Psychodynamic Therapy is a type of therapy that involves a therapist examining the mind of their client comprehensively and thoroughly to determine how their subconscious thoughts affect their present behaviors. It is based on the belief that a person’s past actions have an impact on how they act presently. For example, the past actions and unconscious thought behaviors of an addict may cause an addict that is in recovery to participate in harmful activities, that, in turn, can cause them to relapse. The experiences of a person’s past such as conflicts that have not been resolved or troubled relationships can manifest in the present with them realizing it.
Even though it is one of the oldest types of therapy, it is still in practice today. It centers on the belief that a person’s problems can be traced to things that took place during their early years and critical events in their lives have halted their psychological development. That is psychodynamic therapy is different from recent and short-term therapies because it focuses a lot on a person’s past. A psychodynamic therapist helps their clients understand the big connection between how they got emotionally hurt when they were children and the difficult problems that brought them to therapy is a key part of this type of therapy.
When is This Type of Therapy Used
This type of therapy can help treat a variety of psychiatric disorders and issues. This includes:
- Bipolar Disorder (without Active Mania or Hypomania)
- Eating Disorders
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive Disorder
- Specific Phobias
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Substance Abuse and Addiction
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
- Personality Disorders
- Sexual Disorders
- Family Conflicts
- Intimacy Issues
- Self-destructive Behavior
- Dissociative Disorders
- Grief and Loss
How Psychodynamic Therapy Works
To help you understand this Psychodynamic Therapy, it’s important for you to understand the main components of it.
- No Structure: These types of therapy sessions are not structured, which means that you are welcome to discuss anything with the therapist like your fantasies, fears, dreams, and desires. Your therapist will attentively listen to what you have to say because they can learn a lot about you as they listen. The things that you regularly talk about, especially how you see yourself and the world will help them determine what underlying issues you have that are in need of attention.
- Past Experiences: Past experiences are also part of this mental health treatment. There is a lot of focus on childhood caregivers and other important people in your life. The past will help you and your therapist figure out what your current problems are. It will help you let go of the recurring impact of bad things that took place in your past.
- Defense Mechanisms: Psychodynamic therapy will help you identify and talk about the defense mechanisms that you use. These defense mechanisms include avoidance, rationalization, intellectualism, denial, regression, progression, and compartmentalization. It is the key part of this type of therapy. You and other therapy clients may not even be aware that these defense mechanisms are a part of your lives and how they may be a great part of the problems that you are having. An example of this is that defense mechanisms can cause relationship issues.
- Feelings: A psychodynamic therapy session will focus on your feelings, including how you express your emotions. It centers on feelings that you feel are not acceptable or taboo (like envy, disgust, and anger), threatening, or very distressing. The problem comes when you try to hide these feelings instead of owning them and acknowledging them and expressing them in a healthy manner. Your therapist will help you when you have a difficult time identifying or expressing how you feel. It is different from cognitive-based therapies where intellectual insight is focused on, this type of therapy promotes emotional insight, which occurs at a deeper level.
- Relationships: This type of therapy focuses strongly on your personal relationships. Relationships that are not healthy or positive (like dating abusive and/or controlling people or being passive aggressive with your partner) shows that you have emotional needs that have not been fulfilled. Painful experiences and dysfunctional relationships with people that took care of you early in life regularly greatly affects the relationships that you have as an adult. Identifying and exploring this connection will help you make the changes that are needed to have fulfilling and healthy relationships as an adult.
- Therapeutic Relationships: The themes and underlying issues in your relationships inevitably have an impact on the relationship that you will have with your therapist. If you have trouble with people that are in authority over you, you may resent your therapist’s role as someone you think of as an authority figure and can trigger hostility or passive-aggressive behavior. A client that has abandonment issues can become too dependent on their therapist and may backslide if their therapist takes a vacation. By exploring and talking about the therapist-client relationship, you can gain insight into recurring themes in your past and current relationships outside of therapy.
- Avoidant Behavior: A focus on exploring avoidant behavior is another essential part of this type of therapy. You may become avoidant or resistant if you begin to feel overwhelmed or threatened by distressing emotions and thoughts. It can appear in a lot of different ways, but the most common ways are skipping or canceling counseling sessions, being tardy to therapy sessions, changing the topic, intellectualizing, or being elusive and vague.
Psychodynamic Therapy and Addiction Help
Psychodynamic therapy is helpful to people that struggle with substance abuse disorders and addiction. Addicts that are in recovery get in touch with unconscious feelings and emotions that they are unaware of. If you are or a family member are a recovering addict, a therapist can help you by helping you or them uncover feelings that are buried deep in your subconscious. You and your therapist will work through the pain that is brought on by these feelings. Your therapist will help you cope and deal with the pain.
Your therapist will also help you find answers as to why you act a certain way in the present by looking at your past behaviors. The key principle of this type of therapy is that even if you do not know it, the past affects the present. By connecting the past and the present, you and your therapist can get a new understanding of why certain behaviors take place at the present time.
When it comes to substance abuse, this type of therapy helps addicts find a reason to stop drug-seeking behaviors. It can help a recovering addict find a better understanding of the unconscious thoughts that bring on harmful actions. It teaches coping mechanisms so addicts can live a healthy drug or alcohol-free lifestyle. Many studies have shown that this type of therapy is an effective and valid treatment for addiction that produces good results in comparison to no treatment or other types of treatment.
By helping you identify and face the events of your past, this type of therapy will help you determine what went wrong in your past so you do not relive in the future. Instead, clients are encouraged to learn from the past and create a happy and healthy future for themselves. If you’re interested in learning more about Psychodynamic Therapy, or any of the other services we offer, please contact us today.