Friday, October 7, 2011


Having studied many books on theories, modalities, and techniques of psychotherapy, I have come to believe that they are born from the culmination of their author’s autobiographical experiences. Reflecting on my own personal penchants for certain theoretical orientations toward therapy, I found that my character and life experiences also shaped my beliefs and preferences for certain therapeutic models.

          I lived at a time when psychoanalysis was the rock of psychotherapy. However, even though I had only a vague awareness of the importance of Freud, I naturally found myself searching past relationships and early childhood experiences (while I was still a child) in an effort to understand who I was and why my family and I behaved in certain ways.

No doubt, cultural influences affected my beliefs on how to answer questions about relationships. However, I am not consciously aware of the depth to which a Freud-revering culture directly affected me. I do know, however, that as far back as I can remember, it always made sense that people “acted like” or “reacted to” their primary caregivers. The following years of my life have only served to strengthen my belief that understanding and helping others and myself depended on an understanding of early human patterns of behaviors and experiences. Therefore, in a sense, this post is also somewhat autobiographical.

Psychodynamic vs. Psychoanalytic Theory

Since my childhood and adolescence, the field of psychotherapy has rejected much of Freudian theory and has infused many other therapeutic approaches, all which have merit and contain helpful insight and information. I found truth in them all. Yet my earlier psychoanalytic penchant for approaching therapy keeps bubbling to the surface.

I believe the similarity of psychoanalysis with psychodynamics is why some aspects of psychodynamic therapy appeal to me more than other modes of therapy. To clarify, the governing principles of psychodynamic therapy have its roots in psychoanalysis. However, major differences exist between these two theories to the extent in which each theory attempts to enact and support change.

Psychodynamic theory has at its core the alleviation of symptoms and some character change: limited but significant. Psychoanalysis has as its goal “major and pervasive character change along a number of dimensions”. Yet psychodynamics has its roots in the same constructs that govern psychoanalysis. The guiding principles they share include:

1.     the impact of early relationships on adult functioning, the unconscious as a motivational force,
2.     the compulsion to repeat patterns,
3.     the avoidance of remembering that which is too painful to remember,
4.     And transference of clients onto therapists of the attachment style influenced by one of their primary caretakers.

          In an ideal world of treating clients, I prefer to have the time, resources, and suitable type of clients with which to practice psychodynamic therapy, believing it to be more appropriate for more clients than psychoanalysis. However, the state of psychotherapeutic practice today is usually far from this ideal.

Helping others in whatever way is most appropriate and effective must be the main goal of psychotherapy. Clients return to mental health is paramount, not the clinician’s private enjoyment in using certain theories over others. Even though at times I have adopted a whatever-it-takes approach to therapy, using eclecticism (for lack of a better technique) to weave a pathway into understanding clients’ issues, I have tried to create building-blocks and bridges to help them find a solid road out of the morass of pain, confusion, and self-sabotaging behaviors. These efforts are always accompanied by maintaining a psychoanalytic perspective in creating the hypothesis and treatment with clients.



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