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Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

The three most common and widely used modalities in modern psychotherapy are behavioral,cognitive, and psychodynamic.

A psychologist with a behavioral orientation prescribes specific tasks to clients in order to change their maladaptive (not working) behavior in a given life situation. A psychologist with a cognitive orientation teaches a client how to recognize and change his/her maladaptive thought processes. As a result of these cognitive modifications, one's behavior will change.

Unlike practitioners of other modalities, a psychologist with a psychodynamic orientation attends to the client's subjective experience and explores its unconscious meaning in order to get at the deep roots of the issue. The psychodynamic psychologist helps clients explore the unconscious (internal) dynamics that are influencing their behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and relationships. Since a person’s internal world is always in dynamic interaction with the external world, a psychodynamic psychologist works with both the client's internal and external reality.

The psychodynamic attitude is about a particular way of listening. Some clients may have little, if any, experience of another person helping them to make sense of what they feel. In this situation, therapeutic work starts not with uncovering meaning, but rather with helping clients build a relationship within which they can articulate what they feel before they can begin to explore why they feel a particular way.

The psychodynamic approach takes into consideration that the client-therapist relationship is affected by the perceived differences (e.g., of age, culture) and similarities between the client and the therapist. This is openly explored in psychodynamic psychotherapy, not only because these perceptions have meaning, but also because left unexplored, they become the source of misunderstanding between the client and psychotherapist.

Psychodynamic psychologists work to understand and address the deep roots of their clients’ issues. To this end, they strive to make use of the therapeutic relationship as a vehicle for change and create an appropriate therapeutic environment in which their clients are able to articulate, explore, and resolve their issues.