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Psychodynamic therapists attempt to help clients find patterns in their emotions, thoughts, and beliefs in order to gain insight into their current selves. These patterns are often found to begin in the client’s childhood since psychodynamic theory holds that early life experiences are extremely influential in the psychological development and functioning of an adult (Matthews & Chu, 1997).
Psychodynamic therapy aims to help the client identify important pieces of the puzzle that makes them who they are and rearrange them in ways that allow the client to form a more functional and positive sense of self.
Modern psychodynamic therapy also substitutes a pair of chairs for the stereotypical couch and usually places the therapist and client face-to-face rather than keeping the therapist hidden from the client’s view.
In these sessions, the therapist will encourage the client to talk freely about whatever is on their (conscious) mind. The thoughts and feelings discussed will be probed for recurring patterns in the client’s unconscious mind.
This form of therapy is commonly used with clients suffering from depression or anxiety diagnoses, and there is some evidence suggesting that psychodynamic therapy may be as effective in treating depression as other forms of therapy (WebMD, 2014).
The main goals of psychodynamic therapy are to (1) enhance the client’s self-awareness and (2) foster understanding of the client’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs concerning their past experiences, especially his or her experiences as a child (Haggerty, 2016). This is accomplished by the therapist guiding the client through the examination of unresolved conflicts and significant events in the client’s past.
The assumption in psychodynamic therapy is that chronic problems are rooted in the unconscious mind and must be brought to light for catharsis to occur. Thus, the client must have the self-awareness to discover these unconscious patterns of thought and an understanding of how these patterns came to be in order to deal with them.