What is Psychodynamic Counselling

Psychodynamic counselling (or psychotherapy) looks not only at problems in the present but, crucially, at the roots of these problems in the past. Careful understanding of the relationship between the client and the counsellor helps to identify how emotional patterns from early in a person’s life may repeat themselves in later life in a damaging way. Coming to understand this enables change to take place. Psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy (from which psychodynamic counselling is derived) are based on more than one hundred years of intensive clinical practice and research, in which developments in understanding how to work most effectively have traditionally been based on the close scrutiny of individual cases. More recently, however, quantitative empirical methods have also been used to provide evidence of the effectiveness of this kind of treatment.

 Some basic premises of psychodynamic thinking:

  • Each person is part of her own particular history; how she is, is often very influenced by her earliest experiences with significant others and her environment
  • She lives simultaneously in an external world (her immediate environment) and an internal world, which contain her thoughts, feelings and ideas about herself
  • The idea of the unconscious is central as it is influential in determining how we manage our feelings and behaviours
  • All behaviours, no matter how apparently irrational and senseless, can usually be understood and made sense of according to an individual’s personal system
  • Reflection and understanding enable change
  • An essential feature of the therapeutic alliance (the relationship between the counsellor and client) is the establishment of a secure holding environment. Sessions are conducted in the same place, same time. The counsellors’ reliability, punctuality, abstinence and confidentiality are integral parts of the therapeutic relationship

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