What Is Psychodynamic Therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy is a form of talk therapy used to treat mental health conditions. It’s actually the most commonly referenced type of therapy in pop culture, often linked to the phrase ‘how does that make you feel?’ In today’s mental health practices, it has ironically become much less widely used than other types of therapy. The most common therapeutic methods used today are interpersonal therapy (IPT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). With psychodynamic therapy, the goal is to understand how past experiences influence current behaviors. Therapies like CBT and IPT are used to eliminate symptoms of disorders, while psychodynamic therapy’s goal is to foster an understanding of how those disorders developed in the first place.

Defining Psychodynamic Therapy


Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy are based around behaviors. They aim to help patients stop engaging in behaviors and unhealthy coping mechanisms that cause harm to them and those around them. Psychodynamic therapy, on the other hand, isn’t based around external behaviors. Instead, it focuses on what happens inside the patient’s head before anything is externalized. It analyzes their emotional and mental processes. The theory is by helping clients find patterns and causes for their behavior, they can gain self-awareness and insight. This clarity can help them to break the pattern in the future. One of the core aspects of psychodynamic therapy is the theory that early experiences have extremely strong influences over how an individual’s emotions and thoughts develop. The client is meant to find the puzzle pieces that help them understand themselves, and then turn those puzzle pieces into a more positive identity.

Continue reading to learn about the similarities of psychodynamic therapy to other therapies now.