What is psychodynamic therapy and when is it recommended?

What is psychodynamic therapy and when is it recommended?

Psychodynamic therapy employs multiple tools to help patients. We tell you in detail what it consists of and when it is recommended.

What is psychodynamic therapy and when is it recommended?

Last update: 09 March, 2022

Whether because of school subjects, because we once did therapy or because of the concepts that we repeat daily, almost all of us know what psychoanalysis is about and who Freud is. Nevertheless, Not everyone knows what psychodynamic therapy is all about.

As one explains publication in American Journal of Psychiatry, this form of therapy is used in the treatment of some mental disorders. But what exactly does it consist of? When is it indicated? We detail it below.

Psychodynamic therapy: what it consists of and what is its origin

The term “psychodynamic therapy” can be found in interaction and interplay between the conscious and the unconscious. That is, some of the symptoms and causes of people’s discomfort are not on the surface, but on a deeper level.

In turn, as its name suggests, the emphasis is on movement or fluctuation. This indicates that people, in their struggle to achieve their goals, are between tensions; gratification and dissatisfaction, autonomy and dependence, among other opposite pairs.

main bases

Psychodynamic therapy consists of a set of theories, whose best-known referents are Freud, Erikson and Jung. Some of its central premises are as follows:

  • existence of the unconscious: there are contents and processes that we cannot easily access, that are latent there and that influence our lives. There is a meaning to unravel.
  • psychic conflicts: they arise from fears, desires, fantasies, among others. Faced with these, defense mechanisms often appear, such as repression.
  • The experience of childhood has a great impact throughout our lives. Many learnings and conflicts originate there. That is why from these theories “come and go” again and again at an early age. At that time, the personality is molded in an influential way, especially in contact with the main figures of care.
  • Another key to psychodynamic therapy has to do with the relationship between the analyst and the consultant. Here the concepts of transference and countertransference are key to exemplify what happens. From this link that is established in the meetings, patterns, relationships or keys that shed light on past experiences could be identified. That is, certain aspects of previous relationships or models are updated in the current relationship.
  • Symptoms are compromise solutions. That is, an agreement between what we want and what we can do. For example, between the desires and what the unconscious wants versus what the superego tells us is correct.
Psychodynamic therapy can be used to correct behaviors that can be harmful to a person and those around them.

Stages or most outstanding moments of psychodynamic theories

The contributions of Freudian psychoanalytic theory extended to other theories. Some of them are the following:

  • Psychology of the self.
  • Object relations theory.
  • Attachment theory.
  • psychology of self.
  • interpersonal psychology.
  • relational psychoanalysis.

As a summary, we detail some of them and their keys to understand the set of theories that make up psychodynamic therapy.

psychoanalytic therapy

On the one hand, we have a Freud —with psychoanalytic therapy— who worked at different times, with models that he gradually enriched and surpassed. This is how within the topographic model raised the existence of unconscious forces versus conscious ones.

Then, he proposed the structural model, where he posits the «id», the «ego» and the «superego», as three different instances.

  • Unconscious aspects are found in the “id”, since there is the reserve of all impulses and drives.
  • For its part, the “superego” is authority, rules and moral values.
  • Finally, the “I” is characterized by its mediating role between the two previous instances, by providing that “quota of reality” and of execution.
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It is a model that coexisted with the structural one, since the id has unconscious elements, while the superego and the ego have both components.

ego psychotherapy

Later on, “ego psychotherapy” emerged with greater force with the aim of favoring this instance and providing it with resources for conflict resolution. Here we meet figures like Erikson, who deepens the psychosexual theory of development; it does not stop at infancy, but incorporates the life cycle.

It also raises achievements for development. The individual must overcome certain challenges or tasks when moving from one stage to another. In addition, the author gave enormous importance to the influence of the context and society as variables that influence the psychic life of people.

On the other hand, we meet Anna Freud, for whom the conflicts were due to the use of primitive defenses in place of mature defenses. He also identified greater defense mechanisms than those proposed by Freud.

object relations theory

The object relations theory suggests that the development of personality is influenced by the quality of the relationships that the person has with his “object” of affection or love. They can be external or internal (internalized images of external objects). Here we find figures like Melanie Klein or Winicott.

attachment theories

These theories were recreated from attachment theories, whose main representative is J. Bowlby. Here the personality is also shaped by the relationship with the main care. He defined the following types of attachment:

  • Sure.
  • Insecure .
  • Ambivalent.


Methods and goals of psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy has different methods, depending on the theories with which it works. The most used are the following:

  • Free association: It consists of the patient revealing the first thing that comes to mind, in a relaxed and calm environment of the session. The basis of this technique maintains that the person will get to the issue that worries him.
  • Transference and countertransference: it refers to the relationship between the therapist and the patient, a bond in which aspects of other relationships are repeated or reissued, especially those from childhood.
  • Work with resistors: In the course of therapy, obstacles arise to “unlock” some situations. The therapist “demands” or “pushes” the patient a little more to work on those blockages and get to the heart of it.


When to choose psychodynamic therapy?

Psychodynamic therapies focus on working on different topics. Some of them are the following:

  • Promote self-knowledge, from understanding how we are and how we behave to understand the origin of many of our limitations. It allows to shed light on the present while we address the past.
  • Learn to establish quality links.
  • Know our emotions.
  • Avoid repeating behavior patterns that are dysfunctional or detrimental to our daily functioning.
  • Reduce our internal conflicts and learn to handle them.
The therapist may suggest psychodynamic therapy as a tool for the patient to increase their self-awareness.

The important thing is to feel comfortable

Beyond the existence of multiple approaches and work tools, the important thing when starting therapy has to do with being comfortable in that space.

For this, it is convenient to ask in advance how each therapist works and be attentive to how we are feeling. Sometimes, it is necessary to request a referral or find another professional. Not all people experience the same therapies in the same way. Hence, a search is convenient.

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