Psychodynamic Therapy

What is psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy? virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Estimated reading time: 20 minutes

Are you ready to delve into the fascinating depths of the human psyche? Are you interested in a therapeutic approach that goes beyond surface-level symptom relief and dives into the underlying roots of your challenges? In this blog post, we will geek out (in detail!) on all the aspects of psychodynamic therapy, a therapeutic approach that helps you uncover the underlying patterns, unresolved conflicts, and unconscious processes that may hold you back.

Psychodynamic therapy is a type of therapy that helps you understand your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors by looking at your past experiences and how they consciously and unconsciously shape your life, your worldview, and your relationships today. In contemporary psychodynamic therapy, these are all looked at, along with your sociocultural background and its impact on your values and beliefs.

The goal of psychodynamic therapy is not necessarily to talk endlessly about the past but rather to understand how internalized past messages and ongoing internal conflicts can impact your ability to live a fulfilling life in the present. Through this process, you can begin to discover self-destructive patterns and beliefs that hold you back and actively work on overcoming them.

What is psychodynamic therapy? virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

The Unconscious Mind In Psychodynamic Therapy

One of the core components of psychodynamic therapy is its focus on helping you recognize unconscious influences and unconscious patterns of behavior and feelings that contribute to distressing feelings.

What is the unconscious?

Put simply, it refers to the different layers of thoughts, feelings, memories, conflicts, beliefs, values, fears and desires that we are not readily conscious, or aware, of. Our unconscious mind has a significant influence on our behaviors and decisions.

What is psychodynamic therapy? virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Here are some common everyday examples:

Implicit Bias: Unconscious biases can shape our attitudes and behaviors towards certain groups of people, even if we consciously hold egalitarian beliefs. These biases, formed through societal conditioning and personal experiences, can influence our decisions about hiring, promotions, friendships, and other social interactions.

Emotional Triggers: Certain situations or stimuli can trigger emotional responses that are rooted in our unconscious mind. For example, a person may have an intense fear of dogs without consciously knowing why. Upon exploration, it could be revealed that they had a childhood experience with a dog that was traumatic and stored in the unconscious mind.

Procrastination: Procrastination is often driven by unconscious psychological factors. It may be a result of unconscious fears of failure, perfectionism, or feelings of inadequacy. These underlying beliefs and emotions can lead to avoidance behaviors without us fully understanding the deeper reasons behind our procrastination.

Relationship Patterns: Our unconscious mind can influence the types of relationships we form and the dynamics within them. For example, individuals may repeatedly enter into relationships with partners who resemble significant figures from their past (such as a parent) due to unresolved unconscious conflicts or desires.

In many other complex and intertwined ways, our unconscious mind influences our behaviors and decisions.

Many long standing emotional and psychological difficulties can be rooted in the unconscious mind and must be brought to light for change to occur. That is why one of the goals of psychodynamic therapy is to understand and increase your self-awareness of unconscious processes and make them conscious –so that they can actually be addressed and dealt with in therapy.

Techniques & Interventions used to work with your unconscious mind and address the root of your issues

How does your psychodynamic therapist help you understand what’s happening in your unconscious mind? Here are a few of the many techniques used. Because psychodynamic therapy is tailored to each individual, these interventions are not used in isolation but are integrated into the therapeutic process based on each client’s needs and therapeutic goals.

Free Association

In free association, the client is encouraged to share anything and everything on their mind. The exercise of noticing what comes up in your mind, body, and emotions and sharing them freely and spontaneously can be a new experience for many people as we are typically socialized to use filters and censor ourselves.

When you free associate, you are encouraged to let your mind wander and share whatever comes to your awareness, even if it seems unrelated or nonsensical. What comes to mind can include events of the week, ideas, imageries, feelings, conflicts with others, fears and desires, dreams, memories, and even thoughts and feelings about the therapist and/or therapy process! Anything and everything that comes to mind is valuable to the therapy process in psychodynamic therapy.

