Psychodynamic therapy, also known as insight-oriented therapy, is a form of depth psychology. The primary focus is on unconscious processes as they are manifested in clients’ present behaviour in an effort to alleviate psychic tension. The goals of psychodynamic therapy are to increase clients’ self-awareness and understanding of the influence of their past on their present behaviour. It relies on the interpersonal relationship between client and therapist and uses psychoanalytic theory, adapted to a less intensive style of working, usually at a frequency of once or twice per week. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a focus that has been used in individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, family therapy, and to understand and work with institutional and organisational contexts.
Psychodynamic therapy is the oldest of the modern therapies (Freud’s psychoanalysis is a specific form and subset of psychodymanic therapy.) As such, it is based on a highly developed and multifaceted theory of human development and interaction.
Most psychodynamic approaches are centred around the concept that some maladaptive functioning is at play, and that this maladaption is, at least in part, unconscious. The presumed maladaption develops early in life and eventually causes difficulties in day to day life. Psychodynamic therapies focus on revealing and resolving these unconscious conflicts that are driving their symptoms. Major techniques used by psychodynamic therapists include free association, recognising resistance and transference, working through painful memories and difficult issues, and building a strong therapeutic alliance. As in other psychoanalytic approaches, the therapeutic relationship is seen as a key means to understanding and working through the relational difficulties which the client has suffered in life.