What Is Psychodynamic?

By Julia Thomas|Updated June 28, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
When it comes to treating the mind, there are many types of therapy for you to pick from. One in particular that may work well for you is psychodynamic, aka psychodynamic therapy.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is one of the oldest forms of therapy around. It involves making the client be more aware of themselves, and look at behavior in the past and present that has affected their lives.

Psychodynamic therapy can thus make people feel better about themselves because it teaches people how to manage relationships, conquer addiction, and helps with other ailments of the mind.

Psychodynamic Vs Psychoanalysis

Many people can mix up psychodynamic therapy and psychoanalysis. If you or someone you know has, don't feel bad doing so because they are similar, but there are differences.

Psychoanalysis is all about understanding people and clinical presentations. It tends to be much longer than psychodynamic therapy and can last for many sessions, with it sometimes going on for years.

The treatment can take place multiple times weekly. It is also heavily focused on the relationship between the psychodynamic therapist and client.

The Differences Between These Two

Psychodynamic therapy shares elements of psychoanalysis, involving theories on how the mind works, but it involves less interaction.

The treatments tend to last once every week, and it may be just 15 sessions. The therapist himself may be trained in psychoanalytic techniques, but may not be certified.

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the relationship between the patient and the world around them, and less on the relationship between client and therapist.

As you can see, there is a difference. Some people can benefit from shorter sessions as opposed to sessions that can last for years.

History Of This Theory

As mentioned, psychodynamic therapy is quite old, and it's a product before even the Freudian era. It was published in 1874, by a scientist named Ernst Wilhelm von Brücke, who hailed from Germany.

His book, Lectures on Psychology, introduced psychodynamic theory. Von Brücke helped to supervise Freud while he was a student at the University of Vienna, and Freud used psychodynamics for his form of psychology.

Other psychologists down the road expanded and developed the psychodynamic theory as well.

So it's one of the oldest forms of therapy in modern history, and it has to do something if it lasts, right?

How Psychodynamic Therapy Helps

Psychodynamic therapy has plenty of uses, and here are just a few.

  • Depression

    • Many of these therapies are good for depression, and psychodynamic therapy is especially depression friendly, as it requires less of a commitment.

  • Relationship issues

    • Psychodynamic therapy may help those who have trouble with relationships. Not just romantic, but other personal relationships too.

  • Loss of Meaning

    • Psychodynamic therapy may help those who don't know what their life means. If you've lost the meaning of your life, try a session.

  • Addiction

    • Psychodynamic therapy may be good if you're suffering from any form of addiction, be it drugs or something else.

  • Eating disorders

    • You may benefit from psychodynamic therapy if you're suffering from anorexia, bulimia, or any other eating disorder.

How This Therapy Works

Psychodynamic therapy's basic function involves being more aware of yourself. As humans, we'd like to believe that we know the mind our conscious resides in, but many of us don't.

We are always on autopilot, and we don't have time to analyze ourselves, and we may need a second mind to help us out. That's where psychodynamic theory comes in. Here are some of its principles.

  • Psychodynamic therapy helps people look at the problems they face and the flaws they may have.

    • By speaking to a psychologist about yourself, they can point out the problems you may have.

  • Once you've recognized the problem, you must admit that you have it.

    • For some, that's easy. For others, it requires them to swallow some pride.

  • Psychodynamic theory wants you to express the problems you're having honestly.

    • No tapdancing around it.

  • Finding the hidden.

    • Psychodynamic theory also wants you to find what emotions are lying dormant inside you.

    • There are unconscious thoughts inside that can destroy a person, and psychodynamics is there to help you find them.

  • Psychodynamics wants you to overcome emotions that you're feeling and help you live a better life.

So that's the gist of it.

To summarize, psychodynamic therapy helps the patient find underlying issues that may be driving their depression, relationship problems, and so on.

Other Psychodynamic Beliefs

Psychodynamic therapy does rely on a handful of assumptions.

