include:
- Identifying patterns: Psychodynamic therapy helps people learn to recognize patterns in behavior and relationships. People often develop characteristic ways of responding to problems without really being aware of these tendencies. Learning to spot them, however, can help people find new approaches to coping with problems.
- Understanding emotions: Research has found that psychodynamic therapy is useful for exploring and understanding emotions. Through gaining insight into emotional experiences, people are better able to recognize patterns that have contributed to dysfunction and then make changes more readily.
- Improving relationships: Relationships with others are a key focus of psychodynamic therapy. In working with a therapist, people are able to understand how they often respond to others.
The therapeutic relationship itself can serve as a way to look into the relationships a person has with other people through a process known as transference. This gives people an immediate “in vivo” way to explore and then change their pattern of responses in order to improve their relationships.
How Effective Is It?
How effective is psychodynamic therapy and how does it compare to other forms of treatment?
Assessing the efficacy of psychodynamic therapy presents some challenges, but research does suggest that it can be useful in the treatment of a variety of psychological problems.
One reason that it may be difficult to assess the full efficacy of psychodynamic therapy is that many of the changes it produces can be tough to measure.
While it is relatively easy to measure changes in specific acute symptoms, it is much more difficult to measure underlying personality changes, noted researcher Jonathan Shedler in a press release by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Despite this difficulty, research supports the efficacy and use of psychodynamic therapy to treat a variety of conditions.
- One notable review published in the journal American Psychologist concluded that the evidence supports the efficacy of psychodynamic therapy.
- Another study found that psychodynamic therapy could be at least as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
- A 2017 review published in the American Journal of Psychiatry concluded that psychodynamic therapy was as effective as other established treatments. However, the authors of the study suggested that further research was needed to determine who benefited the most from this type of treatment.
What You Can Expect
If you decide to try psychodynamic therapy, you may meet with your therapist weekly to a few time each week. Each session typically lasts for around 45 minutes and you will continue to see your therapist for several months. In some cases, you may keep having sessions for a year or longer.
During psychodynamic therapy, people are often encouraged to talk about anything that might be on their minds. This might include things they are currently experiencing or memories of things that have happened in the past.
One form of psychodynamic therapy known as brief psychodynamic therapy is designed to produce results more rapidly, often in 25 to 30 sessions. In this shorter-term form of treatment, people may initially determine a particularly emotional area where they want to focus on.
Long-term psychodynamic therapy may take a year or longer and involve 50 or more therapy sessions.
A Word From Verywell
If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. They can make a diagnosis and recommend treatment options that may be best for your individual needs. Psychodynamic psychotherapy may be a good fit for you.