EXPLORE Psychodynamic Therapy NEAR
You’ve heard of EMDR and CBT and perhaps even ‘evidence-based’ practices like DBT and EFT, but do you ever wonder what happened to the old-fashioned ‘talk therapy’ approach?
Perhaps what you’re thinking of is psychodynamic psychotherapy, and it’s very much alive and thriving in Los Angeles.
I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles with nearly a decade of experience using the theory that this therapy is grounded in. I have additional advanced training and certifications from both the Insitute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis and The Los Angeles Institute and Associations of Psychoanalytic Studies (LAISPS). Here are some of my thoughts on why this has a transformational impact on the clients I work with. For me, this is the theoretical backbone all of my work is based on.
BUT WHAT EXACTLY IS PSYCHODYNAMIC THERAPY?
Psychodynamic psychotherapy is an approach centered on the belief that an individual's unconscious beliefs play a significant role in shaping their external life. It’s an adaptation of classic psychoanalysis pioneered by Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein and the like. It aims to uncover the root causes of an individual's pain, suffering, and emotional distress to facilitate healing.
The mode of treatment is centered on the belief that an individual's unconscious beliefs play a significant role in shaping their external life. Psychodynamic therapists consider factors such as early life experiences, trauma, cultural background, and more to understand these underlying unconscious ideas that govern a person's life. I find that this holistic approach to therapy allows for a deeper understanding of you.
THE BENEFITS OF PSYCHODYNAMIC THERAPY
Gaining insight into yourself and unresolved conflicts
Helping with life transitions
Working through relationship or connection issues
Understanding unhelpful patterns or behaviors.
Identifying and changing dysfunctional patterns
Healing past internal wounds and addressing ongoing conflicts
Developing coping strategies for life's challenges
Enhancing interpersonal skills and relationship issues
Making mindful decisions
DOES PSYCHODYNAMIC THERAPY REALLY WORK?
Many studies show that this form of treatment has a substantial body of evidence supporting its effectiveness in both the short-term and long-term and I find that it is particularly suitable for complex and treatment-resistant mental health issues as well as with people experiencing depression anxiety:
Depression: This study shows that this modality was particularly effective for both moderately depressed patients and for severely depressed patients who have been feeling this way for over a year.
Anxiety: This study found that short-term psychodynamic therapy exhibited significantly greater improvements than those receiving other treatments, particularly in overall clinical improvement and interpersonal problems,
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - This study showed a 60% reduction in symptoms in PTSD patients, while another study found a 47% drop in depressive symptoms that sometimes accompany trauma.
In psychoanalytic type psychotherapy, the traditional analyst couch is not used; instead, the patient and therapist sit facing each other. Patients are encouraged to express themselves openly, while therapists maintain a neutral yet supportive stance. Throughout the sessions, therapists may take notes and ask for clarification. They attentively listen to identify self-destructive patterns and beliefs that often originate in early childhood and unconsciously influence one's life and perspective. Counselors collaborate with individuals to help them recognize these unconscious behavioral patterns and prevent them from hindering personal growth.
The Goals of Psychodynamic Therapy
The goals of depth-oriented counseling are a little different from other therapies, and revolve around fostering self-awareness in clients and helping them grasp the profound impact of their past experiences on their current behavior. This is awareness helps us understand our own reactions to situations and patterns we get stuck in. The aim is to help clients gain the opportunity to explore unresolved conflicts from their past and get relief from the symptoms that bring them in to treatment. We often find these symptoms are likely to stem, in some part, from past dysfunctional relationships or unresolved issues. from our childhood.
Are you going to ask me about my childhood?
Unless you strongly object, yes. A key component in the psychology of this therapeutic process involves a comprehensive exploration of a client's past, particularly their early childhood experiences. These experiences form the foundation of who we are today and significantly impact our adult behavioral patterns. The objective is not to dig up the past just for the sake of it but rather to gain insights into how developmental trauma or patterns may obstruct progress in one's current life.
If you're interested in understanding yourself on a deeper level, book a free consultation call today.
I'm a Licensed Therapist with specialized training in psychoanalytic treatment. I provide in-person services to prospective clients in Los Angeles and online sessions or telehealth sessions to anyone whose home is in California. I also offer family therapy and couples counseling.