Here are a few psychodynamic assumptions:

  • Behavior is mostly unconscious.

    • The unconscious mind influences many of the things we feel, judge, and act upon. It's a trite comparison, but your mind is like an iceberg, where only a little bit of it comes from the surface.

  • The id, ego, and superego are also big elements.

    • Developed by Freud, they're what he thought made up the psyche.

    • Your id is your impulses or desires one may seem as negative. Your superego is your desire for perfection. It believes that you should do good, and instills values typically taught to a person. The ego is what tries to mediate the two.

  • Your childhood widely affects how you behave today.

    • Even if you don't think you've had a bad childhood, there can be events that are responsible for how you behave like an adult.

  • Slips of the tongue are important.

    • This is when you try to say something, and something else comes out. This can be a look into your unconscious mind. This is different than you misspeaking or stuttering on a word. Slips of the

What Happens In A Psychodynamic Therapy Session

You may wonder what to expect when it comes to a psychodynamic therapy session.

Depending on your therapist, it may work differently, but generally, you begin to talk about what's on your mind. Don't feel like you have to censor yourself, either. It's between you and the therapist, and no one else.

When you talk, here are some things worth mentioning to your psychodynamic therapist:

  • It may sound obvious, but plenty of people are afraid of talking about what they fear, and your fears can be connected to an underlying issue without you knowing it.

    • Never be afraid to talk about what scares you right now.

  • Dreams are mysterious.

    • Sometimes they feel like they have no meaning, while other times, they can be a sign of an underlying problem.

    • Talk to your therapist about what dreams you're having. It may be worth it to keep a dream diary, as dreams typically go away the longer you're up.

  • What do you want most right now? To live a better life? To get a promotion? To shut someone up?

    • Don't be afraid to talk about your desires to someone else. Your psychologist needs all the information they can get.

  • Current events. Talk about what's going on with yourself currently, or what's going on in the news.

    • Help your psychologist to develop a well-rounded opinion about you.

Why Are These Questions Important?

Those are just some of the things you need to bring up when talking to your psychologist. This can help them to figure out just the kind of person you are and help them pull out any unconscious feelings you may have.

Also, by letting your feelings out, you can improve your self-esteem. You'll soon learn why you have trouble with relationships, what talents you have, and much more.

Is It Effective?

With all these forms of psychotherapy, you may wonder just how effective some of them are. Some therapies are speculation and pseudoscience, while others are backed up by research.

Psychodynamic therapy is old and thus has had many years to research and improve on. Studies have shown that it's an effective form of therapy, with the American Psychological Association finding that it's an effective way to treat many mental conditions.

It's All About Finding The Right Treatment For You

With that said, one form of therapy won't work for everyone, and sometimes, you may not get many benefits from psychodynamic therapy. However, you should remember that despite its shorter length, you may have to get multiple sessions to get the most out of its effectiveness.

Looking For A Therapist

When you look for one, do some research on licensed therapists in your area. There are plenty of resources that can let you see someone's credentials, see reviews from other clients, and much more. Do your research and find a therapist that works best for you.

Seek Help If You Need It!

No matter what your mental situation is, you can benefit from therapy. Psychodynamic therapy is a timeless form of therapy designed to let you know more about yourself, and when you find a good therapist, you can be on your way to feeling better. Whether in person or online, some therapists can help you understand yourself much better.


You don't need to do this alone. While talking to a loved one can be beneficial, a trained professional is better at getting the unconscious thoughts to the conscious level. If you haven't tried therapy before, it's worth a shot, and some therapists are affordable and ready to help you.

Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:

What is psychodynamic in simple terms?
What is psychodynamic example?
What is psychodynamic theory?
What is the difference between psychoanalysis and psychodynamics?
What is psychodynamic personality?
What does psychodynamic therapy focus on?
What is the main cause of psychodynamic behavior?
What are the 3 elements of psychodynamic theory?
What are the basic principles of psychodynamic perspective?
How is psychodynamic therapy used?

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