In modern forms of psychodynamic therapy, your therapist may use these associations in a collaborative way. Your psychodynamic therapist will also listen to the different levels of communication expressed through these associations by addressing conscious processes, as well as listening to emerging themes, symbols, and conflicts in your free associations. They follow the clues of these associations to increase your self-understanding, address unconscious processes, and work on the root of your struggles.

Guided questions to deepen your self-reflection & self-awareness

Thought-provoking questions play a crucial role in psychodynamic therapy as a means of guiding the client in their exploration and promoting deeper self-reflection. These questions are designed to encourage the client to examine their thoughts, emotions, memories, and beliefs in a more in-depth and meaningful way.

In psychodynamic therapy, questions serve as a guiding tool to facilitate self-exploration and deep reflection. These questions are skillfully used to encourage clients to delve into their thoughts, emotions, memories, and beliefs in a more profound and meaningful way. They prompt clients to reflect on their experiences, challenge assumptions and beliefs, and explore underlying emotions. By asking insight-oriented questions, psychodynamic therapists aim to uncover unconscious processes, motivations, and defense mechanisms that may influence clients’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

These questions foster insight and self-awareness, guiding clients to better understand themselves and their relationships. Thought-provoking questions are crucial in guiding the therapeutic process, helping both therapist and client move beyond surface-level discussions and engage in a deeper exploration of core issues. Through this process, clients gain new perspectives, challenge self-limiting beliefs, and work toward personal growth and change.

How are questions used in psychodynamic therapy? virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Interpretations

What are they?

Interpretations in psychodynamic therapy involve the therapist’s efforts to provide clients with insights and understanding about unconscious processes, underlying conflicts, patterns, and motivations. The therapist closely observes the client’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and the dynamics within the therapeutic relationship in order to make meaningful interpretations.

What do they do?

The primary goal of interpretations is to illuminate the unconscious aspects of the client’s experience and assist them in developing awareness of the deeper meanings and influences behind their thoughts and actions. By offering interpretations, the therapist helps the client establish connections between their past experiences, unresolved conflicts, and their current challenges or difficulties.

Different kinds of interpretations

Interpretations can take various forms depending on the specific needs of the client and the therapeutic context. They may involve the therapist pointing out recurring patterns, drawing connections between different aspects of the client’s life, highlighting unconscious motivations, exploring defense mechanisms, or examining the client’s reactions and transference dynamics within the therapeutic relationship.

How interpretations are used in modern psychodynamic therapy

In contemporary psychodynamic therapy, interpretations are approached collaboratively. Rather than being imposed by the therapist, interpretations are presented as hypotheses or ideas for exploration. The therapist engages in a dialogue with the client, seeking their feedback to ensure the interpretations are meaningful and resonate with their subjective experiences. This collaborative approach acknowledges the client as the expert of their own internal world while positioning the therapist as a guide and facilitator in the exploration and understanding of that world.

Thought-provoking questions and alternative perspectives are often used as vehicles for presenting interpretations. The therapist invites the client to reflect, explore, and offer their own insights in response to the interpretations. This active involvement of the client enables a deeper exploration of the personal meaning and relevance of the interpretations.

Through this collaborative interpretation process, clients actively participate in shaping the therapeutic journey and determining the significance of the insights gained. This empowers them to integrate and validate interpretations that resonate with their own experiences, fostering self-discovery, autonomy, and a sense of empowerment. Furthermore, the process strengthens the therapeutic alliance and trust between the client and therapist as they work together to uncover and understand the underlying dynamics contributing to the client’s difficulties.

By better understanding themselves, their relationships, and the underlying factors influencing their emotional struggles, clients can achieve greater self-acceptance, develop more adaptive coping strategies, and make conscious choices that lead to a more fulfilling and authentic

How are interpretations used in psychodynamic therapy? virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Dreams

In modern psychodynamic therapy, dreams play a significant role in the therapeutic process. They are powerful gateways to the unconscious mind, offering a rich source of symbolic material and insight into the client’s inner world. Therapists actively engage clients in exploring and analyzing their dreams to access deeper layers of their psyche.

