What is Psychodynamic Psychotherapy?

Psychoanalysis first came to be out of the works of Sigmund Freud, but it has evolved through the years by adding contributions and work of other great thinkers.

In a world as complicated as ours, contemporary psychoanalysis is a form of treatment used for emotional discomfort and pain, a way for self-discovery and the means to establish and improve our relations with people and the world in general.

Contemporary psychoanalysis is an interpersonal experience which emphasizes the healing power of two people working together towards finding the meaning of life in ways that make it significant to the patient.

Unlike traditional psychoanalysis, which gives full authority to the analyst without taking into consideration things that may be important to the patient, contemporary perspectives emphasize the patient’s unique and subjective experiences.

Based on recent studies on psychoanalysis, along with research on child development, memory, neurobiology and culture, contemporary psychoanalysis is an advanced method which helps patients find meaning in their lives and the world around them.

Psychoanalysis today is as different to Freudian analysis as is Newton´s work to modern physics, although neither of them has abandoned their basic principles.

Psychoanalysis is a treatment based on the observation of persons who frequently can´t identify the factors that determine their emotions and/or behaviors. These unconscious factors may be the source of important levels of suffering or unhappiness, which sometimes manifest themselves as overt symptoms and others as complicated personality traits, difficulties at work and/or in relationships, or mood or self-esteem problems.

Since these forces are unconscious, friends and family advice, books or conscious efforts to change, generally fail.

Psychoanalytical treatment is capable of reveling how such unconscious factors affect current relationships and behavioral patterns and help people deal with the reality of their adult life.

Along the course of the treatment, the nature of the relation between the patient and the analyst implies meaningful aspects from the patient´s inner world which are made accessible to the experience and exploration of the patient and the analyst working together. This is how it becomes possible to understand the main patterns from a deeper perspective therefore allowing the possibility of making meaningful and desired changes.

The most intensive form of psychoanalytical treatment is Psychoanalysis itself. This requires regular 45 or 50 minute sessions (depending on the analyst), three to five times a week, for several years.

Psychoanalytical or Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, requieres, in general, fewer sessions a week. Some patients start with one or two sessions a week and, as the treatment progresses, they feel the need to have sessions more frequently and ask for more sessions a week.

The commitment with the setting is very important both for the patient and for the analyst.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy can be used in individual, couples, family and group therapies as well as in business settings.

  • What makes psychoanalysis different from other forms of therapy?

These are some of the things that help differentiate this type of treatment from others:

  • Psychoanalysis is not brief therapy, but its results are long lasting and have positive effects long after the treatment is over.
  • Patients generally use the couch, which facilitates thinking, emotional experience and self-reflection as well as insight and privacy.
  • The power of self-understanding in the context of a facilitating therapeutic relationship makes psychoanalysis effective.
  • Patients are encouraged to attend sessions at least twice during the week. This allows the continuity and intensity of the treatment and it´s not related to the severity of the problem.

We as psychoanalysts are specifically trained to work in such an intensive and dedicated way in a very close relation with each of our patients.

Many experiences and research confirm that this is the best way to help patients grow and change in meaningful, deep and long lasting ways.

  • What are the benefits of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy?

Psychoanalytical theories offer great value when trying to understand human nature and cultural produce in the fields of literature, theater and cinema in particular, but they are also invaluable for each individual suffering from emotional or behavioral problems.

People suffering from severe or chronic anxiety or depression, people with constant difficulties with couple relationships, or those who can´t have couple relationships as well as those who feel an unexplainable void in their lives, greatly benefit from a psychoanalytical treatment.

Psychoanalysis plays a very complex role in the modern world: it has a lot to offer to help us understand ourselves and the way our minds work and also the way other people function. But, at the same time, its own nature may take us to threatening and unwelcomed territories.

When Sigmund Freud invented Psychoanalysis techniques in the beginnings of the XX century, he understood quiet early that the discoveries he was making through clinical work with patients would upset the world. This has proven to be true and even today, the sole mention of the word “psychoanalysis” provokes a hostile response in many people.

However, for those with the courage to start and continue to understand, either as patients, students or scholars of the human mind, what psychoanalysis can offer them, will be greatly rewarded.

