Psychodynamic psychotherapy

Currently, there is a pluralism of psychotherapeutic forms stemming from psychoanalysis – frequently referred to as psychodynamic psychotherapies (McWilliams, 2020). It might be that all varieties of psychotherapy relying on “treatment through speaking” are based on the views of Sigmund Freud and his successors.

However, even though there are considerable differences between different approaches, the working technique of psychodynamic therapists is driven by universal convictions and attitudes. The most significant is the subjective experience of the clients. This is why psychotherapists are interested in examining the individuals who attend their office and the complexity of their mental life. Unaware processes are amongst the aspects that play a considerable role in this process.

In psychodynamic psychotherapy, difficulties in functioning are seen as non-adaptive versions of common human tendencies. It is assumed that every life problem has its function. Therefore, mental disorders cannot be diagnosed and examined in detachment from the complexity of the experiences and environment of the client. The psychodynamic line of thinking about the human being became the foundation for a lot of theories which aim to describe the development of the mind and the mechanisms of its functioning. Even though a lot of psychoanalytical theories carry a mostly historical importance, new psychodynamic concepts keep appearing that use the recent studies in psychology, social sciences and neurobiology (Lingardi and McWilliams, 2019). A quickly developing science helps better understand the origin of disorders and simultaneously shows that the models of emotional or social functioning are related to the functioning of many an area of the nervous system and physiological mechanisms. As a result, scientific studies are a basis for the rule that it is difficult to deal with isolated problems without looking at their wider importance.

The psychodynamic approach assumes that “we are all only human” (McWilliams, 2020). For this reason, psychodynamic psychotherapists frequently undergo a long process of their own psychotherapy. Own work lets them better understand their development path and the dynamics of their own psyche. In consequence, the psychotherapists can use personal experience and “find the client in themselves” (Bollas, 2020). Regardless of the scope of the acquired knowledge, psychotherapists use intuition and emotions in their work (McWilliams, 2020). The nature of the psychotherapeutic relationship, which allows combining different aspects of the mind and the brain, was described – based on scientific studies – as the most significant factor affecting the effectiveness of the psychotherapy.

In the psychodynamic psychotherapy, a huge role is played by experiences in earlier relations of the client, which are often non-linguistic and function in the psyche in the form of representations, which are difficult to refer to with words (Wallin, 2011). The purpose of the psychodynamic treatment is the creation of conditions where experiences can not only be lived through, but also subjected to reflection, which increases the chances of the client to acquire the sense of security, flexibility and internal freedom.

The psychodynamic therapy assumes different forms – from short-term work with sessions once a week to long-term forms of work, where meetings can be organised at a higher frequency.

Children and teenagers in psychodynamic psychotherapy

Difficulties and mental suffering affect not only adults, but also people in the period of development, where models for engaging in relations with others and dealing with challenges posed by the environment are formed. Psychodynamic psychotherapy uses tools going beyond a “conversation” and allowing the psychotherapeutic relationship to be used also by younger clients, who give the psychotherapist access to their internal world for instance by involving them in play.

Working with children and teenagers often allows to contain the negative patterns of exchange with adults and peers which emerge during the development and which may over time lead to more and more difficulties in functioning (Lingardi and McWilliams, 2019). As a result, the psychotherapy allows to have a positive impact on the trajectory of development, giving younger clients an opportunity to use their full potential later in life.


Bollas C. (2020). Siły przeznaczenia. Psychoanaliza a idiom ludzki [Forces of destiny. Psychoanalysis and human idiom]. Warsaw: Ingenium Publishing House.

Lingardi V. i McWilliams N. (ed.). (2019). PDM-2. Podręcznik diagnozy psychodynamicznej. Tom 1 [PDM-2. Handbook of psychodynamic diagnosis. Volume 1]. Kraków: Jagiellonian University Press.

Lingardi V. i McWilliams N. (ed.). (2019). PDM-2. Podręcznik diagnozy psychodynamicznej. Tom 3 [PDM-2. Handbook of psychodynamic diagnosis. Volume 3]. Kraków: Jagiellonian University Press.

McWilliams N. (2020). Psychoterapia psychoanalityczna. Poradnik praktyka [Psychoanalytic therapy. Practitioner’s handbook]. Gdańsk: Harmonia Universalis.

Wallin D.J. (2011). Przywiązanie w psychoterapii [Attachment in psychotherapy]. Kraków: Jagiellonian University Press.

Rotate your screen to view website