Dreams are seen as a reflection of the client’s unconscious thoughts, emotions, conflicts, and desires. They often contain symbolic representations that can provide clues about unresolved issues, repressed memories, or unexpressed emotions. By examining dreams’ imagery, themes, and narrative, therapists and clients work together to unravel their hidden meanings and connections to the client’s waking life experiences.

How are dreams used in psychodynamic therapy? virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Dream analysis involves a collaborative and interpretive process. Therapists encourage clients to share their dreams in detail, paying attention to the emotions, sensations, and events depicted in the dream narrative. Through careful exploration and discussion, the therapist helps the client uncover the underlying symbolic significance of different elements in the dream.

Interpreting dreams requires a nuanced understanding of the client’s personal context, history, and individual symbolism. Therapists may ask thought-provoking questions to facilitate the client’s exploration of their dreams, such as “What emotions did you experience during the dream?” or “What associations do you have with certain dream symbols?”

By connecting dream symbolism with waking life experiences, clients can discover links between their dreams and their current challenges, relationships, or unresolved conflicts. Exploring dreams can also foster a deeper understanding of the client’s inner conflicts and emotional processes

Examination of therapeutic relationship dynamics

The examination of therapeutic relationship dynamics in psychodynamic therapy involves exploring the interactions and patterns that emerge between the client and therapist. Therapists observe the client’s reactions, emotions, and behaviors within the therapeutic relationship to gain insights into their relational patterns and unresolved issues. The therapeutic relationship serves as a microcosm for exploring how the client relates to others. Through open dialogue and feedback, therapists inquire about the client’s experiences, feelings towards the therapist, and any resistance. This exploration uncovers unconscious processes, unresolved conflicts, and core relational themes. To learn more about this see the section below about “How the Therapeutic Relationship is Used in Psychodynamic Therapy.”

Dysfunctional Patterns

As you begin to gain insight into your unconscious processes, psychodynamic therapy also helps you identify the dysfunctional patterns observed in these unconscious processes. Often repeated in relationships and behaviors, these patterns can contribute to psychological distress and interfere with a person’s ability to lead a fulfilling life. These patterns may include maladaptive behaviors, relationship difficulties, self-sabotage, or self-defeating thoughts.

Examples of dysfunctional patterns

In relationships, this can include becoming overly dependent on others, being avoidant or distant, or consistently entering into unhealthy or toxic relationships. The drama triangle is an example of dysfunctional relationship dynamics. Individuals may develop patterns of avoiding or suppressing uncomfortable emotions. This can involve numbing oneself emotionally, distracting oneself with excessive work or activities, or using substances to escape..

Why do we engage in dysfunctional patterns?

Different schools of psychodynamic theory vary in their understanding of dysfunctional patterns. Here are two examples. (1) These patterns can be seen as unconscious defenses or coping mechanisms that individuals develop to protect themselves from emotional pain or distress. Or (2) these patterns can be viewed as an unconscious drive towards repeating what’s familiar with the unconscious hope that these issues and situations could be resolved.

What is psychodynamic therapy? virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

What happens after you identify these dysfunctional patterns?

Psychodynamic therapy aims to help individuals gain insight into these dysfunctional patterns by exploring their underlying meanings and origins. Therapists encourage clients to examine their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the therapeutic relationship and their everyday lives. Through this process, clients can become aware of the unconscious motivations and conflicts that drive their patterns and work towards resolving them.

Therapists may also focus on identifying and addressing any underlying unresolved issues from the past, such as childhood experiences or early relationships, which may have contributed to developing these dysfunctional patterns. By bringing these unconscious processes to conscious awareness, individuals can make new choices and create healthier ways of relating to themselves and others.

Psychological Defense Mechanisms

What are psychological defense mechanisms in psychodynamic therapy? virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

What are defense mechanisms?

Defense mechanisms are psychological strategies our unconscious minds use to help us cope with anxiety, conflicts, and distressing emotions. They operate outside of conscious awareness to keep unwanted thoughts, feelings, memories, internal conflicts, or unacceptable thoughts or impulses hidden from our conscious mind.

Why is it important to know the defense mechanisms your mind uses?

