Psychodynamic therapy is the psychological interpretation of mental and emotional processes. Rooted from traditional psychoanalysis, it draws from object relations, ego psychology, and self- psychology. The primary focus of psychodynamic therapy is to reveal the unconscious content of a client’s psyche all in an effort to alleviate their inner psychic tension. Psychic tension is inner conflict within the mind that was created in a situation of extreme stress or emotional hardship, often in the state of distress.
Psychodynamic therapy relies on the interpersonal relationship between client and psychiatrist more than any other form of therapy. This therapy takes a lot of time, sometimes years and is built on a heavy foundation of trust. Psychodynamic therapy happens at a frequency of once or twice per week.
People tend to develop defense mechanisms that can keep painful feelings, memories, and experiences stored away in the unconscious. That way one doesn’t consciously think about them. A few common defense mechanisms include denial, regression, repression, and rationalization.
Psychodynamic therapists encourage patients to speak openly about their emotions, desires, interpretations and fears. Being open may help reveal vulnerable feelings that have been pushed out of the conscious state of awareness and into the unconscious. According to psychodynamic theory, behavior is influenced by unconscious thought. Once vulnerable or painful feelings are processed, the defense mechanisms reduce or resolve. Recognizing frequent patterns in therapy can help patients start to see how they avoid distress or put up defense mechanisms so they can cope. This insight may allow patients to begin changing these very patterns.
Techniques used in Psychodynamic therapy include:
Free association: The patient is encouraged to communicate their true thoughts and feelings in an open ended context. This can only be accomplished with the patient knowing it is a safe emotional space and done with zero judgment or consequences. These thoughts could possibly be irrelevant, illogical, and embarrassing to the patient. The goal is to help access unconscious information, memories, or impulses that the patient might otherwise have not been able to bring to the surface. After being extrapolated to the conscious mind they can be analyzed and interpreted.
Dream interpretation: (dream analysis) The client keeps a diary of their dreams, and communicates or relays them to the therapist, sometimes aided by free association. The content is analyzed or interpreted for hidden meanings, underlying motivations, and other portrayals.
Recognizing resistance: The patient withholds information for their betterment and interferes or blocks interpretation. Often the client could be using this a defense.