Frequently Asked Questions About Psychodynamics

Have you ever experienced an emotional breakdown? Did you ever suffer from a personal issue, whether big or small, and did not know how to cope? Or perhaps, have you been to a certain point when you fail to understand your thoughts?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you might need to learn a thing or two about psychodynamics.


Psychodynamics, or psychodynamic psychology, is an approach that explains our behavior’s origins. It emphasizes unconscious psychological processes and motivational forces. Psychodynamics is largely credited to Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology.

Back then, Freud paid close attention to past childhood experiences. He also studied how these conscious and unconscious drivers are crucial in shaping your personality. 

Building upon this, modern psychodynamic therapy assumes that human beings are complex creatures. Therefore, therapists look into a person’s emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and early life experiences. There is an emphasis on problem resolution and developing personal insight.  

Today, we will dive deep into psychodynamic therapy. We will learn the concepts and theories Freud and his successors have built over the years. There will also be a discussion on how these theories are applied in practice.

We will answer questions about the process, techniques used and expected outcomes. Most importantly, we will learn how this can help you with your own personal and interpersonal struggles.

Note that undergoing psychodynamic therapy is not only for people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Psychodynamic therapy can give you the tools to process and cope with your emotions.

To know more, here are frequently asked questions about psychodynamic therapy and how it can help you.

What is an example of psychodynamic therapy?

Brief psychodynamic therapy (BPT), as the name suggests, is relatively done in just a few sessions. There are other categories of therapies under psychodynamic therapy, each applying the psychodynamic theory in different ways.

BPT is recommended for people who are showing psychiatric symptoms due to specific or unknown reasons. For example, it can be applied to those who experienced traumatic situations, such as an accident, rape, or a terrorist attack.

BPT determines the source of anxiety to create a coping strategy, which can sometimes be accomplished in one session.

What are the psychodynamic concepts?

First, our behavior and emotions are strongly influenced by our unconscious mind, which contains our biological tendencies. Second, our personality as adults is significantly shaped by our early childhood experiences. Third, our thoughts, motives, behavior, and emotions do not happen randomly; each of them has a cause or is determined.

Something as simple as accidentally saying a word or choosing a seat in a room has an underlying reason. Lastly, our personality consists of three parts, the primitive id, the ego in charge, and the noble superego.

What does psychodynamic therapy focus on?

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on bringing the unconscious processes in a client’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior into their consciousness. In implementing this focus, psychodynamic therapy raises client self-awareness and facilitates understanding of their present selves concerning their past.

Through self-awareness, the client can catch and examine the patterns in their unconscious mind. They also need to understand how unconscious patterns developed from life-changing or unresolved experiences in their past, especially in childhood.

Through these two goals, the client can deal with their mental disturbances such as anxiety or depression.

What are the key features of the psychodynamic approach?

The psychodynamic approach’s key features include the unconscious mind, childhood influences, determinist views, and tripartite personalities. It also examines defense mechanisms, which are mental strategies that we unconsciously use in dealing with mental disturbances. 

This approach also applies the five psychosexual development phases of a person: oral, anal, phallic, genital, and latency.

Another key feature is psychosocial development, which has eight stages spanning from early childhood to adulthood. These stages introduce a psychosocial crisis analyzing our interpersonal relationships since these greatly affect our personality development.

What techniques are used in psychodynamic therapy?

Psychodynamic therapists encourage “open discussions, ” where clients can speak their minds to uncover unconscious behavior. Therapists also use “free association,” reading a word list for clients to reply with the first word in their minds. Another technique is the Rorschach inkblots, which allow a therapist to conclude a client’s interpretation of an inkblot.

Therapists also use Freudian slips, stating that words we accidentally say reveal an unmet desire or deep meaning. Lastly, “dream analysis” can also be applied since dreams are a window to our unconscious mind.

What can I expect from psychodynamic therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy is a depth therapy, so expect that you will be analyzed to the core of your being. With that said, also expect to dig up and confront unresolved inner conflicts, especially from your early childhood experiences.

Unlike other therapies, psychodynamic therapy sessions are not structured since they need to be open discussions to reveal your unconscious patterns. Every plan that you bring up in the session is also subjected to your therapist’s psychodynamic interpretation.

By the end, a client can expect to have developed healthier coping strategies to deal with the mental issues they face.


How long does psychodynamic therapy take?

A psychodynamic therapy session usually lasts for an hour and is held once or twice a week. Short-term therapy can take 25 sessions, and long-term therapy can reach two years or more. This duration varies depending on the number or depth of mental issues that a client is facing.

This therapy is often commended for being a shorter and simpler version of psychoanalysis therapy, excluding their evident differences.

