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Psychodynamic Therapy for Depression

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What Are the Main Features of Psychodynamic Therapy? continued...

In addition to a focus on emotions, psychodynamic therapy focuses on recognizing and addressing defense mechanisms -- reactions and behaviors a patient uses to avoid distressing thoughts and feelings. For instance, an individual may try to suppress memories of troublesome experiences or may habitually change the topic when certain topics come up. Other reactions might include being late or missing sessions when the topics have become too troublesome, or focusing on external details instead of the person's own role in something.

As the sessions continue, recurring patterns in the patient's thinking, feelings, and behavior will emerge. Often these patterns are subtle and unknown to the individual. The therapist helps the patient recognize these patterns and try to understand their significance and how they affect the patient's mood and reactions. Often, discussing the patterns will lead to an examination of past experiences that continue to influence the present.

There is also an emphasis in psychodynamic therapy on relationships, especially the relationship between the therapist and the patient. Seeing how the patient reacts inside that relationship gives the therapist an indication of how the patient reacts, feels, and interacts in other relationships. Often, psychological difficulties stem from problems in the way someone relates to others that interfere with the ability to have emotional needs met. An aim in psychodynamic therapy is to recognize those difficulties and to find ways to resolve them or cope with them better.

Psychodynamic therapy also involves the exploration of the patient's fantasy life, including the possible psychological meaning behind the imagery or emotional content of dreams. Because the patient is encouraged to speak freely, he or she is able to explore whatever is on his or her mind.

What Can Someone Expect to Get From Psychodynamic Therapy?

The primary goals of psychodynamic therapy are for an individual to achieve greater insight about his or her unconscious conflicts and self-awareness about his or her feelings and motivations.  Insight is thought to be the mechanism that can lead to the relief of symptoms. In addition, psychodynamic therapy aims to help the patient develop internal psychological resources and greater capacity for dealing with psychological issues that have caused emotional suffering. The individual does this by confronting issues that have been unconsciously repressed but that still affect his or her life and by learning healthier ways to deal with them so they don't interfere with the effort to live a more fulfilling life.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on August 21, 2014
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