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What is Psychodynamic Psychotherapy?

Learn more about the benefits of psychodynamic psychotherapy and what to expect from a typical session.

What is Psychodynamic Psychotherapy?

Psychodynamic psychotherapy, also known as psychoanalytic psychotherapy, is a form of talk therapy that involves analyzing the mind. Talk therapies, or psychotherapies, typically focus more heavily on behaviors and actions as a way of better understanding a patient’s mental state in order to continue treatment. Psychodynamic psychotherapy differs in that it dives deeper into the psyche to garner a better understanding of mental and emotional processes and reactions.

There are a number of different types of psychotherapy, with psychodynamics being just one example. Other more common therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT is also an example of a therapy that focuses on behaviors and actions as opposed to the mind itself. However, studies have shown that psychodynamic psychotherapy is an equally effective treatment option for mental health disorders.1

psychodynamic psychotherapy
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What to Expect in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

If you haven’t received psychotherapy before, it can be difficult to know what to expect. Because psychodynamic psychotherapy can have a unique format, even experience with other forms of therapy can leave one wondering what to expect. When it comes to understanding exactly what to expect during a psychodynamic psychotherapy session, it may be best to think about its other name: psychoanalytic therapy. In each session, the goal will be to analyze and, as a result, better understand the mind.

Typical Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Sessions

During the first few sessions, you can expect you and your therapist to get to know each other better. This includes establishing a better understanding of your background and any previous diagnosis. As a type of talk therapy, the main method of treatment is talking. As a result, many sessions will only involve talking, though some other techniques may occasionally be incorporated.

After a few sessions, your therapist may begin to walk you through more in-depth processes and begin the psychodynamic psychotherapy process. Your therapist will work to help better analyze and understand your emotions and thoughts to discern subconscious patterns.2

Who Benefits from Psychodynamic Psychotherapy?

Because psychodynamic psychotherapy encourages the patient to better exercise mindfulness and learn to be aware of their emotions, it can be beneficial for almost anyone. It is an evidence-based form of treatment, which means that it has been studied and shown to also be beneficial in the treatment of different mental health disorders and conditions.3

Some of the most common conditions that can benefit from psychodynamic psychotherapy include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Personality disorders
  • Psychological distress
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Substance use disorders

Learning Coping Mechanisms

However, people without mental health conditions can also benefit from psychodynamic psychotherapy. This is because one of the goals of this type of therapy is a deeper understanding of one’s subconscious. This includes emotions, feelings, and patterns. While this may not seem beneficial for day-to-day life, it allows patients to tap into their internal resources and develop coping mechanisms to better respond to situations and events going forward.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy can be an essential step in cultivating mindfulness and awareness. This can help provide the skills necessary to cope with potential future distress while also helping individuals to prevent mental health-related disorders.4

Important Characteristics of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Although psychodynamic psychotherapy is a broad term, at its core, it has three main characteristics. While it is important to work alongside your healthcare provider when trying to identify the best treatment option for you, being familiar with these characteristics can help you better understand if this is the appropriate form of therapy for you.

The three main characteristics of psychodynamic psychotherapy include:

  • Identifying patterns
  • Understanding emotions
  • Improving relationships

Role of the Psychodynamic Therapist

Because psychodynamic therapy involves such an in-depth look at the mind and one’s mental processes, it is important to use care when researching the right therapist for you. This is someone who you will visit often for talk-based sessions, which is why it is so important to ensure that the therapist you choose for psychodynamic psychotherapy sessions is someone you feel comfortable with. It is also important to find someone who best represents the role that a therapist should fulfill.

Responsibilities of a Psychodynamic Therapist

Some of the key responsibilities and characteristics that make up the role of a successful psychodynamic therapist include:

  • Modeling what healthy relationships look like
  • Creating a supportive environment in which you are able to share what comes to mind
  • Helping you explore and question your worldview
  • Helping you examine your dreams and fantasies for deeper insights
  • Working with you to develop constructive coping skills in order to handle your emotions

Types of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Just like there are many types of psychotherapy in general, there are also several different types of psychodynamic psychotherapy. Different methods may prove more beneficial in treating different mental health conditions or better addressing specific mental health concerns.

The three main types of psychodynamic therapy are brief psychodynamic therapy, dynamic interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic art and music therapies.

Brief Psychodynamic Therapy

Brief psychodynamic therapy is an accelerated approach to traditional psychodynamic therapy. When utilizing this method, it is believed that shorter increments of therapy will lead to more beneficial results compared to longer increments. Typically, this has to do with the duration of therapy itself and not with the time of each individual session. 

Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy (DIT)

Dynamic interpersonal therapy, also known as DIT, is a sixteen-session therapy format that utilizes the core principles of psychodynamic psychotherapy. It focuses on analyzing past experiences and the feelings they elicit in order to better understand the current state of the mind and how to approach future events. 

Psychodynamic Art and Music Therapies

There are additional types of psychodynamic psychotherapies that utilize the benefits of both art and music. These are newer, more modern approaches to therapies that may better suit certain individuals.

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Limitations to Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Although psychodynamic psychotherapy can be a beneficial option for many people and conditions, like any form of therapy, it does have its limitations. One of the most notable is the fact that it may be less effective in treating certain conditions. This includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), drug addiction, and psychosis.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy at Ripple Ranch Recovery

If you or someone you know is interested in exploring the benefits of psychodynamic psychotherapy, Ripple Ranch Recovery is here to help. At Ripple Ranch Recovery, our highly-trained staff of compassionate healthcare professionals will help you to decide whether or not psychodynamic psychotherapy is the appropriate treatment option for you. 

In the case that your concern falls outside the limits of this form of therapy, our staff is ready to guide you to find the right therapy options. Contact Ripple Ranch Recovery today for any questions about your therapy options.