THE PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORY
The central objective of depth-oriented approaches is to enhance our ability and understanding of how we work and operate in the world on a daily basis, so that we have more choices available to us, and a greater range of feelings and memories. Some of the important principles of this type of treatment are here:
OUR MINDS & UNCONSCIOUS
Insight oriented therapists think of the mind as comprising of three components:
the unconscious portion of the mind, responding impulsively to basic desires and needs, as well as buried memories.
The ego- serves as a mediator between the unconscious and the external world, taking into account societal norms and realities and delaying immediate urges to prevent adverse consequences.
The inner critic helps us operate within established moral and ethical boundaries. It functions as a guardian, stopping us from acting out on primal urges and keeping us operating within accepted societal values.
Defense mechanisms are a group of covert strategies employed to shield an individual from distressing or unacceptable thoughts and emotions. Defenses are a very natural part of being human that develops in childhood when we are too young to deal with overwhelming feelings. However, when employed inappropriately or excessively, they can lead to unhealthy life decisions and a lack of clarity about ourselves.
A famous defense we’ve heard of is ‘denial’. Have you ever forgotten to pay a bill or accidentally deleted an email from your bank? That’s some version of denial; when faced with a problem that overwhelms our mental capacity, we may unconsciously overlook it or deny its existence. While many people employ denial in their everyday lives, its extreme manifestation can lead to consequential errors, such as ignoring a spouse's infidelity, neglecting financial planning, or neglecting exam preparation.
TRUST. PRIVACY AND SAFETY
In depth-oriented treatment, clients are encouraged to say whatever comes into their mind without editing, a process we refer to as free association. For this to become easier, your therapist has first to establish a secure safe space and non-judgmental environment so that you can express yourself without restraint. In this setting, the patient takes the lead in the conversation, discussing whatever thoughts or feelings come to mind spontaneously.
The therapist's primary role is to spot patterns, listen actively, and attentively absorb the content while identifying potential conflicts and opportunities for deeper exploration and self-awareness. We call this the therapeutic alliance, and it's statistically shown to be a vital part of treatment success.
Tailoring Psychodynamic Therapy to the Los Angeles Lifestyle
Living in Los Angeles, particularly for creative types such as writers and actors, can come with its own set of challenges. The pressure to succeed in the highly competitive entertainment industry can take a toll on one's mental health and well-being. This is where psychodynamic therapy can be beneficial.
Understanding the Unique Stressors of City Life
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on uncovering unconscious thoughts and patterns of behavior that may be influencing current struggles or conflicts. For creative individuals who often delve into their inner world for inspiration, this type of therapy can provide a deeper understanding of oneself and help navigate the complexities of their personal and professional lives. Los Angeles, being a hub for the entertainment industry, offers plenty of resources for individuals seeking psychodynamic therapy tailored to their unique needs and experiences. By exploring the depths of their psyche, writers and actors in Los Angeles can gain insight into their creative process, overcome blocks or insecurities, and develop a stronger sense of self.
Psychodynamic therapy provides a safe and non-judgmental space where individuals can freely express themselves and explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It allows for a deeper understanding of the unconscious forces that may be influencing their behaviors and choices. With the support of a skilled therapist, individuals can develop healthier coping mechanisms, improve relationships, enhance creativity, and achieve personal growth. In a city like Los Angeles, where the pursuit of success in the entertainment industry can be overwhelming, psychodynamic therapy offers a valuable tool for self-discovery and self-care.
If you're interested in learning more about the relationship between mental health professionals and movie makers, check out this book "Hollywood On The Couch".
Resources for further reading
If you want to understand more about insight oriented counseling in Los Angeles, and how it works, why not check out some of these resources:
Not Your Daddy's Freud - a great article from the New York Times about Psychoanalysis in 2023.
Couch Fiction by Philippa Perry and Junko Graat - complicated psychoanalytic ideas such as transference and projection are made simple (and funny)
Healing the Shame That Binds You - John Bradshaw. One of the first books I was assigned before starting Grad School, it's not strictly psychoanalytic, but it's foundation is helpful.