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Simply put, psychodynamic therapy is an analysis of mental and emotional developments. It is a form of talk therapy, which stems from psychoanalysis: a lengthier approach to evaluating, addressing, and shaping one’s psychological processes. Ultimately, psychodynamic therapy helps people identify harmful habits, develop healthier ones, and lead happier lives.

Principles of Psychodynamic Therapy

“Psychodynamic therapy offers a deep comprehensive approach of mind, body, and spirit, inclusive creative expression and eclectic techniques,” as explained by Rev. Sheri Heller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker. “It is a meaningful commitment to growth and reclamation.” There are a few main focuses of psychodynamic therapy that make it so effective. Heller explains these below:

    1) Therapist-client collaboration
    “The foundation of psychodynamic work is the bond between the therapist and the client,” Heller explains. “The therapeutic alliance serves as an attachment template, which allows early life attachments and relationships to be consciously processed. This collaboration between the therapist and client is the driving force that sustains and supports a courageous embodied process of intrapsychic exploration and healing.”

    2) Emotional analysis
    “Deep excavation of one’s history and the processing of powerful emotions is characteristic of psychodynamic work,” says Heller. It’s difficult for many individuals to take this deep dive into their emotional world, but psychodynamic therapy guides clients in doing so.

    3) Self-exploration
    “Unearthing unconscious repressed material is also fundamental to psychodynamic treatment,” Heller says. “This process of profound self-exploration allows one to fully comprehend one’s defensive posturing and patterns of behavior so that real intrinsic shifts can occur.”

How Does It Help?

The therapist opens up the floor for the patient to talk about anything that comes to mind, whether it be present thoughts or emotions, fears, desires, or problems. This is designed to expose the patient to any negative feelings or harmful symptoms related to the issue at hand and yield improvements in their management of said issue. This is accomplished through an individual’s recognizing, acknowledging, expressing, and understanding any negative emotions. The patient gains lasting benefits, which might include effective decision-making and communication skills, improved relationships, and healthier behavioral patterns.

Who Does It Help?

Due to its flexibility, psychodynamic therapy can help just about everyone who is able and willing to take a deep look at themselves and their emotions. Individuals, couples, families, and groups can benefit and may commit to short-term or long-term sessions, depending on preferences, the severity of an issue(s), and overall goals of therapy. In the case of brief psychodynamic therapy, one may undergo a total of 25 sessions, while long-term psychodynamic therapy may last for a couple years or longer.

As mentioned previously, this form of therapy can benefit just about anybody who’s willing to give it a try—but it is most often used to treat depression as well as other psychological disorders. Here are a few specific examples of individuals who might find value in psychodynamic therapy:

  • Survivors of trauma who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder
  • People with anger management issues in identifying triggers
  • Partners who hope to understand each other better
  • People with depression or anxiety disorders who have harmful thinking patterns
  • Individuals with bipolar disorder in better understanding their symptoms

Who Offers Psychodynamic Therapy?

Psychodynamic therapists are licensed and experienced mental health professionals with specific training in psychoanalysis. It’s important to find someone with the correct credentials and experience, but it’s also vital you look for a psychodynamic therapist with whom you like and get along with. Here’s a checklist to review in your journey for the right psychodynamic therapist:

  1. They have the appropriate training, expertise, and accreditation.
  2. They demonstrate clear knowledge of psychodynamic therapy.
  3. They have experience with addressing your specific issue.
  4. You feel comfortable talking with them about personal matters.
  5. You’re confident in their abilities to help you.
  6. You have the potential to establish a good therapeutic relationship.
Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is a staff writer at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She is a co-author of Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book and has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

Check out “Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book” written by AJ Centore and Taylor Bennett."

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