What is the difference between CBT and psychodynamic therapy?

CBT focuses on a client’s thinking and beliefs, while psychodynamic therapy focuses on their emotional behaviors. CBT is usually a short-term therapy, unlike the latter, which can either be short-term or long-term. CBT also explores the client’s current personality, while psychodynamic therapy looks into their past, specifically their early childhood.

CBT is for people with dysfunctional thought processes, and the other one is fitting for people with mental health issues and personality disorders. CBT is for people ready to improve themselves, while psychodynamic therapy is more interpersonal than improving relationships.

What is psychodynamic therapy good for?

Psychodynamic therapy is good for treating mental disturbances or psychological disorders due to specific, traumatic events or unknown reasons. Studies show that psychodynamic therapy can help people with social anxiety and addiction, such as eating disorders.

It can help people who are having trouble finding meaning in their lives or have already lost it. It is also recommended for people who cannot seem to create or maintain healthy interpersonal relationships.

Psychodynamic therapy is generally good for people seeking to develop healthy coping strategies to deal with unresolved inner conflicts.

What are the weaknesses of the psychodynamic approach?

First is the false memory syndrome, where clients tend to recall false memories when asked to reflect on distressing experiences. Second, the approach is restricting as it believes that there is no free will, and every behavior has meaning. Third, the psychodynamic theory cannot be scientifically proven such that no practical tool can measure the unconscious mind.

Next, this approach neglects biological factors like genes that might have shaped the present self instead of just interpersonal relationships. Also, there is cultural bias since non-western cultures do not like or avoid reflecting on unpleasant memories in the past.

How successful is psychodynamic?

Various scientific researches have already proven the success of psychodynamic therapy among clients with different mental health issues. In his study, The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Jonathan Shedler, Ph.D., says,  “The actual scientific evidence shows that psychodynamic therapy is highly effective.

The benefits are at least as large as those of other psychotherapies, and they last.” With more people interested in this modern psychoanalysis approach, Jonathan shares that more than 160 studies are conducted.

These studies were able to show that clients experienced relief and sustained improvement even after the treatment.

Can psychodynamic therapy help anxiety?

A study by Falk Leichsenring D.Sc.  showed that psychodynamic therapy is helpful for people with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Over 57 participants engaged in 30 weekly 50 minute sessions for psychodynamic therapy or CBT. Their mental state was measured using standard scales and questionnaires before and after the series of therapies.

In conclusion, psychodynamic therapy nearly matched CBT as both treatments resulted in a significant improvement from the participant’s GAD symptoms.

How long should you go to therapy?

Based on research, 50% of the clients need 15 to 20 sessions to have worthwhile improvements. However, these may change depending on the severity of a client’s condition or the treatment plan agreed with the therapist. People who undergo longer treatment lengths are known to show better and significant recovery.

But if you no longer appreciate your sessions, immediately address your concerns regarding your treatment course with your therapist. It is essential to develop a trusting relationship with your therapist because it can negatively affect your treatment.

Is it normal to cry after therapy?

It is normal to cry as clients regularly confront intense feelings throughout their time in therapy. Especially once you allow yourself to be vulnerable, overwhelming emotions can make their way out through tears. Some people can better express themselves through crying, which is okay because therapy is a safe space to be themselves.

However, if your crying still unsettles you, feel free to bring that up with your therapist. Your therapist can guide you through why you feel that way and how you can better handle it.


As a perspective in psychology, the psychodynamic approach has been reinventing itself over the past decades. Simply put, psychodynamics attempts to understand our behaviors and emotions through diving into our unconscious minds and past experiences.

Psychodynamics allows us to become more self-aware of our past experiences and how they affect us at present. 

Psychodynamic therapists use different techniques to dig up repressed memories. They do this with care because it’s imperative that you feel safe and comfortable. With this comes an openness to sharing your thoughts and feelings.

Given enough time, it can help us improve not only ourselves but our relationships as well. An hour-long therapy session is conducted once or twice a week.

There are short-term and long-term therapy options, with the latter reaching two or more years. The goal is for you to have better coping mechanisms for your inner conflicts.

Despite its acknowledged weaknesses, there is no doubt many people now enjoy the benefits of psychodynamic therapy. Since this approach digs deep into the unconscious, psychodynamics provides you with emotional relief that lasts long after your therapy has ended.

Whether you have a mental or psychological condition such as anxiety, psychodynamics can provide you with better life quality.

Do you think psychodynamic therapy can help you develop better coping mechanisms for your everyday problems? If yes, then seeking help from a psychodynamic therapist will help you process your thoughts. They have years of knowledge and experience on how to create the perfect treatment plan for you.