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An Overview of Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques

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If you’re searching for mental health treatment, you may have heard about psychodynamic therapy. This form of therapy treats many types of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance use conditions, and panic disorders.

Our guide will help you understand how psychodynamic therapy works. We’ll walk you through the basics of psychodynamic theories, tools, and techniques, and we’ll let you know what to expect during a psychodynamic therapy session.


What Is Psychodynamic Therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy is a counseling method that is based on psychoanalysis, a therapy technique that was created by Sigmund Freud. This type of therapy helps the patient understand how his or her past experiences may be contributing to current psychological conditions or concerns. Psychodynamic therapy may be beneficial for individuals who haven’t had success with other types of counseling, and it can help to improve functioning and mood.

What Are Some of the Major Psychodynamic



Psychodynamic theories are the basis of psychodynamic therapy techniques. Sigmund Freud and his contemporaries used these theories to explain human behavior. According to psychodynamic theories, our behaviors are based on interactions between the drives and forces within us and on interactions between the different parts of our personalities. Psychodynamic theories emphasize our unconscious drives and the unconscious forces that influence us.

What Are the Three Levels of the Mind?

According to Freud, the mind has three levels of awareness. While we’re aware of the information from some of those levels, the information at other levels is hidden from us.

Level One: The Conscious Mind

Your conscious mind contains everything you’re aware of at a particular moment, including your thoughts and feelings. For example, if you’re reading a document or talking with someone, you might have thoughts or feelings that arise from those experiences. As long as you’re aware of the thoughts or feelings, they’re part of your conscious mind. The conscious mind doesn’t include thoughts or feelings that you’re not aware of.

Level Two: The Preconscious Mind

The preconscious mind includes thoughts and feelings that you’re not initially aware of. You may need a few moments to retrieve thoughts and emotions that are located at this level of your mind. For example, after you take a test, you retain some of the information you learned when you studied for the test. This information becomes part of your preconscious mind, and it may take a bit of effort to remember it.

Level Three: The Unconscious Mind

The unconscious mind is the deepest level of the mind, and it contains thoughts and emotions that you’re not aware of. The thoughts and emotions in your unconscious mind are not under your control, and many of your past experiences are stored in your unconscious mind. Although you don’t notice the unconscious part of your mind, it influences your behavior, motivation, and judgment. For example, your preferences for certain foods are stored in your unconscious mind. In addition, this part of your mind impacts voting and other big decisions.

What Assumptions Did Freud Make in His Work?

In his work with psychodynamic theories, Freud made several assumptions. For example, he assumed that unconscious motives had a significant impact on behaviors, feelings, and judgments. He also assumed that childhood experiences were responsible for the behaviors, emotions, and psychological conditions that people developed as adults.

Finally, Freud assumed that behavior was caused by factors outside of a person’s control. In most cases, he believed that unconscious thoughts and feelings triggered certain behaviors.

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How Do Psychodynamic Therapists

Help Their Clients?

psychodynamic therapy techniques

Psychodynamic therapists work with clients to help them discover the causes of their symptoms. In psychodynamic therapy, the therapist begins by encouraging the client to talk about his or her feelings. As the sessions progress, the client discusses his or her childhood experiences with the therapist.

The therapist helps the client see how his or her past experiences have contributed to current symptoms. By identifying recurring patterns in the client’s thoughts and behaviors, the therapist teaches the client to understand the impact of these patterns. Once the client understands how his or her past has shaped the present, the therapist gives the client tools to resolve or cope with current challenges.

What Are the Different Types of Psychodynamic Therapy?

There are three major types of psychodynamic therapy. If you decide to have psychodynamic therapy, your therapist will work with you to choose the most effective option.

Brief Psychodynamic Therapy

Brief psychodynamic therapy requires fewer sessions than traditional psychodynamic therapy, and it’s appropriate for clients who need help with a specific issue. For example, it may be useful for individuals with acute anxiety or depression. It has been used to help accident and trauma survivors.

In general, brief psychodynamic therapy is most beneficial for patients who need help making a few connections between their past experiences and their symptoms. People with multiple conditions may benefit from other types of psychodynamic therapy that provide more sessions.

Psychodynamic Family Therapy

This type of psychodynamic therapy is intended for families who are struggling with chronic issues. Couples, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren and other family members can use psychodynamic family therapy. It is a long-term therapy that involves numerous sessions.

The therapist helps the family explore their history, including any traumatic family events. The adult members of the family are encouraged to resolve conflicts they might have with their parents, and deep-seated issues are gradually uncovered. Once the family members understand the causes of their issues, the therapist assists them in resolving conflicts and creating healthier family dynamics.

Psychodynamic Art and Music Therapies

With psychodynamic art and music therapies, clients can express their emotions by drawing, painting, singing, or playing an instrument. For example, clients might bring in artwork that they’ve created, and they could discuss the emotions their art evokes. They could connect the artwork to a childhood experience. Alternatively, clients may share songs that they find meaningful, and they might discuss why they feel connected to a particular composition.

In some cases, art and music may allow clients and therapists to communicate more effectively, especially if a feeling can’t be put into words. The creative process encourages the client and therapist to build trust and rapport.

What Are Some Psychodynamic Therapy Tools and Techniques?

Depending on the client’s concerns, psychodynamic therapists may use Rorschach inkblot tests, dream analysis, and free association to aid their clients.

In current practice, the free association typically means that the client leads the therapy session. The therapist doesn’t structure the session or guide the client. Instead, the discussion flows freely from one topic to the next, and the client can talk about anything. This method helps the client access his or her unconscious mind, and it allows the therapist to uncover the hidden sources of the client’s troubles.

Psychodynamic therapists follow the techniques of accepting, understanding and explaining in every session. They validate all of the client’s past and present experiences, and they aim to understand how conscious and unconscious factors may be contributing to the client’s concerns. They explain their understanding of these factors to the client, and they work with the client to create solutions.


Where Can I Find Out More About Psychodynamic Therapy?

If you’re interested in finding out more about how psychodynamic therapy techniques could help you heal, our team members at Orlando Treatment Solutions are here for you. At our treatment center, we offer psychodynamic therapy for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions.

Our compassionate clinicians are dedicated to helping you build a happy and healthy future. Contact us today to discover the treatment options that may be right for you.



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