The basic theme running through the various schools of psychodynamic therapy is the belief in the existence of the unconscious mind and the psychological forces which shape our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. They believe that our external behaviour is merely the result of the interplay of these psychological forces and the manifestation of our inner needs. Stated differently, the unconscious mind has great influence over the conscious mind and the past continues to impact the present.
When a psychodynamic therapist works with a patient, the therapist helps the patient understand the deeper meanings of his/her behaviour and feelings, as well as his/her needs, rather than give the patient advice about his/her problem. Through knowing and understanding the reasons for feeling, thinking, and behaving in a certain way, the person hopefully will opt for more positive approaches. Since the therapist abstains from giving advice and counsel to the patient, psychodynamic therapy is a type of non-directive, exploratory therapy.
Psychodynamic therapy may be of short, medium or long duration. Short term or brief focal psychodynamic therapy takes up to 8 to 10 sessions. Long term therapy may take 5 to 10 years, usually on a weekly or twice weekly frequency. Within the psychodynamic therapeutic framework, the patient attends his/her session regularly for a set period of time, speaking freely about his/her feelings, problems, difficulties and concerns, to the therapist, who will attempt to help the patient interpret them in more depth.
Psychodynamic therapy is a useful form of therapy. It especially suits those who have the capacity for reflection and introspection, and who wants to understand themselves at a deeper level. It requires a commitment of time and effort. Furthermore, the patient must be able to tolerate the non-directiveness of the therapist.