In order to understand how psychodynamic counselors facilitate change through a therapeutic relationship with their client, it is worth discussing what psychodynamic therapy is, how it is used, how it originated, and who some of its most notable founders were. Towards the end of this document, in the description of how psychodynamic therapy is used, descriptions of recent psychodynamic therapy sessions that the author undertook in a triad setting will be described.
The mind, personality, and psyche are terms that refer to the interrelationships of a person's mental, emotional, or what could be termed psychological characteristics. Another way to think of this is that the psyche, mind, and personality are the forces that drive a person to think what they do, to act out how they choose, the way a person relates to themselves and how they relate to the world around them particularly the role their unconscious plays in this. Psychodynamic theory categorizes the analysis of a person's character by analyzing emotional and inner forces such as the relationship between emotional states and a person's motivation, on a subconscious level and how this plays out with regards to a person's behavioral and mental state of mind (Hall 1954).
The German physicist and physiologist Ernst Wilhelm von Brucke first proposed psychodynamic theory in 1874 (Gay 1989). Interestingly, psychodynamic theory is greatly influenced by a field of physics called thermodynamics, which states that all living organisms are made of energy. Brucke was a notable influence on Sigmund Freud. Freud further applied the laws of dynamics to personality that Brucke proposed, and developed, psychodynamic psychology as a method to describe the complex processes of the mind (Bowlby 1999). He theorized that every person carried a psychological energy that was in constant change such that emotional changes occurred in displacements, that it tended to rest through emotional cleansing, or catharsis. In other words, psychological energy represents the changes of energy within the personality. Psychodynamic psychology also seeks to understand how this psychological energy changes within the personality, for example, the interrelationship and psychological energy dynamics between the id (aspect of personality that acts on subconscious or unconscious instincts), ego (aspect of the personality grounded in realism), and superego, which constitutes aspects of the personality that critiques, specifically morals (Snowden 2006). Specifically, understanding these dynamics in relationship to early childhood experiences and the effect on personality development (Snowden 2006). Additionally, psychodynamic psychology seeks understanding the dynamics between the id, superego, and ego, the innate behavior and thought patterns, upon a person's mental states including their motivation for doing and thinking what they do. This motivation, or driving force, is what Freud called "Trieb," which is the German word for instinct or drive (Gay 1989). Freud's most famous contribution to psychodynamic theory is his development of personality which centers around the effects of sexual pleasure on the psyche of an individual, and the reference listed can direct the reader to more information regarding this Freudian theory (Gay 1989).
Over time, psychodynamics continued to grow. Carl Jung, a psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, was greatly influenced by Freud although Jung and Freud's theories diverged (Hannah 1976). Jung is perhaps most famous for dream interpretation, and exploring the human psyche on a more profound level. Jung made observations first, and then categorized his findings rather than the other way around which is what Freud did (Snowden 2006). Jung made some very important contributions to psychodynamic therapy. Jung spent much of his time exploring Eastern and Western philosophy, astrology, sociology, literature, the arts, and these areas of study contributed to his dream analysis and the unconscious in terms of themes and symbols that arose as a result from both his studies and analysis (Hannah 1976).
He considered the process of psychological integration, or the process by which an individual becomes whole, the most effective method in uniting the conscious self with the unconscious self (Jung et al. 1989). This process is what he termed individuation, and it became the basis for analytical psychology (Jung et al. 1989).
Just as Freud was responsible for psychological concepts such as the id, superego and ego, Jung also was responsible for many psychological concepts still studied and used today. These include the following:
1. The archetype, which is an original model, e.g. something innate, serves as a basis for psychoanalytic observations, thus ideas based on the interpretations of those observations. Archetypes can be represented by mythology and/or other symbols, e.g. A water jug;
2. The collective conscious, which is a term that describes how the unconscious mind categorizes and organizes personal experiences in a similar way for each member of a specific species, e.g. The phenomenon known as "Love at first sight." Jung also believed that this is where an individuals archetypes existed and where they would express themselves through myths, bodies of water, and the like;
3. The complex, which is a term describing a collection of memories specific to an archetype;
4. Synchronicity, which describes the logical relationship between ideas that can occur simultaneously, and be similar, but aren't necessarily causally related. Jung thought that ideas or thoughts that occurred with synchronicity revealed underlying patterns of the unconscious. (Jung et al. 1989).
Interestingly, Jung's theories contributed to the development of a commonly used personality test today called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
The divergence of ideas between Jung and Freud is thought to be due to their incompatible theories regarding the unconscious. Both agreed that there existed a personal conscious, which is really Jung's term for Freud's unconscious (Hannah 1976). However, Jung thought that Freud's view of the unconscious was predominately focused on repressed emotions, desires, and fantasies. Jung believed that there was much more to the unconscious, which led Jung to coin the term collective conscious (described above).
Jung's major contributions to psychodynamic psychology can be summarized as follows:
"The psyche tends toward wholeness, the self is composed of the ego, the personal unconscious, the collective unconscious; the collective unconscious contains the archetypes which manifest in ways particular to each individual; archetypes are composed of dynamic tensions and arise spontaneously in the individual and collective psyche. Archetypes are autonomous energies common to the human species. They give the psyche its dynamic properties and help organize it. Their effects can be seen in many forms and across cultures; the Transcendent Function: the emergence of the third resolves the split between dynamic polar tensions within the archetypal structure; the recognition of the spiritual dimension of the human psyche; the role of images which spontaneously arise in the human psyche (images include the interconnection between affect, images, and instinct) to communicate the dynamic processes taking place in the personal and collective unconscious, images which can be used to help the ego move in the direction of psychic wholeness; recognition of the multiplicity of psyche and psychic life, that there are several organizing principles within the psyche, and that they are at times in conflict," (Psychology Wikia / psychodynamics n.d.).
There are many other forms of psychodynamic theories. Other notable contributors to psychodynamic therapy include Anna Freud. Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud, based her theories of the role ego plays in child-parent attachments on psychodynamics. From these theories, she then developed a field of psychology called ego psychology (Jarvis 2003). Primarily, this school of thought concerns itself with ego preservation especially with the use of defense mechanisms (Jarvis 2003). Other notable contributors include, but are not limited to Alfred Adler, Melanie Klein, who was of the object relations school of thought whereby relationships to others, especially the mother, are emphasized, Harry Guntrip, Erik Erikson, who was a student of Anna Freud, Erich Fromm, who was influenced by Freud but had divergent thoughts regarding the unconscious, and many others (Kristeva & Guberman 2001, Jarvis 2003).
More specifically, psychodynamic therapy is a form of depth psychology, which utilizes both Jungian psychology and psychoanalysis. Depth psychology examines the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious (Stepping Stones n.d.). Although psychodynamic therapy is similar to psychoanalysis, they differ in that in psychodynamic therapy, the total length of time a person spends in therapy is less than other forms of psychotherapy. Sessions are usually once a week, and the individual and therapist sit facing one another. Whereas other forms of therapy involve the therapist not saying much in the session, the psychodynamic approach is one that encourages the therapist to speak a lot (Jarvis 2003).
Psychodynamic therapy also differs from other forms of psychotherapy, including depth psychology due to the greater emphasis on the interpersonal relationship between client and therapist. The psychodynamic therapist usually will focus their therapeutic approach in addressing maladaptive thoughts and behaviors that have developed early in life and often lead to a disconnect between the individual's conscious and unconscious, i.e. The individual's thoughts, behaviors, and actions stem from the individual's unconscious based on how that individual developed as a child to resolve what the root of the maladaptive behaviors are. This allows the individual to be…