Defense mechanisms are not inherently bad or wrong. They protect our psychological well-being. However, relying excessively on defense mechanisms or using them maladaptively can hinder personal growth and create obstacles to emotional well-being.

 

Defense mechanisms, like repression or denial, may temporarily shield you from uncomfortable feelings, but they can also prevent you from addressing and resolving underlying issues. Recognizing and understanding your defense mechanisms allows you to more accurately identify underlying issues and consciously work towards resolving them.

 

Defense mechanisms can affect your relationships with others. For example, if you frequently use projection to attribute your own thoughts or feelings to others, it can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. Being aware of when your defense mechanisms distort your perception of reality gives you the opportunity to intentionally practice distinguishing between the reality of situations versus the perceived reality clouded by these unconscious protective mechanisms.

 

Again, defense mechanisms are not necessarily good or bad. These protective mechanisms can function healthily, but at their worst, they can also distort our perception of reality and contribute to dysfunctional patterns. Psychodynamic therapy helps you develop more adaptive ways of dealing with stress, conflicts, and emotions instead of relying solely on unconscious defense mechanisms.

What happens after I recognize my defenses?

Again, defense mechanisms are not necessarily good or bad. These protective mechanisms can function healthily, but at their worst, they can also distort our perception of reality and contribute to dysfunctional patterns. Psychodynamic therapy helps you develop more adaptive ways of dealing with stress, conflicts, and emotions instead of relying solely on unconscious defense mechanisms.

The Influence of Past on Our Present – Family, Sociocultural Factors, and Unresolved Traumas

Childhood experiences in our family

Childhood experiences, especially those related to attachment, family relationships, and significant life events, profoundly impact the development of our unconscious mind. These experiences influence our expectations and assumptions about ourselves, others, the world, and the possibilities in life. For example, a child who grows up in a secure and loving environment is more likely to develop a positive self-image and healthy relationship patterns. In contrast, a child who experiences neglect or abuse may have an inner child wound and develop negative self-beliefs and dysfunctional relationship patterns. Our wounded inner child will shape the decisions we make and the lives we live. If left untreated, our childhood traumas continue to live on within us adults as inner child wounds.

These wounds and attachment injuries influence our expectations and assumptions about ourselves, others, the world, and the possibilities in life. Nonetheless, these painful experiences and beliefs may not readily come to the surface in our conscious minds. Inner child work in psychodynamic therapy involves addressing unresolved childhood trauma so we can be empowered to live more freely and fully in the present. Read more about the different kinds of inner child wounds here.

The relevance of childhood experiences in psychodynamic therapy. virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Our sociocultural experiences & its effect on our psyche

The impact of our past on our present cannot be holistically understood without acknowledging that our family is grounded in the community and society at large. This includes understanding our social, cultural, and economic location growing up. This also includes recognizing parts of our identity and selves that are “othered,” which refers to parts of ourselves and/or our family that are marginalized, excluded, or subjected to stereotypes, prejudices, or discrimination based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, or any other perceived differences. The process of “othering” can lead to social, cultural, and psychological consequences that are crucial to address and process in psychodynamic therapy. These are all elements that shape our psyche and unconscious mind.

Two examples of how our sociocultural experiences affect our psyche and psychological well-being:

For example, someone who grows up in a society that prioritizes traditional gender roles but does not conform to these norms may experience social judgment and develop a sense of inadequacy that they carry to their present relationships. Or, a community that prioritizes masculinity and toughness may lead someone to feel weak or inferior if they do not conform to these concepts of what masculinity should look like.

In another example, a person who grew up poor but later became wealthy may still struggle with low self-esteem due to the lasting effects of their childhood experiences and societal pressures related to social status.

In the present day, this person may have internalized feelings of shame, inadequacy, or a belief that they do not belong in their current social and economic status. They may also struggle with guilt and a fear of losing their newfound wealth, leading to a sense of unworthiness or impostor syndrome.

Additionally, the person may have experienced discrimination or negative stereotypes related to their socioeconomic background, leading to a sense of invalidation and lack of acceptance in certain social circles.

