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Psychodynamic Approach To Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is an approach that involves the facilitation of a deeper understanding of one's emotions and other mental processes. It works to help people gain greater insight into how they feel and think. In effect, talking about problems in a therapeutic setting can be extremely valuable for the individual. This approach to psychotherapy can be helpful for dealing with mental or emotional distress. It can help promote self-reflection, insight, and emotional growth.

Psychodynamic therapy is derived from psychoanalytic therapy, and both are based on the work of Sigmund Freud. While psychoanalysis tends to focus a great deal on the patient and therapist relationship, psychodynamic therapy also places a great deal of emphasis on a patient’s relationships with other people in the outside world. It was developed as a simpler, less-lengthy alternative to psychoanalysis.

Both are forms of talk therapy that focus on intrapsychic processes and on the unconscious processing of experience to a larger degree than do other forms of therapy, However, psychodynamic therapy is more focused on problem-solving and outcomes, as opposed to delving into issues that may arise from early life experience. Psychodynamic therapy is usually shorter than psychoanalytic therapy with respect to the frequency and number of sessions, however, this might not always be the case.

Uses of Psychodynamic Therapy:

While it is similar to psychoanalysis in many respects, it is often less frequent and shorter in duration. It is primarily used to treat depression and other serious psychological disorders, especially in those who have lost meaning in their lives and have difficulty forming or maintaining personal relationships. Like other forms of therapy, it can be used to treat a variety of mental health problems:-

This therapy is used with children and adolescents; it is also useful in cases of borderline personality disorder. However, this therapy type is less used in instances of psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Factors that may impact what type of treatment is used include cost-effectiveness, availability, patient preferences, and the severity of the symptoms the person is experiencing. Psychodynamic therapy can be just as lastingly effective as therapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy.

Research also suggests that online psychodynamic therapy may be as effective as online CBT. In a pilot study done to examine the preference for Internet-based CBT versus Internet-based PDT in the treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder and whether participants' preference strength and therapeutic alliance predicted treatment response. Further, the effect of the two treatments, including 6-months follow-up was also investigated. An intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis revealed no significant difference between the two treatments on any outcome measure at either post-treatment or at six months follow-up.

Important Characteristics

Some important aspects of psychodynamic therapy include:

  • Identifying patterns: Psychodynamic therapy helps people learn to recognize patterns in behavior and relationships. People often develop characteristic ways of responding to problems without really being aware of these tendencies. Learning to spot them, however, can help people find new approaches to coping with problems.

  • Understanding emotions: Research has found that psychodynamic therapy is useful for exploring and understanding emotions. Through gaining insight into emotional experiences, people are better able to recognize patterns that have contributed to dysfunction and then make changes more readily.`1`

  • Improving relationships: Relationships with others are a key focus of psychodynamic therapy. In working with a therapist, people are able to understand how they often respond to others.

The therapeutic relationship itself can serve as a way to look into the relationships a person has with other people through a process known as transference. This gives people an immediate "in vivo" way to explore and then change their pattern of responses in order to improve their relationships.

Techniques Used:

  • Free Association: Free association was used by Sigmund Freud, who founded psychoanalytic therapy. A patient is asked to be spontaneous and free-associate the random thoughts that pop into their mind; sometimes the therapist may give the patient a prompt or a word to begin their free association. Patients are also encouraged to put aside embarrassment and the urge to self-censor. The therapist then tries to identify what the patient might be repressing from their past, and how it may be affecting their present behaviour.

  • Dream Analysis: Dream analysis is a technique used in psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapies. It is supposed to unlock a patient’s unconscious and open hidden fears, desires, and motivations. Dreams are non-judgmental, and they are not filled with defenses, allowing an individual to dig up thoughts and feelings that have been long buried. This process is supposed to unveil meaning and truth.

  • Therapeutic Transference: Effective use of the therapeutic relationship depends on an understanding of transference. Transference is the process of transferring prominent characteristics of unresolved conflicted relationships with significant others onto the therapist. For example, a client whose relationship with his father is deeply conflicted may find himself reacting to the therapist as if he were the client's father. The opening session in psychodynamic therapy usually involves the assessment of transference so that it may be incorporated into the treatment strategy. Strean found that "all patients--regardless of the setting in which they are being treated, of the therapeutic modality, or the therapist's skills and years of experience--will respond to interventions in terms of the transference"

How It Works

Psychodynamic therapy helps people recognize repressed emotions and unconscious influences that may be affecting their current behavior. Sometimes people act in certain ways or respond to others for reasons that they don’t really understand.

Psychodynamic therapy helps people learn to acknowledge, bear, and put into perspective their emotional lives. It also helps people learn how to express their emotions in more adaptive and healthier ways.


  1. Lindegaard T, Hesslow T, Nilsson M, et al. Internet-based psychodynamic therapy vs cognitive behavioural therapy for social anxiety disorder: A preference study. Published 2020 Mar 18.

  2. Cherry, K. (2021,January 28). What Is Psychodynamic Therapy? Retrieved from-

  3. Psychodynamic Therapy by Anonymous, Updated on April 28, 2022 . Retrieved from-


This Blog on 'Psychodynamic Approach To Therapy' has been contributed by Nishita, who is currently pursuing B.A. Hons. in Psychology from the University of Lucknow. She is keen to learn about the complexities of the human mind and broaden her knowledge in the field of Psychology She is looking forward to becoming a Clinical Psychologist.

She is part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP). GIRP is an IJNGP initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.


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