“Individuals often grow up feeling ashamed of their emotions. As a result, adults tend to avoid painful emotions and end up feeling depressed and anxious. I offer clients a safe place to “hold” their emotions.”
Psychodynamic therapy is a highly effective approach that stems from the work of analytical psychology and psychoanalysis. My approach is a modern form of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. It is relational. It focuses on allowing patients to increase awareness of their inner world and its influence over relationships—and vice versa—both from childhood and in the present. Dreams and fantasies are also an important part of psychodynamic therapy, making the psychodynamic approach uniquely focused on all three aspects of time—past, present, and future. From a psychodynamic intersubjective perspective, personalities develop within the context of relationships with others, including the therapeutic relationship between a therapist and client.
Is Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Evidence Based?
In one of the world’s top peer-reviewed psychology journals, The American Psychologist, Jonathan Shedler, Ph.D. challenges prevailing thinking about psychotherapy by using multiple meta-analyses of psychodynamic therapy compared to other psychological and pharmacological treatments. In “The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy,” Shedler argues “Empirical evidence supports the efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. Effect sizes for psychodynamic psychotherapy are as large as those reported for other therapies that have been actively promoted as “empirically supported” and “evidence based.” Additionally, unlike in other forms of ‘non-depth’ therapy, patients who receive psychodynamic therapy maintain therapeutic gains and appear to continue to improve long after treatment ends, making psychodynamic psychotherapy a particularly effective therapy long-term.
Relational Psychotherapy Relational psychoanalysis began in the 1980s as an exploration of interpersonal interactions with British object relations theory’s ideas about the psychological importance of relationships that individuals internalise with other people. Relational therapists believe that personality emerges from the formative pattern of early relationships with parents and other figures. Stephen Mitchell is often thought to be the most important relational psychoanalyst.
I base much of my relational work on Robert Stolorow’s theories of emotional trauma and intersubjective-systems theory. I also find Stolorow’s work on therapeutic comportment very useful. The crux of this approach is that therapists take a highly active role in empathising with the client. In this approach, the therapist is much more than a listener and a guider. He or she actually “dwells” in the emotional pain and invests his or her own emotions into it. The emotional pain is not skirted or understated. In so doing, the emotions are granted a dignity rather than shame. The old organising principles of repressing painful or embarrassing emotions are reorganised. This approach has had enduring success in treating soldiers with PTSD in active combat (Carr, 2011) and is also useful in most therapeutic treatments.
“The precursor of the mirror is the mother’s face.”
[DONALD WINNICOTT, FROM PLAYING AND REALITY]