The relevance of unresolved traumas in psychodynamic therapy. virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Unresolved traumas

Unresolved conflicts or traumatic experiences from the past can find their way into the unconscious mind. Trauma includes sexual trauma, complex trauma, childhood trauma,  race-based trauma, intergenerational trauma,  intimate partner violence, and domestic violence. These experiences may be too overwhelming or painful to be consciously processed and may be repressed or buried in the unconscious. However, they continue to exert an influence on our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, often manifesting as dysfunctional patterns or symptoms. 

How the Therapeutic Relationship is Used in Psychodynamic Therapy

Transference

In psychodynamic therapy, transference refers to all the thoughts, feelings, associations, fears, and wishes that a client can have about the therapist as well as the therapy process. Transference is like a bridge that connects your past experiences and relationships with the therapeutic relationship. It’s when you start to see your therapist through the lens of your past experience, and you might unconsciously transfer your feelings, hopes, fears, and expectations onto them.

Imagine it as if your therapist becomes a canvas on which you paint your emotions and experiences, even if they may not directly relate to them. For example, a client can see their therapist as an authority figure, such as a strict teacher or a stern parent. This transference leads the client to unconsciously seek their approval or fear their disapproval, similar to how they may have felt towards authority figures in their past.

Transference is a powerful and sometimes confusing experience, but it’s essential to psychodynamic therapy. It gives you and your therapist valuable insights into the deeper layers of your psyche. It is a window into your internal world, providing insights into your relational patterns, attachment styles, and unresolved conflicts. By recognizing and exploring transferences in psychodynamic therapy, you and your therapist can gain awareness of these unconscious dynamics and help you better understand how your past influences your present thoughts, behaviors, and relationships.

Transference is a natural and expected part of therapy. In fact, transference work can be one of the most powerful and meaningful aspects of psychodynamic therapy. That is why, in psychodynamic therapy, you are encouraged to freely share your thoughts, feelings, and associations about anything, including your feelings about the process of therapy and the therapist.

The therapist plays an active role in the process of transference by offering interpretations, reflections, and interventions that help you explore and understand your unconscious processes and projections. Through this exploration, you can differentiate between past experiences and the present therapeutic relationship, leading to increased self-awareness and the potential for healing and growth.

Countertransference

In psychodynamic therapy, countertransference refers to the therapist’s emotional reactions and responses evoked by the client. It is the therapist’s unconscious emotional and cognitive processes that are activated in response to the client’s transference. It’s a recognition that therapists, just like all other humans, have their own inner world and history that can be evoked by the client’s experiences, feelings, and behaviors.

Countertransference shows up as a range of emotions and thoughts within the therapist—perhaps a sense of connection and empathy, frustration, or even irritation. These reactions are not right or wrong. Rather, they provide valuable clues about the client’s inner world, unconscious processes, and relational patterns.

Relational psychodynamic therapists take great care to be aware of their countertransference and tactfully use it to facilitate the client’s healing. This is done through ongoing advanced training, education, supervision, and even their own therapy. Through self-reflection and consultation with colleagues, therapists strive to separate their own emotions from the client’s experiences, using their insights to guide therapeutic interventions.

Being aware of their countertransference allows therapists to respond to the client’s needs with thoughtfulness and compassion. It helps them create a safe space where the client can explore their own unconscious conflicts and develop a deeper understanding of themselves. By working through their countertransference, therapists can better support clients in their journey of self-discovery and growth.

What is transference and countertransference in psychodynamic therapy? virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Two-person psychology (relational psychodynamic therapy)

Two-person psychology in relational psychodynamic therapy is a concept that acknowledges that both the therapist and the client contribute to the therapeutic process and that their interactions shape the therapy’s outcome. In other words, what happens in the therapeutic process is not solely a reflection of the client’s internal world but is actively shaped by both individuals’ perspectives, experiences, and contributions.

This perspective acknowledges the influence of cultural, social, and contextual factors on the therapeutic relationship. It recognizes that the therapist and client bring their unique backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences into the therapeutic space, shaping the nature of their interaction.

What is relational psychodynamic therapy? virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

The focus is not only on the client’s inner world and unconscious processes but also on the dynamics, reactions, and feelings between the therapist and the client. It uses the therapeutic relationship as a powerful tool to understand and work through the client’s challenges and conflicts.

