Psychodynamic Therapy

Find out how psychodynamic therapy can be used in alcohol and addiction recovery with this detailed guide, including the basic treatment process.

While conducting psychodynamic therapy, a therapist will examine the subconscious thought processes of the client and determine how they affect that individual’s current behavior. The past has a direct correlation with how a person thinks and acts in the present. This can lead them to conduct harmful activities, such as alcohol and drug addiction, or suffer from mental illnesses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. These past actions can range from unresolved conflicts to dysfunctional relationships. These can manifest themselves years later without the client’s realization that they are connected to their current substance abuse.

What is Psychodynamic Therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy is a highly interactive process between the therapist and the client. It involves numerous sessions (up to three times a week) over a lengthy period of time, which can span several years. This is because the ultimate aim is to teach an individual a new mental skill, to eliminate the mental connection between any past conflicts and present-day substance abuse. The therapist has to guide their client along the path to recovery, delving deep into their psyche to uncover any past-to-present connections. Both parties then have to work together to lead the client to a better life where they are free from any past events and do not feel the need to abuse drugs or alcohol.

Basic Psychodynamic Therapy Techniques

Within each session, the client and therapist usually sit face-to-face with the therapist doing most of the talking. In this way, they can then guide the client along in the recovery process, stepping them through their past as well as their subconscious actions and determining how the two are linked together.

One key component to these sessions is that the therapist builds a relationship with the client, leading them into a situation where they feel comfortable and relaxed enough to let their deepest, most hidden feelings and memories come out. During these sessions, a therapist will test out their relationship with the client, drawing on their academic background so as to discover more about the individual than that person may realize themselves. For this reason, psychodynamic therapy takes a lot longer than other treatment options.

In psychodynamic therapy, a therapist tries to judge several aspects about the client, including:

* The level to which an individual is in touch with their own feelings
* Any feelings which a client is unaware of
* The depth at which these feelings are buried in the subconscious
* The pain that these feelings can bring
* The tolerance that a client will have to this pain

Benefits of Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy seeks an answer to a client’s current issues. It recognizes that the past can directly affect the present, whether consciously aware of it or not. The therapy works toward discovering these links and give an individual a better understanding of why they are behaving in a particular way. With regards to substance abuse, this type of therapy can then provide the right motivation to stop using as this better understanding will provide the client with the answers that they need to halt their current harmful activities and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Since psychodynamic therapy focuses on self-evaluation and awareness, its effects are often noticed for years after the formal sessions are finished. In fact, one study has noted that the benefits of this type of therapy actually grow and improve as the years go by. This is in contrast to most other options, such as symptom-focused treatments. Throughout their sessions, clients will learn how to look into their own minds and determine the reasons for their present actions. While this may start as a method to prevent further substance abuse, it is actually a useful skill which can be used to lead a happier life.

Transference in Therapy

One of the key elements of psychodynamic therapy is the requirement for a client to transfer their feelings onto the therapist. This provides the therapist with a unique method of examining a client’s thoughts and behavior which will give them a better insight into how their actions are being controlled by the past. While this treatment setting can only be created with the right type of client and the proper psychological procedures, it can open up a window into an individual’s psyche which will then give that person a better chance of recovery than can be found within most clinical therapy processes.

Criticisms of Psychodynamic Therapy

The most obvious drawback to psychodynamic therapy is that it can span several years. For more motivated clients or more serious cases, sessions need to be arranged two or three times a week. Since this type of therapy is not covered by standard insurance policies, it can become quite costly, especially over the long-term. While this method can be quite effective, many substance abusers may not be able to afford it.

As well as this, psychodynamic therapy is also not a guaranteed success, as the final outcome depends on the type of client. Some individuals find that it works wonders for them and that they benefit from positive results years after the therapy has been completed. Others though may be put off by the personal nature of the process and quit after a few sessions. Since the therapist has to form a bond with their client in order to probe their inner psyche, some individuals may not be comfortable with the overall procedure.

Finally, some people may simply be encouraged to choose an option other than psychodynamic therapy. This is because this method focuses on the reasons why an individual is abusing drugs and alcohol rather than the symptoms that they experience in the present. As it is a long-term solution to help someone recover from their addiction, some may feel that they require an alternative treatment to eliminate current risks instead. This is especially true if the habits of an individual are putting themselves and those around them in any danger. The more pressing issues will have to be dealt with beforehand. Once they are under control, however, a client can then seek out professional help to determine the connections between present-day actions and any past events which may have caused them.