Psychodynamic psychotherapy begins with the client discussing with the therapist the reasons for seeking treatment. This process gives the therapist the opportunity to learn about the person, to develop an understanding of his or her troubles, and to formulate ideas about how therapy should proceed. During the initial session, such factors as the frequency of sessions and the policy for payment will also be discussed. After this point, the sessions will become less like an interview; the person is asked to say whatever is on his or her mind. It is the therapist's job to listen and to help identify patterns of thinking, feeling and interacting that may be contributing to the patient's current struggles. Consequently, the person becomes more aware of his or her thoughts and feelings; learns how some present ways of coping are no longer adaptive even though they may have been necessary in childhood; and discovers that he or she as an adult has a greatly expanded repertoire of resources and can use far more effective ways of dealing with problems. Deeper awareness and new insights stimulate psychological growth and change.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy places great importance on the relationship between the therapist and the patient. It is within the context of this relationship that positive changes in the patient's outlook and behaviors are able to unfold. This relationship is unique because the therapist maintains a neutral, accepting stance. Unlike other well-intentioned people in the person's life, the therapist has been trained to listen non-judgmentally, without criticism. This therapeutic attitude makes it easier for the person seeking treatment to speak freely and to therefore provide as much information for the therapist to work with as is possible.

Treatment continues until the troubling symptoms have been reduced or alleviated and the person is consistently making use of more adaptive methods of coping with greater insight. For some people, this positive experience inspires them to proceed with further treatment in order to bring about additional adaptive changes. For others, meeting the initial goals will be sufficient. If so, the focus of sessions turns to issues related to the end of treatment. This final phase of treatment is as important as the beginning and middle stages because it allows the individual to develop insight about his or her therapeutic experience. People need time to clarify how they feel about leaving the therapeutic relationship, and this termination involves identifying and understanding feelings about separation, maturation, loss and change.

After the course of psychodynamic psychotherapy has ended, the person should, overall, continue to handle difficulties in a more adaptive manner; experience improved interpersonal relationships and productivity at work; and continue to develop new insights into his or her thoughts, feelings and behavior.

Back to "Individual Psychotherapy"

 

From the website The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders.

Paintings courtesy of Ian Wallace, aka "Nion."   Web site designed by Sonya Shannon.