Psychodynamic therapy (or Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy as it is sometimes called) is a general name for therapeutic approaches which try to get the client to bring to the surface their true feelings, so that they can experience them and understand them.
Psychodynamic Psychotherapy uses the basic assumption that everyone has an unconscious mind (this is sometimes called the subconscious), and that feelings held in the unconscious mind are often too painful to be faced. As living beings we anticipate the future in our imagination, using memories of a similar happening in the past. If we anticipate fulfilment in imagination , that can lead to confidence. But when we imagine or fantasize failure, we experience anxiety. Defence mechanisms are then developed to flee or avoid in our imagination from these anxious anticipations. We are all prone these types of anticipations and need them to survive anticipations based on traumatic events in our past.
We come up with defences to protect ourselves from knowing about these painful feelings. Denial would be an example of one of these defences.
Psychodynamic therapy assumes that these defences have gone wrong and are causing more harm than good, that is why you have needed to seek help. It tries to unravel them, as it is assumed that once you are aware of what is really going on in your mind the feelings will not be as painful.
In Psychodynamic Therapy the therapeutic relationship is based on a principle unconditional acceptance, because you are a person no matter what your problem is. The therapist tries to develop a relationship with you, to help you discover what is going on in your unconscious mind. They do this partly by theoretical knowledge, partly by experience, and partly through their knowledge of themselves.
The therapists knowledge of themselves is actually a critical part of the work. The therapist may use how they feel in the room with you, as a guide to how you are feeling. The therapist will test the relationship with you to discover more about you than you are aware of. The therapist uses interpretations, which are a way of making sense to you about what is going on, in order to help you become aware of your unconscious feelings.
The therapist is trying to judge:
- how much you are in touch with your own feelings
- what feelings you are not aware of
- how close are you to knowing the unconscious feelings
- how painful these feelings are to you
- how well you can tolerate the pain that becoming aware of these feelings will bring.