What is Psychodynamic Counselling?

What is Psychodynamic Counselling?

Psychodynamic Counselling is one of the major traditions within contemporary psychotherapy. Its aim is to help us achieve insight and understanding around the reasons for our problems, and to translate this insight into a mature capacity to cope with current and future difficulties.

John Mcleod, author of An Introduction to Counselling, has identified five key principles of the psychodynamic approach:

  1. People have troubled relationships because they are repeating a destructive relationship pattern from the past.
  2. The person may seek to control or hide difficult or unacceptable mental desires, memories and feelings by use of 'defence mechanisms', such as "transference", "projection", "denial", "repression", "sublimation", "splitting" and "projective identification".
  3. It is important for helpers, including counsellors, to be aware of their own feelings, fantasies and impulses in relation to the person they are helping.
  4. The person's problems can be understood as representing unresolved "developmental tasks" (e.g. separation from the mother/parents).
  5. People have a need for secure, consitent emotional attachments.

Psychodynamic methods have been applied to understanding and treating a range of psychological problems. Its origins are found in the work of Sigmund Freud, but the approach has developed significantly over the years.

One of the most influential practitioners has been the British psychoanalist, John Bowlby, whose main focus of work was around the process of attachment in human relations. Bowlby argued that human beings, like other animals, have a basic need to form attachments with others throughout life, and will not function well unless such attachments are available.

So, for example, if a child's mother is absent, or does not manage to form a secure and reliable bond, then the child will grow up with a lack of trust and a general inability to form stable, close relationships. On the other hand, if the mother or other family members have provided the child with what Bowlby calls a "secure base" in childhood, then later close relationships will be possible.

All counsellors and therapists, even those who espouse different theoretical models, have been influenced by psychodynamic thinking. Though my own specialisations are in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) — as well as Schema Therapy, which 'borrows' heavily from a number of person-centred and psychodynamic approaches — my original training was in Psychodynamic Counselling.

As well as various specific diectories, including CounsellingUK, I can recommend a number of colleagues who are Psychodynamic Counsellors in Essex, and surrounding regions. For a recommendation and/or details, please send an email to amanda@amandawatson.pro