Psychodynamic therapy will help when we do not see the causes of the symptoms of mental disorders. What is it?

Psychodynamic therapy will help when we do not see the causes of the symptoms of mental disorders.  What is it?

Psychodynamic therapy is a type of therapy that comes from Freudian psychoanalysis. The aim of psychodynamic therapy is to introduce beneficial changes in the patient’s life by solving unconscious conflicts that are the source of problems and suffering. This therapy is based on the assumption that the human personality consists of three elements, i.e. id, ego and superego. We explain when psychodynamic psychotherapy is used, what exactly it involves and what effects this type of therapy brings.

  • Elements of human personality in psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • What is psychodynamic therapy?
  • Indications for psychodynamic therapy
  • How long does psychodynamic psychotherapy take?
  • What are the effects of psychodynamic therapy?

Psychotherapy is used as support for the treatment of many mental disorders. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a form of therapy that focuses on awareness and change of unconscious, pathological patterns of thinking, behavior and relationshipsthat make everyday functioning difficult and affect well-being. A psychodynamic psychotherapist helps the patient understand how his past experiences influenced the formation of his personality and helps him look for the causes of life problems among psychological experiences, which concerned, among others: relationships with parents and other people. Dynamic psychotherapy is based on the assumption that by better knowing yourself and your emotions, the patient can gain greater control over his life and improve the quality of relationships. The basis for the exploration and transformation of unconscious content is an appropriate relationship between the therapist and the patient and the appropriate atmosphere of meetings.

Elements of human personality in psychodynamic psychotherapy

Psychological problems are often the result of unconscious desires and hidden drives, which are represented by the first element of the human personality, the id. To understand what psychodynamic therapy is, we must also understand the role played by other elements of the human personality. The superego represents the internal censor and moral norms, and the ego – the rational part of the personality that tries to reconcile the demands of the id and superego. Conflicts between these elements lead to the development of pathological defense mechanisms that are intended to protect, among others: against fear and guilt.

Pathological defense mechanisms may hinder the patient’s functioning in everyday life, causing neurotic symptoms and leading to the emergence of personality disorders and addictive behaviors.

What is psychodynamic therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy is a form of psychological therapy that focuses on unconscious mental processes and their impact on human behavior. This is the approach of Freud and other psychoanalysts who assumed that thoughts, feelings and behaviors are shaped by unconscious motivations and internal conflicts.

Psychodynamic therapy is used in various situations, but it is most often used to treat emotional and mental disorders, which include, for example, depression, anxiety disorders, neurotic disorders, personality disorders and trauma.

A psychodynamic therapist works with the patient to understand their unconscious mental processes and helps them identify thought patterns and behaviors that may be contributing significantly to their problems. Psychodynamic therapy requires the patient’s commitment and motivation to work on himself.

Psychodynamic therapy is usually long-term and intensive, which means that the patient meets face-to-face with the therapist at least once a week for, for example, several or several months. In some cases, psychodynamic psychotherapy can last up to several years, but the long duration of therapy does not mean that it is ineffective.

During psychodynamic therapy, the therapist establishes a therapeutic relationship with the patient that is based on trust and provides a sense of security. The therapist tries to create an atmosphere in which the patient can look at his problems from a different perspective. The therapy takes place in optimal conditions for the patient, thanks to which he can focus on working through difficult issues in his life and strive for beneficial changes.

To put it very simply – psychodynamic psychotherapy involves the patient meeting with a therapist who helps him understand and work through his internal conflicts.

A psychodynamic therapist adapts his or her activity to the patient’s abilities and motivation to change. The therapist’s task is to create a sense of security and trust in the therapeutic relationship so that the patient can freely express his thoughts and feelings. The therapist uses various techniques (e.g. interpretation, confrontation, clarification) to help the patient see the impact of mental experiences on the emergence of problems, including: interpersonal contacts.

During psychodynamic psychotherapy, the patient transfers his feelings and attitudes towards people and events from his past to the therapist. Transference can be both positive and negative, and is the center of the emotional conflict that is the focus of therapeutic work. The patient’s task is to talk about his problems, and the therapist’s task is to follow the patient and help him understand the basis of the problems that bother him.

Indications for psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is recommended for people who suffer from various mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders or addictions. Psychodynamic psychotherapy often turns out to be helpful for people who have difficulties establishing and maintaining satisfying relationships, experience low self-esteem, lack of meaning in life or existential crises.

Psychodynamic therapy can bring many benefits to patients, improving overall well-being and affecting quality of life.

The effects of psychodynamic therapy include:

  • better coping with stress,

  • greater awareness of your own needs and feelings,

  • better communication and problem solving in interpersonal relationships,

  • increasing creativity and mental flexibility.

Psychodynamic therapy can also help patients discover and realize their potential and find deeper meaning and purpose in life.

How long does psychodynamic psychotherapy take?

Psychodynamic therapy can be used both in the short and long term (even several years). Short-term psychodynamic therapy focuses on the patient’s specific problems and goals. Long-term psychodynamic therapy allows you to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your unconscious motivations. The duration of psychodynamic therapy varies and depends on the patient’s individual needs and goals. Typically, meetings with a therapist take place once or twice a week and last about 50 minutes.

The psychodynamic trend also includes group therapy, in which participants sit opposite each other in a circle and share their problems under the care of a therapist. Group therapy allows you to establish close relationships with other people and learn from them new ways of dealing with your difficulties.

What are the effects of psychodynamic therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy is an effective treatment for many mental and emotional disorders. It usually determines lasting changes that persist even after its completion. Research shows that psychodynamic therapy improves the quality of life of patients, their ability to establish satisfying relationships with other people, and affects their self-esteem and ability to achieve self-fulfillment. It also helps patients cope better with stress and crisis situations.

Psychodynamic therapy is a valuable tool in the treatment of a variety of emotional and mental problems. By focusing on unconscious mental processes, it allows patients to better understand themselves and their behaviors, which can lead to lasting changes and improved quality of life. For psychodynamic therapy to be effective, it must take place in optimal conditions and be based on trust between the therapist and the patient – the patient should not, among other things, be afraid to reveal embarrassing content that should not come to light.


  • Richard F. Summers, Jacques P. Barber, Psychodynamic therapy in practice Case studies, Jagiellonian University Publishing House, 2016

  • Richard F. Summers, Jacques P. Barber, Psychodynamic Therapy. Evidence-based practice, Jagiellonian University Publishing House, 2014

  • Agnieszka Leźnicka-Łoś, Basics of psychoanalytic therapy theory and practice, Imago Publishing House, Gdańsk, 2012

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