Psychodynamic approach refers to a range of treatments based on psychoanalytic concepts and methods that involve less frequent meetings.
Session frequency is typically once or twice per week, and the session may be either time limited or open ended and may be considerably briefer than psychoanalysis therapy. The essence of psychodynamic therapy is exploring those aspects of self that are not fully known, especially as they are manifested and potentially influenced in the therapy relationship.The Psychodynamic theory assumes the personality is split into three; the id (most primitive, instinctive part we have from birth), the ego (logical, balances out the id and superego) and the superego, the moral part of our personality. These areas influence our behaviour, as well as the defence mechanisms of the ego, and the psychosexual stages of development.
The psychosexual stages of development (oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital) also affect personality as if someone experiences trauma, certain behaviours occur as a result (e.g. over tidiness at the anal stage). This links back to the assumptions of the approach, where childhood experiences may have an effect on the adult personality. People who suffer trauma during the oral stage (0-1 years old, where the id is developed) can become excessively dependant on others and have psychological problems with food or drink – e.g. bulimia or anorexia. Trauma during the anal stage (1-3 years old, where the ego is developed) can result in stubbornness and stinginess, whereas problems during the phallic stage (3-6 years old, where the superego is developed) can cause a weak superego (no guilt or shame), a strong superego (excessive guilt) or tendencies to be overly sexual.
Also the psychodynamic approach can be applied to either Dream analysis or Free association. The aim of dream analysis is to make unconscious material conscious. It is used to treat mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and provide an explanation for it. It links back to the assumptions of the psychodynamic approach as it says that our mind and behaviour is controlled mostly by our unconscious, and if a traumatic event is experienced, memories can be repressed into the unconscious, possibly leading to mental health problems. Dream analysis is a form of therapy that enables the unconscious material accessible in order to deal with painful repressed memories and explain an individual’s depression.
Psychodynamic counsellor would work to identify and explore recurring themes and patterns in clients’ thoughts, feelings, self-concept, relationships, and life experiences. In some cases, a client may be acutely aware of recurring patterns that are painful or self-defeating but feel unable to escape them (e.g., a man who repeatedly finds himself drawn to romantic partners who are emotionally unavailable; a woman who regularly sabotages herself when success is at hand). In other cases, the client may be unaware of the patterns until the counsellor helps him or her recognise and understand them.
Related to the identification of recurring themes and patterns is the recognition that past experience, especially early experiences of attachment figures, affects our relation to, and experience of, the present.
Psychodynamic counsellor would explore early experiences, the relation between past and present, and the ways in which the past tends to “live on” in the present. The focus is not on the past for its own sake, but rather on how the past sheds light on current psychological difficulties. The goal is to help clients free themselves from the bonds of past experience in order to live more fully in the present.