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What Is Psychodynamic Therapy?

Learn about the methods, goals, types, and benefits of psychodynamic therapy to determine if it’s right for you.

Defining Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is a specific approach that helps people develop a deeper, more significant understanding of their emotions and mental health processes. Through this understanding, people can make better, more informed choices about all aspects of their life, including goals, aspirations, and relationships.1 

What Methods Does Psychodynamic Therapy Utilize?

The psychodynamic approach is talk therapy with roots in classic psychoanalysis. Talk therapies are based on the concept that talking openly with someone (in this case, a therapist) about problematic emotions can help clients find relief from emotional and mental health struggles.

Therapy sessions can help people better understand the feelings, thoughts, and challenges that contribute to harmful behaviors. In addition, psychodynamic therapy strives to help people understand the unconscious thoughts that lead to certain feelings and actions.

When Is Psychodynamic Therapy Used?

Psychodynamic therapies are widely used to treat depression and other serious mental health conditions, especially those who struggle to find meaning in their lives or maintain personal relationships.

Psychodynamic therapy can be short or long-term. Short-term psychodynamic therapy usually lasts between twenty-five and thirty sessions over approximately six to eight months. On the other hand, long-term psychodynamic therapy may last for one year or more, encompassing more than fifty sessions.2

Like other forms of talk therapy, psychodynamic treatment is effective in different settings and for several conditions. In addition to individual therapy, psychodynamic group therapy and family sessions are widely effective for several mental health treatment needs.

What Psychodynamic Therapy Can Help With

The psychodynamic approach to therapy works similarly to psychoanalysis; therefore, medical professionals can apply it to many mental health challenges. However, the key difference is that psychodynamic therapy sessions occur less frequently and are generally shorter in duration. 

Like other types of talk or behavioral therapies, evidence suggests that psychodynamic counseling techniques work for various conditions. Data from several meta-analyses show that psychodynamic therapy effectively treats depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, panic disorders, and somatoform disorders.2 

Goals of Psychodynamic Therapy

In addition to helping address the root causes behind painful or unpleasant thoughts and emotions, there are several goals of the psychodynamic approach to depression and other mental health treatment needs. These goals will be detailed below.3 

First Goal

The first goal of psychodynamic therapy is to help patients examine their current thoughts and feelings to better understand where they come from and how they impact their daily lives. This allows people to develop healthier and safer thought patterns and learn how thoughts and emotions may lead to worsening mental health challenges.

Second Goal

The second goal of psychodynamic therapy is to help people find freedom from past experiences. Examining and considering past experiences, especially early childhood, can help patients connect their past to their current mental health concerns. Additionally, this exercise can help people accept and come to terms with those memories or challenges and live in the present without the influence of past trauma.

Third Goal

The third goal of psychodynamic therapy is to develop and improve relationships. The psychodynamic approach focuses on relationships and interpersonal experiences, so a key treatment goal is to help improve relationships in all aspects of people’s lives.

Types of Psychodynamic Therapy

There are different types of psychodynamic therapies or psychodynamic approaches. Although all of the following therapies are part of the psychodynamic model, each type or category applies the psychodynamic approach to treatment differently.

Brief Psychodynamic Therapy

Brief psychodynamic therapy usually lasts no more than twenty-five sessions and consists of a more rapid process or short intervention. Brief psychodynamic interventions usually have one focus determined during the evaluation or first sessions. Examples of situations that brief psychodynamic therapy can help treat include accidents, acute emotional challenges, a traumatic family event, and experiencing acts of violence.

Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy (DIT)

Dynamic interpersonal therapy (DIT) is a short, individual psychodynamic therapy, limited to sixteen sessions once a week. DIT is generally used to help address emotional disorders, mood disorders, and relationship challenges.

Psychodynamic Art and Music Therapies

This type of psychodynamic therapy encourages participants to express emotions and feelings through art or music. Sessions are unstructured, allowing the client to lead the session. The psychoanalytic therapist's role is to encourage using music or art to explore emotions that might be otherwise challenging to disclose. This type of psychodynamic therapy may be most effective for patients who find it difficult to talk openly or struggle with crippling fear or anxiety.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Benefits of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Research shows that psychodynamic therapy can help people struggling with many mental health concerns vastly improve their lives by addressing problems with avoidance, improving their understanding of relationships, and helping strengthen self-understanding.4

In addition, participating in psychodynamic therapy, whether short or long-term, can help improve confidence, self-awareness, and coping skills and recognize symptoms connected to clients’ mental health before they get out of control. During therapy, patients develop deeper self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and acceptance of others and achieve long-lasting, effective relief from their symptoms.

What Distinguishes Psychodynamic Therapy From Other Therapies?

Most research indicates psychodynamic therapy is at least as effective as the two most commonly used mental health therapies— cognitive behavioral therapy and medications. Although there are multiple benefits of psychoanalysis therapy, there are challenges that come with it. Therefore, it is important for people to work with a skilled treatment professional to discuss treatment needs and determine if this therapy can help achieve their treatment goals.5

Psychodynamic Therapy at Anew Treatment Center

Remember, there are many therapies, methods, and options available to treat various mental health conditions. At Anew Treatment Center, we offer a variety of treatment options to ensure we treat and accommodate each client’s needs effectively. We know that each individual has a unique subset of needs and experiences that shape their treatment journey.

Contact us today to learn more about psychodynamic therapy and other treatments at Anew Treatment Center.

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