Dr. Matthew Paldy

What is Psychodynamic Psychotherapy?

By Dr. Matthew Paldy

There are many various therapeutic approaches, from dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). There is a significant amount of overlap among them. They share the concepts of developing self-awareness, insight, correcting distorted ways of thinking, and the ability to recognize and cope with painful emotions. What these approaches discount or ignore is what psychoanalysis calls the "unconscious" — the part(s) of our mind which are outside our conscious awareness yet can greatly influence our thinking and behavior, as research in cognitive science and neuroscience has conclusively demonstrated. In psychodynamic psychotherapy, the therapist helps the patient identify patterns in their thoughts, emotions, and behavior, and explores how these patterns relate to past experiences and relationships. The therapist may also help the client understand how these patterns may be impacting their current relationships and life circumstances.

Even though major components of Freud's theories are outdated (for example, that personal distress is always a result of inner conflicts involving sexuality and aggression), Freud revolutionized psychology by asserting that: