Psychoanalysis & Psychodynamic Therapy

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Psychoanalysis & Psychodynamic Therapy

There is a lot of misconstrued ideas about therapy or counselling, one such idea is that you would have to be crazy, mad, insane, or hold some deep seeded mental issue or problem in order to seek help from a mental health professional. This simply is not true. Although it may be hard to understand the who, what, when, and where of therapy, it’s important to know that seeking help from a Psychologist is not an exclusive service for the ‘disturbed’ or ‘disrupted self’. It is entirely normal to experience feelings of confusion, anxiety, low moods, or even find it difficult to cope with one’s circumstances. In fact, relationships, family dynamics and the direction of one’s career are inevitably going to be challenging for all of us at certain times in our lives, it’s expected that everyone will encounter difficulties in these — or other — areas of life. We all struggle, and yes, some cope better than others, but there is no shame in asking for help. You do not need to meet a certain criteria in order to seek and benefit from therapy, the only qualification required is that you be open and respectful of the process.

With many different approaches to psychotherapy (counselling), Psychologists may choose to use the most effective treatment that suits the issue a client may present with, this may include those that cultivate insight (acquiring understanding and expanding awareness) in conjunction with, or as an aside to, cognitive approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Within the scope of insight therapies, there are two prominent approaches; humanistic (self-actualisation and positive belief), and psychodynamic therapies, as well as person-centred therapies.

What is Psychodynamic Therapy?

A sub-branch of Psychoanalysis

Psychodynamic therapy owes legacy to Sigmund Freud through the development of a psychological medicine he called, Psychoanalysis, which was one of the first psychotherapeutic approaches. Freud believed that by uncovering the original source of our neurosis (troubled minds), which most often occurs during childhood, we could achieve insight into our unconscious mind, and likewise, by uncovering the unconscious mind, the source of our neurosis may be revealed. Think of it like peeling back the layers of an onion, and with each layer the causes and significance of our symptoms become more and more evident, and may eventually disappear as the client learns how to sit with, and manage their internal world.

Freud attempted to come up with treatment for our many neuroses, within society and the self. He thought that with proper analysis of the unconscious mind, people could uncover what ails them and better adjust to the difficulties of reality. Within these sessions of psychoanalysis, an interpretation of dreams, fantasies, wishes, impulses, thoughts and feelings that are avoided, recurring themes and life patterns, even the therapist-client relationship are pulled apart through a method called free association — that is, freely speaking one’s mind without censorship, no matter how meaningless, offensive, or nonsensical it may come across. The analyst (therapist) might point out any disguised expressions, be it; slips of the tongue, ‘accidents’ which might point to unconscious behaviour, resistance, or any projections of unrealistic expectations. In highlighting these ‘hints’ of the unconscious mind, the client can work with the therapist to address conflicts and unhealthy patterns of behaviour.

Freud’s work tends to focus on adult relationships and intimacy, as indicated by the initial relationship we established with our parents. The kind of love we learn from mum and dad will dictate how we fuse (?) sex, love, attachment, and dependence within our adult relationships. As Freud described, you can think of issues with intimacy and relationships metaphorically — as in the congress between two hedgehogs; although they want to come closer together, for warmth and comfort — they can’t get too close to one another because they may be too prickly.

Psychodynamic therapy is a modern variation of Freud’s Psychoanalysis. If you’ve ever read some of Freud’s original work, you will see themes of sexuality and aggression as a means of understanding relational dynamics and prospects for healthy functioning. As Freud’s work was, at times, difficult to accept, the modern arena for mental health therapies has adapted his approach into one that is more in line with scientific and evidence-based applications;  focusing more on aspects of personality, a consideration of future goals and past experiences, cultural and interpersonal influences (aside from romantic, ie friendships, peers), as well as behavioural patterns across one’s lifespan. The main themes that have been taken from psychoanalysis are that of the client-therapist relationship — what clues does this give to the therapist about the client’s unconscious mind — does he/she project unrealistic expectations, and what are the foundations the relationship with consideration for attachment, intimacy, avoidance of confrontation, ability to associate freely (speak openly).

Psychodynamic therapy is cost-effective in comparison to psychoanalysis, as it typically won’t require more than 1-2 sessions per week. It is, however, still classed as a long-term therapeutic approach due to the nature of the therapy (recall — “peeling back the layers one by one”).

Psychodynamic therapies have been successful in treating issues of substance abuse, depression, and eating disorders, whilst also providing excellent results in treating trauma or dealing with adverse childhood experiences. Research has suggested that the effects of psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapies may outweigh others types of psychotherapy and antidepressant drugs.

At The Three Seas, we have a number of Psychologists who practice as psychodynamic analysts. If you are interested in this stream of therapy specifically, please speak with our Client Connect Team (CCT) who will be able to book you in with a suitable clinician. CCT are available Mon-Fri 8.30am – 8.30pm & Sat 9am – 5pm — (03) 9809 1000 or

What is Humanistic Therapy?

Therapies within this orientation are particularly focused on personality and the potential of the individual ie, self-actualisation. This approach is grounded in the overarching belief that humans are intrinsically positive by nature. Humanistic therapists are different to analysts (psychodynamic) in that they will typically focus on the inner world of the client rather than the interpretation of disguised expression or repressed feelings. Humanists are more about the here and now — the ‘present’ takes the spotlight in the therapy room rather than the ‘past’. In short, the therapist’s role is one of empathy and unconditional positive regard, rather than analytic interpretation.

Through humanistic therapies, one shall strive to reach their greatest human potential through expanding self-awareness and insight into their mind, motivations, and behaviours in order to gain a sense of meaning in life. This approach adopts holistic ideals and pays special attention the person as a “whole” being, rather than the sum of their parts. Humanistic therapists will often regard the human psych as being spiritual and creative, with an inevitable desire to pursue knowledge and contribute to society. With this in mind, the therapy will target ‘self actualisation’ through the fulfillment of basic and psychological needs; that is, accepting responsibility, living in the present and not attributing our problems to the past, and being loving, responsible and authentic.

Humanistic therapy is used to explore a range of issues, including:

  • Depression,
  • Substance abuse,
  • Anxiety disorders,
  • Panic disorders,
  • Eating disorders,
  • Body-image issues,
  • Relationship issues
  • Low self-esteem
  • Personality Disorders

Humanistic approaches to therapy at The Three Seas are offered through a number of different Psychologists at all three of our locations (Knox, CBD, Richmond). Please call our Client Connect Team (03) 9809 1000 to speak to someone about Humanistic Therapies.

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