Psychodynamic therapy helps you understand how your current feelings and behaviour are shaped by your past experiences and your unconscious mind and impulses.
The relationship with your therapist is key to this therapeutic approach. Having an accepting and trusting relationship with them encourages you to talk freely and openly about topics like your childhood and your relationship with your parents.
This can help you understand what you’re feeling now, why you behave in a certain way and how this affects your relationships.
Psychodynamic therapy – also known as the psychodynamic approach or psychodynamic psychotherapy – is derived from psychoanalysis and the theories of Freud.
Sarai Monk, a London-based psychodynamic psychotherapist, says: “It’s all about getting to the root of the problem to create long-lasting change.
“There may be things in your unconscious that you’re not aware of and are painful or keeping you stuck. A psychodynamic therapist will help you look for these patterns and understand them. We find that knot so you can start unravelling all the strands and move on with your life.”
What to expect from psychodynamic therapy
Your therapist will encourage you to talk freely about whatever comes to mind. This is known as free association. You can talk openly, honestly and without being judged.
“While we do interact, and that’s sometimes directional, you need to feel things are emerging at your pace,” says Sarai. “The patterns of what’s in your unconscious begin to come through and we then explore what that means together.”
A key concept in the psychodynamic approach is transference. This is where you redirect feelings you experienced in previous significant relationships, or during childhood, onto your therapist.
Sarai says: “What happens in our early years and those developmental relationships can be a blueprint for the rest of our lives. It’s a dynamic that we may take into other relationships.”
Transference can help you both learn more about your feelings, behaviours and actions, and then resolve the feelings that originate from these relationships. It can help you understand why you expect to be treated in a certain way and how that impacts on your current relationships.
What psychodynamic therapy can help with
Psychodynamic therapy can help with many different problems, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders and addictions.
Sarai says: “Sometimes people come to therapy because they feel things are not quite right - they’re not happy, not fulfilled or they feel isolated. They’re trying to find meaning and understanding. They want to make sense of things.
“It can be a slow process and the development is often subtle. But when that change happens, clients can find that everything in their life improves - relationships, friendships are more fulfilling to them.
“Even working lives can improve, as people tend to become more productive, creative and better able to think once the emotional knots are worked out, and can work to their full potential.”
But it’s really important that you find a therapist you feel comfortable with and who has the right personality for you.
Says Sarai: “Often a first session will just be about getting a sense of whether the relationship will work. If you don’t think things are working, it might not be the method of therapy, but that your therapist isn’t right for you.
“Find someone you want to be beside you on this journey.”
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