What is psychodynamic therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy is a form of talk therapy. It’s designed to help you find relief from mental or emotional stress. For example, your doctor may recommend it if you have depression.

Proponents of psychodynamic therapy believe your present day problems are linked to unconscious conflicts arising from events in your past. They believe you must identify the roots of your psychological pain before you can find relief. Your therapist will promote self-reflection and self-examination. In particular, they will help you explore your past family relationships. This may help you develop a better understanding of present challenges. Your therapist may also help you develop coping techniques.

Your doctor may recommend psychodynamic therapy if you have depression. It’s used to treat some other mental health conditions and situations as well. It may help you manage:

  • anxiety
  • panic disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder
  • stress-related physical ailments
  • physical symptoms that lack a physical basis
  • persistent feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • prolonged sadness
  • sexual difficulties

Your doctor may encourage you to combine psychodynamic therapy with medication or other treatments.

In psychodynamic therapy, your therapist will try to help you understand how past events are affecting your mental and physical health today. Advocates believe that people feel and act the ways they do for specific reasons. Your past experiences shape how you act and see the world. Your therapist will help you explore these experiences. They may also help you develop coping techniques so you can respond to challenging situations in more positive and effective ways.

You will likely meet with your therapist several times a week for several months, and in some cases, for several years. Your therapist might request more frequent meetings. Each session will typically last 45 to 50 minutes.

Your therapist will try to establish a supportive environment where you feel comfortable talking about your experiences. They will likely allow you to speak freely during sessions. They may occasionally interrupt to ask questions or redirect the discussion. They don’t typically share their opinions on what you say. This neutrality may help strengthen your therapeutic relationship.

You may communicate with your therapist on multiple levels, sometimes by indirect means. For instance, they may examine your dreams and fantasies and help you to discover their meaning. Your therapist will try to help you understand how they have influenced your life. Some people hide or are unaware of traumatic experiences. Your therapist may be able to help you access and talk about them.

“Psychodynamic therapy may be the most commonly practiced type of therapy,” says Daniel L. Buccino, LCSW-C, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “It incorporates aspects of psychoanalytic thought in its attempt to look at dynamic patterns of interactions and responses.”

Psychodynamic therapy is similar to other forms of psychotherapy. It poses minimal risk. You may struggle with the emotional impact of reliving or sharing the past. But it may improve your long-term well-being and ability to cope.

If you suspect that you have depression or another mental health condition, make an appointment with your doctor. Depending on your condition, they may prescribe a combination of medication and therapy.

Psychodynamic therapy is a common type of therapy. It may help you understand how past experiences affect your current life, and it may help you develop long-term coping strategies.