Have you ever wondered why some people make the same mistake repeatedly without realizing it? Why your sweet relative seems to always end up in abusive relationships? Or why your neighbor keeps getting into struggles with his boss and goes from one job to another?
These have been questions under scrutiny dating back to the Greek philosopher Socrates and much explored by Sigmund Freud, the father of “talk therapy” known as psychoanalysis.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a form of psychological treatment based on the belief that early life circumstances and relationships affect our adult lives. Psychodynamic psychotherapy helps individuals become aware of their dysfunctional ways of thinking and behaving, which is the first step in the change process.
Psychodynamic therapy has been found to be effective in treating a variety of psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety, personality disorders and eating disorders. It focuses on identifying recurring patterns of dysfunctional thinking and behavior, based on the assumption that our view of the world and understanding of relationships in adulthood are significantly affected by childhood relationships and experiences.
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Therapists who use psychodynamic psychotherapy include psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. The relationship between therapist and patient plays a crucial role in determining the outcome of psychodynamic therapy. For treatment to be effective, there needs to be mutual trust and common goals.
Patients in psychodynamic psychotherapy typically go to weekly 50-minute sessions. Treatment can last several months to several years, depending on the therapy goals. Readers may wonder, why does this form of therapy take so long? We go to therapy because we’re in pain. Facing and understanding our pain, which opens old wounds, will initially bring about more suffering before the healing process begins.
Individuals who most benefit from psychodynamic psychotherapy suffer from depression, anxiety or have trouble dealing with conflict and choices they made in life. They are also psychologically minded, and have the ability to develop empathy and insight. These individuals also firmly believe that the old Socratic saying “know thyself” is the only pathway to happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction.
Radu Saveanu, M.D., is a psychiatrist at UHealth – the University of Miami Health System. To learn more, visit umiamihospital.com/specialties/psychiatry.