What is Psychodynamic Counselling Therapy

The origin of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy can be traced to Freud’s work and through Psychoanalysis and many see little difference between the Psychodynamic models and Classical Psychoanalysis in terms of techniques, and particularly with regard to the Analytic Psychotherapy model. What seems to be an evident difference between the two systems is perhaps the reduced number of sessions, generally one or two per week for psychotherapy while in Classical Analysis the expectation remain for a minimum of tree session weekly, but more commonly four to five session per week. In both systems however the shared theory, history, tradition, subjectivity and techniques continuously interweave.

Many psychodynamic thinkers have developed Freud’s ideas, some following his basic assumptions and others introducing some independent concepts and mainly as post Freudian and post Jungian, Object Relations, Attachment Theory, Self Psychology, Existential psychotherapy and Relational Model. Therefore, while they have some shared attributes, many psychodynamic ideas and practices are not necessarily Freudian in origin.

Similarly, each therapist gradually develops his or her own style based on the theoretical model of choice and adjusted by their own personality and experience in response to their clients and the setting in which they work. It would follow then that not every Psychodynamic therapist works in the same way, and that the same therapist may not work in the same way with every client. In my clinical work in particular, I favour an integrative model that encompasses all the above mentioned theories and with the progressing of the therapy over time, I may favour those theoretical models that I experience as most suitable to each client.

The meaning of Psychodynamic

The ancient Greek word Psyche, meaning Spirit/Soul, has commonly been limited in modern language to signify mind and intellectual process. In Psychodynamic concepts, the term Psyche connotes thoughts, emotions, instincts and feelings as well as ‘soul’. Together they are understood to have a reciprocal influence and interaction; hence, the adjunct term ‘Dynamic’, to signify the activity and movement of diverse forces that in turn creates another movement.

Psychodynamic theories, therefore, explore the harmonious and disharmonious interaction of thoughts, emotions and feelings in the lifelong process of self-actualisation of the individual. The self-actualisation process may include, in this context, the ‘soul-spirit’ idea.

Psychological symptoms and problems are the expressions of inner conflicting forces over ‘unacceptable’ aspects of our selves, or of our relationships with others. These conflicts may give rise to anxiety or “psychic pains” rejected by unconscious “defence mechanisms”, which help us suppress what seems to be consciously unacceptable. Denied feelings, memories and wishes may re-emerge subconsciously as “symptoms”, revealing hidden dynamics contrary to harmonious development and self-actualisation.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a collaborative work between client and therapist and cannot be imparted on a passive subject. Therefore, the individual embarking on this task has to share the responsibility for self-development in partnership with the therapist. In this endeavour, I seek to engage my clients in actively understanding their self and their problems. This process is fostered by the therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist, as representation of the client’s relationships with others, and reflected upon in terms that connect the therapy with present and past aspects of the client’s life, in a way that is understandable to the client.

At times, the counselling relationship is prone to exerting a certain amount of stress upon both client and counsellor. In these situations, it is valuable if both parties have established a working alliance from the outset. This may mean that the client has agreed to sustain and tolerate the frustration arising from the therapeutic relationship, so the client can continue working with the counsellor to explore the underlying affects and their meaning ‘from the inside out’, not only through an exchange of ideas, but through the observation and experience of their relationship’s dynamics.

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