Psychodynamic therapy is related to the theory of psychoanalysis developed by Sigmund Freud. It builds on the assumption that the way we feel about ourselves and others, and the way we manage relationships in general, is greatly influenced by early experiences in our lives. We learn not only to talk our first words but also to think and feel about ourselves on our mother’s lap. Our early surroundings and the interpersonal relationships that we have with our family, teachers, peers and significant people will have a large influence over the kind of person we become.
For this reason, when working using psychodynamic principles you will be encouraged to talk about your relationship with your parents and other important people in your early years. Sometimes some of those important moments of your life may have been forgotten for whatever reason or they may simply not have been carefully explored and brought into your awareness. This theory assumes that a great deal of our mental life is unconscious, meaning that our thoughts, motivations and feelings are often unknown to us. Psychodynamic therapy aims to bring more areas of the unconscious into consciousness in order to gain greater insight into ourselves and, therefore, better self-control. It has been said that nobody can know his or her unconscious without the help of some other person. The therapeutic space is designed so that clues to unconscious conflicts can emerge in a form that the therapist can recognise and communicate to you.
In psychodynamic therapy it is very important to pay attention not only to the problems that are concerning you and that brought you to seek help in the first place, but in how you experience your relationship with your therapist, while therapy is taking place. The idea behind this principle is that the therapeutic relationship is like a safe microcosm that replicates or mirrors the outside world. The issues and feelings that you repeatedly experience in other relationships in your life (whether these are of anxiety, insecurity, seeking protection, dominance, mistrust, defiance, fear, seduction, etc) are likely to be played out, to some extent, in the here-and-now of the relationship with your therapist. This offers a great opportunity to explore those feelings and thoughts in a safe and non-judgemental setting, as they won’t be criticised but rather welcomed as part of the material to work on.