What is psychodynamic therapy?
Psychodynamic therapy, or psychotherapy, includes a number of different approaches, and at one end may be thought of as including "counselling".
How does psychodynamic therapy work?
This group of therapies is based around the idea that by creating a one-to-one relationship involving trust and commitment on both the therapist's and the patient's part something useful and important can emerge from that relationship that helps the patient feel better, more able to solve problems for themselves and thus recover or attain health/well-being. A traditional view would be that it is a type of psychotherapy that draws on psychoanalytic theory to help people understand the roots of emotional distress, often by exploring unconscious motives, needs, and defences. However these days the span of psychodynamic therapies is often broader than this.
In the particular kind of relationship created (the 'therapeutic relationship') it is possible for the patient to explore matters in a way that is not available to them elsewhere with friends or family. In this respect the relationship is a very special and unusual one; safety within it is vital and much attention is paid to boundaries, thoughts and feelings that arise in the room and how they relate to other area of the patient's life and may or may not be helping there.
What happens during a psychodynamic therapy session?
Depending on the school of thought used by the therapist there may be particular goals or expectations agreed, time limits set, and techniques used (e.g. drama, art, movement). Most, though, is about talking; for those less able with words there may be other ways. For children sometimes play is used as the medium as this is their language. Psychodynamic or psychological therapies for children should be delivered by therapists specially trained in working with younger age groups.
Are there any side effects associated with this type of therapy?
Few potential side-effects, but some people exploring difficulties may become temporarily more depressed or anxious, for example, while they sort through the issues that brought them to therapy. Any competent therapist will be able to deal with this and would have safety measures in place through liaison with colleagues if appropriate – for example a psychotherapist might have a connection with a psychiatrist to ensure that if a client became severely depressed rapid access to appropriate assessment and treatment was available.
Such incidents are extremely rare. It is naturally important to ensure that your therapist is appropriately qualified, registered and keeps up to date. It is also important to feel comfortable with them – trust your instincts as it will be almost impossible to make progress if you do not feel secure in the relationship or at the very least able to discuss such feelings.