Life is not usually a stream of endless successes. People often encounter many difficulties and problems along their path. Crises and moments of doubt are a natural element of personal development. We can usually deal with them by ourselves or with the help of close relatives, but sometimes professional help is necessary. Psychotherapy can be that type of help.
The psychodynamic approach is widely used and has a proven efficacy in the treatment of a very wide spectrum of disorders and dysfunctions. Its main purpose is the change and maturation of one’s personality.
We help people experiencing difficulties such as:
- Anxiety disorders (neuroses)
- Mood disorders
- Eating disorders
- Sexual dysfunctions
- Personality disorders
- Problems in relationships with other people
- The inability to create or maintain an intimate relationship
- Constant discontent and self-imposition
- Chronic anger
Patients often do not know if a particular type of therapy is appropriate for them. During the first meetings (consultations), after hearing the patient’s problem, we provide an answer to that question and if necessary, refer the patient to another specialist.
What is psychodynamic psychotherapy?
This approach is based on the premise of the theory of psychoanalysis. The essence of the therapeutic work in this approach is the analysis and interpretation of the patient’s psychological experience. During the therapeutic dialogue, the patient gains an understanding of the unconscious motives of his behavior, his decisions and choices made, as well as the causes of his symptoms so that he can gain more control over his actions and mental life. The purpose of psychodynamic psychotherapy is to make the patient a freer person.
The therapy is focused on finding the deep roots and causes of problems. Its purpose is to sort out the long-standing problems of the past and to free the patient from the traumatic effects of them. It aims to stop the patient remaining a slave to his past so that he can then form ways of functioning, enter into relationships with others, and to enable him to deal with his own feelings. The psychodynamic approach focuses on the cause of the problem, not its external manifestation. This requires the patient’s entire personality as well as his unconscious processes to be the focus of attention. The basic premise of psychodynamic psychotherapy is the uniqueness of each person’s life.
What can be achieved through psychotherapy?
In the process of psychotherapy the following goals can be achieved:
- Change of internal patterns of receiving, thinking and reacting
- Elimination or reduction of negative symptoms (e.g. anxiety, phobia, depression, psychosomatic illness, obsession/compulsion)
- Change of unfavorable patterns of behavior and experiencing
- Gaining a new perspective of your own experiences and relationships
- Gaining greater self-awareness and personality development
- Change of functioning in relationships with others
What is psychotherapy?
Sessions take place „face to face”, the therapist and patient sit facing each other. Therapeutic sessions usually take 45-50 minutes and occur once or twice a week (in unique situations they can occur more often). Sessions begin and end very punctually, if for some reason that is not the case – the therapist discusses this with the patient (e.g. what happened in recent weeks that the patient is late for his sessions). This means that not only is the verbal material (what the patient says) analyzed, but also how the patient speaks, the position of his body, the topics that he remains silent during, what he does or does not do between sessions.
What happens during therapy?
The therapist encourages the patient to talk as freely as possible about his own problems and difficulties, and if nothing like that comes to mind, he encourages him to talk freely about everything that comes to his mind at that moment. The more open and free the patient is, the better. Things to talk about include memories, current thoughts, fantasies, associations, feelings, dreams as well as questions. It does not matter how trivial the topic may seem – in the long run, speaking about it will lead to interesting conclusions.
The therapist’s job is to help the patient understand what he does not know about himself. The therapist helps the patient understand why he reacts in a specific way, on what basis he creates his judgements and what his emotions result from.
The main task of a psychodynamic psychotherapist is not to ask questions. During the session the therapist listens to what the patient is saying while observing his behavior. When he feels he has something to add he makes a comment and encourages the patient to reflect on it.
Therapeutic neutrality, which means that the therapist does not share his private opinions or beliefs, does not disclose information about himself and does not give advice, plays a very important role in the psychodynamic approach. This can lead to the development of transference, whereby the patient begins to „convey” to the therapist his/her feelings and imaginations that he or she has experienced in relation to other important people. During therapy, the patient sees in the therapist, various objects from his or her life. Thanks to that, he can once again, with the help of a therapist, be exposed to a corrective emotional experience of consciously repressed content and emotions that previously formed the symptom.
As the primary goal of therapy is to permanently change the patient’s personality, it is a long-term therapy. Duration is dependent on the depth of the disorder but can take from 1 to 5 years (sometimes longer).
It is also the responsibility of the patient to respect the setting which plays a very important role in this approach. The setting is the rules or framework that the patient and therapist both agree upon. The setting determines how long a session will last, how often it will take place, when and how payment occurs, the situations in which a session can be canceled, how contact with the therapist looks outside of a session as well as what the patient’s commitment in his personal life is for the duration of his therapy.
Efficacy of psychodynamic therapy
Psychodynamic therapy shows very high efficacy, as evidenced by many studies. Although it is often a difficult job where many unpleasant emotions emerge, it leads to permanent change, a much better understanding of oneself and ones relationships with others which greatly improves comfort of life. Because this therapy focuses on the cause of the problem and not the symptom, change, can be seen in many areas of functioning, and not only in the disappearance of the symptom. Among other approaches, the long-term effects of treatment also stand out. It is also often observed that these changes continue despite the therapy coming to an end.
1. Clarkin J F., Fonagy P., Gabbard G O., (2010). Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for Personality Disorders: A Clinical Handbook
2. Gabbard, G.O. (2004) Long-Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: A Basic Text (Core Competencies in Psychotherapy)