Therapists who practice this type of psychodynamic therapy must maintain a high level of self-awareness and understanding of their reactions, countertransference, and how these factors may influence the therapeutic process. In this approach, your therapist may invite you to be curious and examine the dynamics happening in real-time between the two of you, using them as valuable sources of insight into interpersonal patterns, unresolved issues, and emotional reactions that may be relevant to the client’s overall well-being and growth.

Benefits of Psychodynamic Therapy

While other therapeutic approaches may have their strengths in addressing specific concerns or providing short-term solutions, psychodynamic therapy offers a depth-oriented and holistic approach to self-discovery and personal transformation. Its emphasis on the unconscious, the therapeutic relationship, and long-term exploration makes it well-suited for individuals seeking a comprehensive understanding of themselves and lasting change.

Long-lasting Impact

Psychodynamic therapy is often conducted over an extended period (a year plus), allowing for a deep and lasting transformation. It recognizes that meaningful change takes time and that addressing underlying issues requires ongoing exploration and insight.

Through psychodynamic therapy, clients can develop self-reflection, self-awareness, and insight into their patterns of behavior and relating. These skills can extend beyond the therapy room, benefiting their everyday lives and relationships.

Address the root causes of your psychological difficulties

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on exploring the unconscious processes, deep-seated emotions, and unresolved conflicts contributing to psychological distress. It delves into the root causes of issues rather than just addressing surface-level symptoms, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of oneself.

Act rather than react

People who are in psychodynamic therapy over an extended period of time can move from reactive patterns of behavior to more intentional and mindful actions. Clients can develop a greater awareness of their internal processes by exploring and gaining insight into unconscious motivations, unresolved conflicts, and deeply ingrained patterns. This increased self-awareness allows them to make conscious choices and act in a manner that aligns with their values and goals, rather than being driven solely by automatic reactions, unconscious defense mechanisms, and dysfunctional patterns.

Mindfulness in psychodynamic therapy. virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Through the therapeutic process, individuals can identify and understand the root causes of their reactive behaviors, such as defense mechanisms or past traumas. By exploring these underlying factors, they can gain a better understanding of how these patterns may have served them in the past but may no longer be beneficial in their current lives.

With this newfound awareness and with practice, clients can eventually break free from automatic, habitual reactions and develop the capacity to pause, reflect, and respond more intentionally and adaptively. They can learn to identify triggers, manage emotions, and make conscious choices based on a more comprehensive understanding of themselves and their needs.

Psychodynamic therapy provides a supportive and non-judgmental space where individuals can explore their emotional experiences, gain insight into their patterns, and develop the skills needed to act consciously and purposefully in their lives. It promotes personal growth, self-empowerment, and the ability to navigate challenges with greater resilience and authenticity.

Beyond symptom-relief

Emotional wellness that goes beyond symptom-relief in psychodynamic therapy. virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Psychodynamic therapy empowers you to live more authentically, cultivate emotional well-being, foster meaningful connections with others, and pursue a fulfilling and purposeful life. It facilitates personal growth, self-acceptance, and the ability to navigate life’s challenges with greater resilience and authenticity.

Authenticity: Psychodynamic therapy encourages individuals to explore their true selves, including their values, desires, and beliefs. Individuals can better understand and embrace their authentic selves by gaining insight into their unconscious motivations and unresolved conflicts. This self-awareness allows them to live more in alignment with their genuine needs and aspirations.

Fulfilling Life: Psychodynamic therapy helps people identify and overcome internal barriers hindering their personal growth and fulfillment. By working through unresolved issues and emotional wounds, individuals can develop a clearer sense of purpose, set meaningful goals, and make choices that align with their values. This process empowers them to lead more fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Emotional Wellness: Psychodynamic therapy provides a safe and supportive space for individuals to explore and process emotions. People can achieve emotional healing and well-being by working through unresolved feelings, traumas, and conflicts. They develop healthier coping mechanisms, gain emotional resilience, and experience greater emotional balance and stability.

