Written by Rithika Ramkumar
Psychodynamic therapy may seem like some sort of complicated, highly scientific, intimidating method of therapy, but in actuality is probably the type of treatment that most people imagine when thinking about therapy. The purpose of psychodynamic therapy is to get to the roots of a psychological problem, including mental health illnesses such as depression or anxiety, or major life events like grief or trauma (American Psychological Association). Psychodynamic therapy involves building a relationship between a therapist and a patient and using conversation to figure out problematic patterns in a patient's life, allowing them to get to the root of their problems and live a happier and healthier life.
Psychodynamic therapy is a diverse treatment plan. It's effective for a wide range of mental health symptoms including:
Panic and stress-related physical ailments
And far more (American Psychological Association; Sussex Publishers). The purpose of psychodynamic therapy is to not simply treat symptoms, as medication like antidepressants can, and rather reach the heart of problems and behavior to stop troublesome patterns. It is a far more long-term based strategy.
Getting psychodynamic therapy treatment can be difficult, especially since many insurance and pharmaceutical companies don't necessarily believe in promoting psychodynamic therapy as an effective treatment plan. This is in large part due to the fact that companies are focused on making profit, which can be to the detriment of a patient. Many medications have side-effects and can be off-putting, leading to mental health illnesses and symptoms going untreated. Companies have incentive to promote the idea that mental health can just be a list of symptoms and can be treated like the flu, when in fact many mental health illnesses are chronic and long-term. The most effective psychodynamic therapy treatment plans are entirely personal and determined with your therapist in sessions over time. They are also liable to change as needed and as a person does or does not make progress.
The methods used in therapy are all too personal, but they focus on “facilitating self-exploration, examining emotional blind spots, and understanding patterns in relationships.” (American Psychological Association) They attempt to look at unacknowledged psychodynamic elements, and studies have shown that using psychodynamic therapy elements, regardless of the actual type of therapy, leave generally high levels of effect on a patient and better the outcome. Psychodynamic therapy is talk therapy and is usually a longer process than other therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is often designed to be a limited-time scope, where a psychodynamic therapy is intended to be, usually, over a longer time frame. Patients are encouraged to talk freely about what troubles them, including dreams, fears, desires, and fantasies (Sussex Publishers). The goal is to experience a lessening of symptoms, but also to derive benefits that contribute to your life as a whole, such as increased self-esteem or better personal understanding. The focus is on having the patient express their own feelings and how they interact with the world. From there, therapists focus on bettering problematic behaviors or thoughts, leading to long-term remission of symptoms (American Psychological Association).
In one major analysis of the effect of psychotherapy, 1,431 patients were examined. All of the patients had a variety of mental health problems and symptoms.
The study focused on effect size, which essentially measures the amount of change produced by each treatment. An effect size of 0.80 is considered to be a large effect in psychological and medical research. In this study the effect size of short-term psychodynamic therapy on overall symptom improvement was 0.974. After 9 months this number increased by 50% to 1.51.
For reference, the effect size of antidepressants is 0.31.
(American Psychological Association)
Some places to get psychodynamic therapy if this treatment seems to be for you are:
Most therapists will have options of treatment for you to pick from.
American Psychological Association. (2010, January 25). Psychodynamic psychotherapy brings lasting benefits through self-knowledge [Press release]. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/01/psychodynamic-therapy
Sussex Publishers. (2022, April 28). Psychodynamic therapy. Psychology Today. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/psychodynamic-therapy#when-its-used