About Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Psychodynamic psychotherapy, also referred to as insight-oriented or depth therapy, is an approach in which client and therapist work together to explore and resolve the underlying and often unconscious issues and conflicts that create difficulties in their lives. Because this approach focuses on the recognition and resolution of the root causes of clients’ problems, much of it being unconscious, it is a powerful technique for facilitating true and lasting change in addition to providing symptomatic relief.

As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Psychodynamic psychotherapy, often called "psychoanalytic" or "dynamic" therapy is based on the premise that past experiences shape the present. According to the psychodynamic therapy model, the way in which an individual solves relationship issues early on can profoundly influence the formation of that individual's adult personality.

At any early life stage, a person may have become "stuck" in a way of reacting or problem solving that is maladaptive in the present. As an adult, these same limiting patterns and dynamics often play out, getting repeated reflexively and automatically. These patterns interfere with the client's ability to have healthy, intimate relationships with others as well as demonstrate resilience in the face of rejection. Unresolved development issues can prevent the individual from fully and spontaneously experiencing his or her true feelings which can lead to dissatisfaction in many areas of life such as relationships and career. Despite an individual's mature exterior and successes in many areas of life, their rigid and repetitive patterns interfere with personal growth and the ability to lead passion-filled, happy lives. Psychodynamic, insight-oriented therapy seeks to make conscious many of these patterns of behaviors that have previously been out of awareness for clients.  There are many schools psychodynamic therapies including: relational analysis, self psychology and object relations therapy.

More about Psychodynamic psychotherapy: It is a form of depth psychology, the primary focus of which is to reveal the unconscious content of a client's psyche in an effort to alleviate psychic tension. In this way, it is similar to psychoanalysis, but psychodynamic therapy tends to be briefer and less intensive than psychoanalysis. It also relies on the interpersonal relationship between client and therapist more than other forms of depth psychology. In terms of approach, this form of therapy also tends to be more eclectic than others, taking techniques from a variety of sources, rather than relying on a single system of intervention. It is a focus that has been used in individual psychotherapygroup psychotherapyfamily therapy, and to understand and work with institutional and organizational contexts.

Although psychodynamic psychotherapy can take many forms, commonalities include:

  • An emphasis on the centrality of intrapsychic and unconscious conflicts, and their relation to development.
  • Seeing defenses as developing in internal psychic structures in order to avoid unpleasant consequences of conflict.
  • A belief that psychopathology develops especially from early childhood experiences.
  • A view that internal representations of experiences are organized around interpersonal relations.
  • A conviction that life issues and dynamics will re-emerge in the context of the client-therapist relationship as transference and counter-transference.
  • Use of free association as a major method for exploration of internal conflicts and problems.
  • Focusing on interpretations of transference, defense mechanisms, and current symptoms and the working through of these present problems.
  • Trust in insight as critically important for success in therapy.


Latest Research in Psychotherapy:

The premier journal in psychology, The American Psychologist, published (February, 2010) an article by University of Colorado researcher Jonathan Shedler, Ph.D. that challenges prevailing thinking about psychotherapy by using multiple sophisticated meta-analyses of psychodynamic therapy and other psychological and pharmacological treatments.In"The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy,"Shedler states "Empirical evidence supports the efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. Effect sizes for psychodynamic psychotherapy are as large as those reported for other therapies that have been actively promoted as “empirically supported” and “evidence based.” Additionally, patients who receive psychodynamic therapy maintain therapeutic gains and appear to continue to improve after treatment ends." Here is a link to Shedler's articles and website.

NYC Therapist Kimberly Seelbrede, LCSW is a skilled Psychotherapist, Relationship and Stress Reduction Expert in New York City. She provides therapy, EMDR & Coaching to individuals and couples.