Meaningful Relationships: Psychodynamic therapy helps individuals understand how past experiences and relationship patterns influence their current interactions. By exploring their attachment styles, defense mechanisms, and relational dynamics, individuals can develop healthier ways of relating to others. This deepened self-awareness enhances empathy, communication skills, and the ability to establish and maintain meaningful, satisfying relationships.

Drawbacks of Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy may not be for you if you want a quick fix.

Psychodynamic therapy is a process, not a quick fix. virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Effective psychodynamic therapy, which addresses long-standing issues at the root, often requires weekly sessions that extend over months or even years. While many clients can find some relief early on in the therapy process, the overall long-term nature of psychodynamic therapy can be a drawback for people seeking quick symptom relief or brief interventions. The investment of time and financial resources over an extended period may not be feasible or desirable for everyone, especially those who prefer shorter-term or solution-focused approaches. It’s essential to consider individual needs and goals when selecting a therapeutic approach, as different therapies offer varying timeframes and treatment structures to suit diverse preferences.

Psychodynamic therapy tends to be less structured than other forms of therapy.

Psychodynamic therapy is generally considered less structured than other forms of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The focus in psychodynamic therapy is often on exploring and understanding the underlying unconscious processes, unresolved conflicts, and past experiences that may influence a person’s current thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This exploration is typically done through thought-provoking questions and free association, allowing the client to delve into their thoughts and feelings in a less structured manner. The emphasis is on fostering insight, self-reflection, and a deeper understanding of oneself rather than following a specific treatment protocol or targeting particular symptoms.

 

However, it’s important to note that the degree of structure can still vary among therapists and treatment approaches within the psychodynamic framework. While psychodynamic therapy is often associated with a more exploratory and open-ended style, some therapists do incorporate a structured framework in the psychodynamic work to provide more guidance and focus during sessions. For instance, the therapists in our practice are trained in other modalities like CBT and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and they will incorporate them throughout treatment if they find that it is helpful for clients. This can involve setting specific goals, implementing interventions, and utilizing techniques within a structured framework. The degree of structure may vary among therapists and treatment approaches within the psychodynamic framework.

2 Common Myths

MYTH: Psychodynamic therapy has no clear goals or end point.

TRUTH: While psychodynamic therapy is often long-term and open-ended, it does have specific goals and aims.

It is a myth that psychodynamic therapy has no clear goals or endpoint. While psychodynamic therapy is often long-term and open-ended, it does have specific goals and aims. The primary goal is to explore and gain insight into unconscious processes, unresolved conflicts, and the underlying factors contributing to the client’s present difficulties, so that they can be worked through and resolved. Through this exploration, the therapist and client work together to develop a deeper understanding of the client’s patterns of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Psychodynamic therapy aims to help clients develop greater self-awareness, improve their capacity for self-reflection, and make meaningful changes in their lives. These changes may involve resolving past traumas, addressing relationship patterns, understanding defense mechanisms, and developing healthier coping strategies.

Although the duration of psychodynamic therapy may be longer compared to some other approaches, it is not an indefinite or never-ending process. The length of therapy depends on what you want and need, and what you want/need can be fluid and dynamic. Healing and personal growth is not strict or predictable. You can start off by wanting to address something very specific (e.g. “I want to feel less anxious”), but through your work with your therapist, you realize a deeper meaning to these anxious symptoms (e.g. “I feel anxious because I am terrified of intimacy” to “I’ve had very familiar experiences of being emotionally suffocated when I was close to people”). 

Realizing these deeper long-standing issues may then shape the focus and length of treatment. Regardless of why you are seeking therapy and how long you hope to be in treatment, it is important to remember that the pace and length of treatment should be a collaborative discussion between you and your therapist. For many, this endpoint is reached when they have achieved a desired level of self-understanding, growth, and symptom relief, or when want to transition to less intensive forms of support or therapy.

MYTH: Psychodynamic therapy means that my therapist will just sit there and let me talk endlessly.

