An introduction to Psychodynamic Therapy
Hello and welcome to a little series of blogs I am putting out to explain the different therapeutic approaches I use.
Psychodynamic Psychotherapy or Counselling, is built on the belief that we have a rich unconscious world that can be bought into awareness through therapeutic intervention. Psychodynamic therapy puts our early experience as crucially important in shaping our sense of self. Our unconscious minds can hold the key to painful feelings, memories that are too difficult for the conscious mind to process, but that which affect how we see ourselves, the world, and others.
We develop defences to help ourselves deal with difficult feelings or experiences, and understanding these as well can set us free from being stuck in the same patterns of relationships, with ourselves and with others.
I believe that early experiences shape us in many ways. We are born into a world that already exists and have to make sense of this, with (or without) the help and guidance of care givers. We see ourselves reflected in their eyes, we get messages about who we are. Sometimes those messages are positive, sometimes not. We carry these with us into our adult lives and they can form the ‘rules’ about what we except from ourselves, the world and others quite unconsciously.
What is it like to have psychodynamic therapy?
Psychodynamic therapy is a talking therapy. Usually you and your therapist will meet at the same time and day each week. Although therapy can happen more often than weekly if that is deemed to be the most helpful approach.
In psychodynamic therapy, the therapist will let you talk and be listening on two levels, the content of what is being said, and the process underneath. That is, listening to the words being said, but also being curious about patterns and connections to help you to understand your unconscious world, too.
The therapist will be curious about you, where you come from, your early childhood experiences, as these can often hold keys to understanding present difficulties. Your therapist will help you to shape, and reshape, your understanding of yourself, coming into connection with past traumas and allowing healing of old wounds along the way.
What is an example of this kind of work?
Perhaps you are feeling down and you don’t know why, you’ve got the ‘right’ job, a happy relationship, a stable home. But something just isn’t right, it feels like something is missing. Maybe through looking at your childhood we find out that when you lost a parent at a young age you didn’t feel like you could be sad because you were worried about upsetting your little sister. So you carry that pain and hurt inside, putting it out of awareness. Through understanding and acknowledging that pain, you have the chance to heal the wound and write yourself a new narrative for the present.
Or, maybe you’re struggling with an eating disorder and you don’t know why. We look at your teenage years, when you were being badly bullied at school and couldn’t tell anyone. You felt trapped and angry, and ended up turning that anger in on yourself. Through bringing this into to the light and imagining what you might say to your younger self now, you can feel the pain and hurt, safely, and heal, finding new ways to cope as you are now.
There is no set formulation for psychodynamic work, it is an exploration of you. The examples above are over simplified and mostly the work is about understanding yourself with a supportive and insightful other.
Get in touch to find out how psychodynamic therapy could work for you.