What is Psychodynamic Psychotherapy?
Psychodynamic psychotherapy is an open-ended, collaborative process that addresses longstanding difficulties around thoughts, feelings and actions. One of its main ideas is that all of us, more or less, have an incomplete picture of why we think, feel or act the way we do—often there is something more going on. For example, your distress at a current situation might be partly an expression of unprocessed feelings about a past event. Much of our work together, then, could be about 'filling in the picture' to achieve a greater sense of inner coherence.
Another distinguishing aspect of psychodynamic therapy is its use of the relationship between patient and therapist as a source of insight and vehicle for change. In practical terms, what this means is that I will occasionally explore how we are relating to each other, since it may be that that certain patterns are being repeated in the therapy (which is no bad thing!). I find that working sensitively in this way can make sessions come alive, and more importantly give patients the sense that change is possible.
What can psychotherapy help with?
There is no sure-fire solution when it comes to dealing with the various psychological difficulties that can arise in the course of a lifetime. But psychotherapy can help if you find yourself struggling to cope with any of the following states over a prolonged period:
Anxious or stressed
Depressed, flat, or somehow empty
Unable to recover from a loss, such as a death or separation
Lonely and struggling to form friendships
As though you’re always in conflict with other people
Troubled by intrusive thoughts or memories
Repeatedly drawn to unsatisfying and possibly self-destructive behaviours
Concerned about your sexuality and/or identity
Physical symptoms that don’t seem to have a medical explanation
What to expect
Deciding to contact a therapist is a big step that can cause anxiety in itself. This is natural—after all, you’re potentially going to be sharing a lot about yourself with someone you’ve never met before. As a training requirement as well as for my own benefit, I have undergone extensive therapy myself, so I can relate to the feeling.
The first session lasts for 50 minutes and is more like a consultation. It is a chance for us to get to know each other and for you to decide whether you are comfortable working with me as your therapist. I will encourage you to talk about what has led you to seek therapy and what you hope to achieve from it. I will also ask some questions to help me get a better picture of your life, including relationships past and present. Equally, you should feel free to ask me any questions about therapy that come to mind.
There is no obligation to continue with therapy after the first session, and it may be preferable for us to meet together for another preliminary session before committing to a regular time together.
Subsequent sessions, if you decide to continue, likewise last for 50 minutes but take place at the same time each week.
But does talking with a therapist actually work?
There is a growing body of empirical evidence showing that psychotherapy is an effective treatment for psychological distress, and in particular that it remains effective even after the treatment has ended. For further reading see: The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy by Jonathan Shedler, PhD.
Evidence also indicates that the foundation of any successful therapy is a strong working alliance between the patient and therapist. Simply getting along is part of this, but equally important is the sense that we can work together to achieve a mutual understanding of your difficulties. To this end, I would encourage you to view psychotherapy as a reasonably long-term commitment: various studies suggest that on average, meaningful change tends to be experienced around the six-month mark, with further improvements following from there.
Get in touch if you'd like to see if psychodynamic therapy could help you.