TRUTH: The "blank screen" or "neutral" stance is associated with traditional Freudian psychodynamic therapist. The field of psychodynamic therapy has evolved significantly since Freud. Many contemporary psychodynamic therapists incorporate interactive and collaborative elements in their therapeutic approach

This misconception about psychodynamic therapy can exist for two reasons:

(1) They have experiences with a traditional psychodynamic therapist who uses the “blank screen” stance, in which the therapist withholds personal information, reactions, opinions, and self-disclosures during therapy sessions. This is a traditional psychodynamic approach may not be a good fit for everyone as it can understandably feel hard to connect with the therapist as a person.

The field of psychodynamic therapy has evolved significantly since Freud. For instance, aside from Freudian psychodynamic theory, there are many other branches of psychodynamic theory, such as Object Relations Theory, Relational Psychoanalysis, Self-Psychology, and Interpersonal Psychoanalysis. In fact, many contemporary psychodynamic therapists may also incorporate interactive and collaborative elements in their therapeutic approach.

If you are hesitant about trying psychodynamic therapy because of the “blank screen” or “neutral” approach, it is a good idea to ask during the consultation how much a potential therapist incorporates these elements in their approach as well as how interactive they are.

What are myths about psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy? virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

TRUTH: Open-ended exploration, free association, and the client-centered approach of letting clients start the session are only a few of the many different elements and techniques of psychodynamic therapy

(2) Another reason clients have this misconception about psychodynamic therapy is because of the nature of some of its common techniques. For instance, psychodynamic therapy takes a client-centered approach. Usually, it encourages clients to start the session with what they want to discuss

This approach can feel confusing for some people who may not know what to talk about or don’t know what they “can and cannot” say based on common socialized filters. If you are in psychodynamic therapy right now and you are struggling with this, let your therapist know! If they are a qualified psychodynamic therapist, they will be able to talk about this with you. In psychodynamic therapy, anything and everything you feel and think about is essential, relevant, and valuable to your therapist—even if it may sound random or irrelevant to you.

In contemporary psychodynamic therapy, while there are periods of time where your therapist may allow you to freely associate or open-endedly explore what’s on your mind, these periods do not go on endlessly without the other elements of contemporary psychoanalysis. These different elements include your therapist engaging with you through dialogue, thought-provoking questions to guide you in the process, dream analysis, interpretation of unconscious processes, examination of the therapeutic relationship dynamics, and exploration of thoughts, emotions, memories, and behavior patterns. Psychodynamic therapy utilizes a multitude of techniques and approaches to guide the therapeutic process and facilitate meaningful insights and growth.

Ending thoughts

Psychodynamic therapy is highly fluid and individualized. If you want to address deep-rooted issues in a way that goes beneath the surface, a trained and skilled psychodynamic therapist may be an option for you. Psychodynamic therapy is a profound investment in your well-being that empowers you to move beyond emotional baggage and live authentically and meaningfully. The journey may have its challenges, but the benefits are invaluable. Psychodynamic therapy offers a depth-oriented and holistic approach to self-discovery and personal transformation. Its emphasis on the unconscious, the therapeutic relationship, and long-term exploration makes it well-suited for individuals seeking a comprehensive understanding of themselves and lasting change.

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Schedule a phone consult here. We’ll chat about any questions you might have, and it’ll be an opportunity for me to learn more about you and what you’re going through.
John Doe

John Doe

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Emotions Wheel

Decode your inner world. This blog dives deep, step-by-step, into using the Emotions Wheel as a tool for self-discovery, communication, and emotional well-being.

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ADHD Paralysis

Overcoming ADHD Paralysis: Learn effective strategies to navigate decision-making and task management amidst ADHD challenges. Break the cycle of choice paralysis and indecision.

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Feel Feelings

Step-by-step guide on how to feel feelings & how to process emotions. Increase your emotional literacy by learning how to feel the emotions that are innate to being human.

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Enmeshment

Suffocated by loved ones? Family enmeshment may be at play. Discover how to spot it, understand impacts on identity and relationships, and establish healthy autonomy.

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Gaslighting Examples

Let’s look at common gaslighting examples including blaming, deceit, trivializing concerns that erode self-trust so you can spot and resist emotional manipulation.

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