Psychoanalysis, due to its own nature, explores deeper into the unconscious mind. It operates based on our earliest experiences, those that influence the way our mind develops and how we interact with people and situations around us, in the present.

“Psychoanalysis is not interested in the past. It is interested in the past that becomes present through compulsion to repetition”.

Dr. Rafael E. López-Corvo

Although psychoanalysis almost immediately connects us with the name “Freud”, in every day life nobody talks too much about the advanced theories and techniques that arose from the psychoanalytical therapeutic work and research of the last 100 years.

Psychoanalysis has worked with patients with disorders as severe as psychosis and with patients with less severe disorders or those that appear as result of a traumatic event. Nowadays, medication is sometimes used along with psychoanalytical treatment, depending on the consulting reason, the severity of the symptoms and the evolution of the treatment.

Individual Psychotherapy:

It deals with personal crisis through the communication and interaction between therapist and patient. The relation between both of them is a professional one based on techniques, structure and therapeutic principles, aiming to understand, develop and strengthen the patient´s abilities.

Couples Psychotherapy:

Each person involved in a couple, has a personal and family history. When an affective bond is established between these 2 people, complex hard to resolve challenges may appear in the form of crisis, especially when the couple faces specific situations such as financial trouble, infertility problems, issues with their children, the in-laws, etc.

Couple therapy allows its members to explore and open new and better possibilities in their relationship, going deeper and enriching it.

Adolescents Psychotherapy:

Adolescence is a stage where big challenges and problems arise both for parents and their children. A therapeutic process during this stage of life is a tool which benefits the interaction between everyone involved.

During the process, kids feel identified, supported and understood by others and they´re also offered the opportunity to create new alternatives to face problems in a different way and therefore grow into adult life with fewer conflicts.

  • What is Psychodynamic Psychodiagnosis?

When dealing with different emotional issues on a daily basis, we realize the importance of considering the complexity of emotional, physical and social patterns of the patient, so besides helping him/her to diminish symptoms, psychoanalytical psychotherapy improves their emotional and social functioning.

Mental health implies much more than just the absence of symptoms. It involves the whole mental function of the person, including relationships (emotional depth, range and self-regulation), his/her ability to face certain situations and his/her self-observation skills.

Ignoring the mental complexity of a person is like ignoring what is most important to each of us. After all, our mental complexity is what defines our most human qualities.

So, in order to provide such an approach and fulfill the objectives of psychotherapy, educational, social and medical processes, we require a diagnosis psychodynamically based system which highlights the processes that contribute to a person´s emotional and social functioning.

This system includes different psychological, psychodynamic, psychiatric and neurological tests that, depending on the consulting reason, will be applied to the patient at Psicoanalitica by the adequate expert working with a group of specialists who collaborate with us.

Psychodynamic diagnose is focused on mental functioning as a whole. Its approach to mental disorders identifies patterns that capture the quality and degree of impediment that may be present in skills as essential as establishing and maintaining relationships, self-regulation, moods and impulsivity, as well as basic human functions within the family, educational, social and working environments.

The identification of patterns of symptoms in psychodynamic diagnose, supplements the descriptions of the DSM and the CIE, with a wider understanding of the unique internal experiences of each patient over his/her problems.

Psychodynamic diagnose is a way to understand mental issues, which tries to include and understand the person as a whole, the deep and superficial aspects of the emotional, cognitive and social aspects, emphasizing both individual differences and common features, using psychological tests and tools specific for each of the different problems we deal with every day.

To integrate the results of the tests and exams we apply, we consider:

  • The functioning of both healthy and disturbed personalities;
  • Individual profiles of mental functioning which include relation, comprehension and expression of emotions, ways of dealing with stress and anxiety, self-observation of emotions and behaviors and moral judgements.
  • Symptomatic patterns, including differences in the personal and subjective experience of symptoms for each person.

As we said before, Psychodynamic diagnose supplements current diagnose systems such as DSM and CIE, with a perspective that allows the integration of patterns of symptoms described by them with the description and classification of personality patterns, related social and emotional skills, unique mental profiles and the personal experience of the symptoms.

This kind of diagnose provides a work frame not only useful in the therapeutic context, but also in the school, work and medical ones, therefore allowing us to improve our approach to each patient and to understand biological and psychological origins of good and bad mental health and the way each individual experiences all of it.

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