What Is Psychodynamic Therapy Used to Treat?

Psychodynamic therapy can be extremely effective. But what exactly is it, and who is it used to treat? Find out here at HealthyPlace.

Psychodynamic therapy is a branch of depth psychology that aims to reveal the unconscious content of the psyche. This kind of treatment aims to interpret mental and emotional processes and alleviate psychic tension. Rooted in ego psychology and self-psychology, psychodynamic therapy was developed as a more straightforward, short-term alternative to traditional psychoanalysis. It can offer many benefits to those experiencing emotional and mental symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.

Psychodynamic Therapy: What Are the Core Principles?

Psychodynamic therapy is sometimes confused with psychoanalysis. Where it differs is that the psychoanalytic approach is purely Freudian, whereas psychodynamic theories include both Freud's theories and the theories of his followers.
In psychodynamic therapy, your therapist will help you gain insight into negative thought or behavior patterns that have developed over time. This involves the use of four core principles, also known as life factors:

  • Early childhood experiences
  • Beliefs
  • Emotions
  • Thoughts

Psychodynamic therapy is based on the core belief that our early experiences impact our behavior and thoughts – including any psychological problems. According to psychodynamic theory, all behavior has a cause – even if the factors that influence that behavior are unconscious. Freud believed that we provide insight into the unconscious mind through slips of the tongue, now known as ‘Freudian slips.'

Your therapist may ask you to talk freely about your present life, childhood memories, thoughts, beliefs and emotions. He or she may also examine your dreams and fantasies to uncover their meanings.

Who Does Psychodynamic Therapy Help?

Psychodynamic therapy is often used to treat depression, but it can also be applied to many other mental health conditions and psychological disorders:

Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques and Goals

Psychodynamic therapy techniques can be used in a variety of ways. They may be combined with other forms of therapy, or your therapist may tailor specific exercises to suit your needs and goals. The main aim of this treatment is to examine the subconscious so it can be adapted to ease your symptoms.

Although the psychodynamic approach is primarily a talking therapy, you may communicate with your therapist in a variety of ways. You might be asked to keep a dream journal, try visualization exercises to uncover subconscious emotions or memories, or to answer questions about your life and past. Neutrality is one of the key psychodynamic therapy techniques – so your therapist is unlikely to voice an opinion on what you say.

Dismantling defense mechanisms is another common technique in psychodynamic therapy. This is because defense mechanisms can keep painful memories and feelings hidden in the subconscious and prevents us from healing from them. Your therapist will work to understand your denial, repression or rationalization of such thoughts or emotions and help you, safely, bring them to conscious awareness so they can be resolved.

What Are the Benefits of Psychodynamic Therapy?

One of the main benefits of psychodynamic therapy is that is has been practiced successfully for decades. It is similar to other forms of psychotherapy, and it poses minimal risks even for those who are unwilling or afraid to share details of their past. It is supportive and encouraging, and it can improve your long-term wellbeing and help you learn new coping skills.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, September 25). What Is Psychodynamic Therapy Used to Treat?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Last Updated: October 15, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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