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Unveiling the Secrets of Psychodynamic Therapy

Exploring Psychodynamic Therapy

It is common for us to think in a certain way that guides us to achieve our specific goals. When we reach a certain age, we tend to be pretty consistent in our thinking and behavior. Despite this, many people's unique ways of understanding themselves and dealing with others are maladaptive and need to be changed. Even though they desire change, they do not know what to change. As a result, habitual patterns are often influenced by unaware wishes, thoughts, fears, and conflicts. And Psychodynamic therapy is a technique or therapy that allows people to create new ways of thinking and behaving to improve their quality of life.

How does psychodynamic therapy work?

Psychodynamic therapy refers to a range of treatments based on psychoanalytic concepts and methods. These treatments involve fewer meetings and may be considerably shorter than psychoanalysis itself. Session frequency is typically once or twice weekly, and the treatment may be time-limited or open-ended. Psychodynamic therapy explores those aspects of oneself that are not fully known. This is especially as they are manifested and potentially influenced in the therapy relationship. Generally, the therapist helps the patient describe and put words to feelings, including contradictory feelings, emotions that are troubling or threatening, and feelings that the patient may not initially be able to recognize or acknowledge (this stands in contrast to a cognitive focus, where the greater emphasis is on thoughts and beliefs).

Psychodynamic therapists identify and explore recurring themes and patterns in patients’ thoughts, feelings, self-concepts, relationships, and life experiences. Sometimes, a patient may be acutely aware of painful or self-defeating recurring patterns but cannot escape them. In other cases, the patient may be unaware of the patterns until the therapist helps them recognize and understand them. In contrast to other therapies in which the therapist may actively structure sessions or follow a predetermined agenda, psychodynamic therapy encourages patients to speak freely about whatever is on their minds. When patients do this, their thoughts naturally range from many areas of mental life, such as desires, fears, fantasies, dreams, and daydreams.

Psychodynamic therapy includes, but extends beyond, symptom remission. Successful treatment should relieve symptoms and foster the positive presence of psychological capacities and resources. Depending on the person and the circumstances, these might include the capacity to have more fulfilling relationships, make more effective use of one’s talents and abilities, maintain a realistically based sense of self-esteem, tolerate a broader range of effects, understand self and others in more nuanced and sophisticated ways, and face life’s challenges with greater freedom and flexibility.

The Three Dynamic Psychotherapies and their process

Ego-supportive psychotherapy: A type of psychotherapy that aims to support a weakened ego by strengthening defense mechanisms and other ego functions. This type of psychotherapy is appropriate for those patients who show evidence of ego weakness, such as a predominant use of primitive defense mechanisms, impaired rea\mpulse control, cognitive impairment, grossly impaired relationships with others, and inability to tolerate strong effects. Treatment may be from 1-3 times per week and of variable duration.

Psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy: A type of psychotherapy that aims to help the patient to explore the workings of their mind to enable them to, among other things, resolve neurotic conflicts, more fully understand the nature of their relationships with others, alter maladaptive defensive strategies, overcome inhibitions, and master anxieties. This type of psychotherapy is appropriate for patients with solid ego function, intelligence, self-reflection capacity, and the ability to speak about thoughts and feelings. Treatment may be from 1-3 times per week and of variable duration.

Psychoanalysis: As with psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy, this treatment aims to explore neurotic conflict and core character structure. The aims are more global in psychoanalysis, in that modification of character, rather than of specific defense mechanisms, is a goal, and the technical focus is on transference. Treatment is usually 4-5 times per week for several years.

What you can expect

During psychodynamic therapy, people are often encouraged to talk about anything that might be on their minds. It might include things they are currently experiencing or memories of things that have happened in the past. Today, we are seeing a resurgence in the importance of psychodynamic therapy in the therapist’s toolkit. Peter Fonagy and Alessandra Lemma have argued that it’s essential that patients aren’t treated with a “one size fits all” approach, citing that CBT won’t be suitable for every patient and that other therapeutic modalities should be offered for public health. For the initial session, your therapist will assess you for a clinical diagnosis using your symptoms and issues. The evaluation will be based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is referred to as the clinical psychologist’s Holy Bible and serves as a framework for evaluating a client’s behavior in therapy.

The assessment process will also collect personal information like:
  • Life history

  • Relationships

  • Traumas

  • Addiction or substance abuse

  • Strengths

  • Weaknesses

  • Accomplishments

  • Failures

Once the assessment is complete, the usual therapy session begins. As you go along, the treatment approach will be developed or changed. In each session, your therapist creates an environment conducive to openly sharing feelings, thoughts, and experiences.

They will use one or a combination of the following techniques to help you through:

1. Rorschach Inkblots – a psychological test in which a patient’s interpretations of inkblots are analyzed to examine personality and emotional functioning.

2. Freudian slips – analysis of instances when a patient means to say one thing but accidentally lets another with a deeper meaning.

3. Free association – asking the patient to provide immediate associated answers to a set of words.

4. Dream analysis – detailed discussion of the patient’s dreams and fantasies.

Counseling sessions with your therapist can cover any topic. It may be your fantasies and dreams so they can examine and understand their meaning. Your therapist can also help you explore old memories to unveil unconscious drives and defense mechanisms. The goal is to have you come to terms with your issues, healthily resolve them, and manage your responses to the triggers.

If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, talk to your mental health professionals or therapist. You can consult counselors from Project C Foundation regarding psychodynamic therapy.

Written By:

Larissa Alphonso


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