Contemporary Psychodynamic Therapy

What is Psychodynamic Therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy refers to a group of approaches to psychotherapy that focuses on uncovering and understanding a person’s thoughts and feelings at a much deeper level than some other forms of therapy. It focuses on bringing one’s awareness to not-yet-fully-conscious ideas and feelings that are contributing to their unresolved symptoms. 

Psychodynamic therapy often gets confused with psychoanalytic therapy. Some people think it involves putting a person on the couch, attempting to hypnotize them or telling them their problem boils down to being in love with their mother. This is not the case at all, although we do have a couch to make you feel more at home. Psychoanalysis is an older approach that was developed by Freud, where a person is asked to lie on a couch and say everything that comes to mind. We do not practice psychoanalysis at our clinic. We use the term “psychodynamic” to refer to a group of models that were developed over the years by clinicians after Freud who revised and built on his ideas to make them more relevant to people’s lives today. Psychodynamic models include object-relations, transference-focused (early attachment), self-psychology, and family systems. This is why we prefer to call it ‘contemporary psychodynamic’ approaches. In fact, approaches such as CBT, DBT and EFT include ideas based on psychodynamic principles. 

How does Psychodynamic Therapy Work?

In psychodynamic therapy, we collaborate with the client to explore and uncover deeper thoughts, ideas, and feelings and share observations about certain themes and patterns that repeat themselves in what a client is sharing. We don’t believe in pushing interpretations on people. Insight only helps a person if it comes from within their own frame of reference. The feedback we often get from clients working with this approach is that they didn’t know it, but now that it has been brought to their attention, it makes a lot of sense. 

What kinds of issues can be treated with Psychodynamic Therapy?

A psychodynamic approach can be very helpful for a number of issues including general distress, difficulty in relationships, depression, anxiety, trauma, and personality disorders. Often when clients feel other approaches didn’t help or helped for certain symptoms (e.g., reducing their OCD symptoms) but feel that they are still stuck in life and repeating unhealthy patterns in their life, a psychodynamic approach can help uncover something much deeper that can resolve the issue. Often a psychodynamic approach helps with more complex and hard-to-treat issues.

Is Psychodynamic Therapy an Evidence-Based Approach?

Contrary to what some believe, psychodynamic therapies are supported by rigorous scientific research. There are active research centres evaluating the effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapy models such as Transference-Focused Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder.  The Transference-Focused approach is based on the idea that the way you feel, think and react in relationships with important people in your life contributes to your problems. You will work together with your therapist to reflect on these feelings and reactions in a nonjudgmental and empathic manner, in an effort to change and try new ways of relating.