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Contemporary Psychodynamic Therapy 

Psychodynamic therapy is based on recognising that:

  • Problems in the present may have their roots in past experience

  • A person’s inner life or ‘inner world’ is shaped through their past experience

  • For each of us our inner world shapes the patterns of our relationships in the present, including how we feel about ourselves and other people, and how we respond.

  • This often happens without our being aware of what is driving our perceptions and behaviour - it happens unconsciously.

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 unconscious or not fully conscious ideas and feelings that are controlling the present. The term “psychodynamic” can refer to models that were first developed by Sigmund Freud and further refined over the years by clinicians after Freud who revised and built on his ideas to make them more relevant to people’s lives today.

How does Psychodynamic Therapy Work?

Psychodynamic therapy is a collaborative approach with the client to explore and uncover deeper thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Working with the clients story and from within their individual frame of reference clients discover they are able to observe certain themes and patterns that may repeat themselves and thus they can gain insight on their understanding of themselves and how this may impact on their current situation. With the therapists help things can be brought from the clients unconscious to the their conscious attention thus helping the client to start to make sense of issues they have been struggling with. 


The Evidence Base

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. 

Who can it Help

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.

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