Psychodynamic Therapy - Dr. Judith Zackson


Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the psychological roots of emotional suffering, and is effective for a wide range of problems, including depression, anxiety, panic and stress-related physical ailments. This type of therapy involves self-reflection, self-examination, and sometimes, looking at the relationship between the therapist and the client as a window into problems the client has in relationships outside of therapy. The therapist helps the client put words to feelings, including those that are troubling or threatening, and those that the client may not at first recognize or acknowledge. In addition, the therapist helps client explore recurring patterns in their lives that are troublesome. In some cases, a client may be acutely aware of patterns that are painful or self-defeating but feel unable to escape them (e.g., a man who repeatedly finds himself drawn to romantic partners who are emotionally unavailable; a woman who regularly sabotages herself when success is at hand). In other cases, the client may be unaware of such patterns until the therapist helps him or her recognize and understand them.

Psychodynamic therapists recognize that past experiences affect how we live in the present. It is important to explore early experiences, the relation between past and present, and the ways in which the past tends to “live on” in the present. The focus is not on the past for its own sake, but rather on how the past sheds light on current psychological difficulties. The goal is to help clients free themselves from the bonds of past experience in order to live more fully in the present.

Psychodynamic therapy aims not only to alleviate the most obvious symptoms but to help people lead healthier lives by getting to the root of the problem. For example, depression can be thought of, not as a disease, but rather a symptom of something underlying it, much like a fever. Fever is a nonspecific response to a wide range of underlying conditions, from the common cold to life threatening diseases. Diagnosis does not end with taking a patient’s temperature. Similarly, depression is a nonspecific response to a wide range of underlying difficulties. The psychodynamic therapist recognizes the need to treat the underlying causes of the depression (“fever”).

Successful psychodynamic therapy should not only relieve symptoms but also help the client develop insight and build up their psychological capacities and resources. These might include the capacity to:

  • Have More Fulfilling Relationships
  • Make More Effective Use Of One’s Talents And Abilities
  • Maintain A Realistic Sense of Self-Esteem
  • Tolerate A Wider Range Of Emotional Experiences
  • Have More Satisfying Sexual Experiences
  • Understand Oneself And Others In More Nuanced And Sophisticated Ways
  • Face Life’s Challenges With Greater Freedom And Flexibility