Psychodynamic therapy—the psychological interpretation of mental and emotional processes—is rooted in traditional psychoanalysis and draws from object relations, ego psychology, and self psychology. Developed as a simpler, less-lengthy alternative to psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy aims to address the foundation and formation of psychological processes in order to alleviate symptoms and improve people’s lives.
In psychodynamic therapy, therapists help people review emotions, thoughts, early-life experiences, and beliefs to gain insight into their lives and their present-day problems and to evaluate the patterns they have developed over time. Recognizing recurring patterns helps people see the ways in which they avoid distress or develop defense mechanisms as a method of coping so that they can take steps to change those patterns.
The therapeutic relationship is central to psychodynamic therapy as it can demonstrate the manner in which the client interacts with his or her friends and loved ones. In addition, transference in therapy—the transferring of one’s feelings for a parent, for example, onto the therapist—can also help illuminate the ways that early-life relationships affect a person today. This intimate look at interpersonal relationships can help a person to see his or her part in relationship patterns and empower him or her to transform that dynamic.
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In order to keep painful feelings, memories, and experiences in the unconscious, people tend to develop defense mechanisms, such as denial, repression, rationalization, and others. Psychodynamic therapists encourage clients to speak freely about their emotions, desires, and fears in order to reveal vulnerable feelings that have been pushed out of conscious awareness. According to psychodynamic theory, behavior is influenced by unconscious thought, and once vulnerable or painful feelings are processed the defense mechanisms reduce or resolve.
The Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual (PDM) was released in 2006 to offer a conceptual framework for human psychological functioning and to serve as an alternative to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). Whereas the DSM outlines observable symptoms associated with mental health conditions, the PDM describes subjective experiences.
One approach to psychodynamic therapy is psychodynamic music therapy. This innovative and creative form of therapy involves exploration of various instruments, including guitars, drums, pianos, and others. This kind of music therapy is non-directive and the client does not need to have any musical inclination. Instead, people are encouraged to improvise and express themselves through music in any way that they feel inclined. Music therapists are highly trained to be able to identify and recognize various personality traits and emotional issues based on how the client creates the music. As they build their therapeutic alliance, the client and therapist can both participate in the music making as a method for strengthening their bond and accessing deeper tools of communication. For clients with heightened states of anxiety or fear, the music can provide a soothing and necessary backdrop or element of release during difficult therapeutic sessions.
- Knekt, P., Lindfors, O., Härkänen, T., Välikoski, M., Virtala, E., et al. (2008). Randomized trial on the effectiveness of long- and short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy and solution-focused therapy on psychiatric symptoms during a 3-year follow-up. Psychological Medicine, 38(5), 689-703. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S003329170700164X
- Leichsenring, F., Hiller, W., Weissberg, M., & Leibing, E. (2006). Cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy: Techniques, efficacy, and indications. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 60(3), 233-59. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/213135027?accountid=1229
- Luborsky, Ellen, O’Reilly-Landry, Maureen, and Arlow, Jacob. (2008). Psychoanalysis. In Raymond J. Corsini and Danny Wedding (Eds.), Current Psychotherapies (pp. 15–62). Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education
Last updated: 01-26-2016