Psychodynamic Counselling

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Why you should consider psychodynamic counselling

Psychodynamic counselling is a modern version of counselling developed from psychoanalysis.  It is a form of counselling that enables you to understand the way you relate to people, to the world, and to yourself, and so develop a more satisfying, constructive and sustainable way of living.

Psychodynamic counselling in different ways will incorporate valuable psychoanalytic ideas:

  • it is a talking therapy based upon over 100 years of carefully researched work
  • understand your developmental history
  • understand the way you hold ideas about people from your past in your mind, object relating, and how you project ideas about those former relationships onto people in your life now
  • It is interested in understanding how you relate to your counsellor, and to use that insight and information to help you understand how you relate to yourself and other people
  • Is interested in your dreams, your day dreams, your spontaneous gestures
  • include conscious and unconscious material
  • understand the way the past has shaped you and to bring to light the things you may have forgotten or preferred to forget about the past.
  • help understand your hopes for how your imagination and creativity might shape your future

psychodynamic counselling - counselling buckinghamshire

Psychodynamic counselling can enable deep personal development

Essentially all the client has to do is turn up, you don’t have to go out of your way to prepare anything.  Psychodynamic counselling doesn’t create or rely upon regimes of homework, it doesn’t encourage you to do anything contrived or artificial, it is a therapy that aims to bring more of your creativity and originality to light. Psychodynamic counselling could help you live in a more natural and genuine way.  It is a therapy based around talking, a conversation. Predominantly the client talks and the counsellor listens and draws attention to the clients’ material.

There is a strand of psychodynamic work that sees the counsellor as pronouncing important interpretations on the client’s material.  To my mind interpreting is of secondary importance to helping the conversation develop. The counsellor is not there to make clever interpretations, they are there to provide a consistent and carefully managed environment in which the client can become comfortable enough to speak with less censorship.

Psychodynamic Counselling and Psychoanalysis

Psychotherapeutic models are easily caricatured, psychoanalysis particularly so.  It is often represented as endlessly backward looking, blaming the failures of the past for how your life has turned out like a version of Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall.  So it is represented as being all about sexual desire, particularly childhood sexuality.  It is the case that Freud thought deeply about the importance and impact of sexuality on our lives.

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung

A modern interpretation of Freud might argue that the Oedipus complex refers to how an individual has to come to terms with what it can and cannot have more broadly than as a question of its infantile sexual desire of the mother. Freud’s colleagues, notably Adler and Jung disputed the importance of particular ideas that Freud held as crucial.  Jung argued that the the importance of sex in Freud’s developmental theories was overstated.


Carl Jung
Carl Jung

Jung saw libido as referring to more than sexuality, Jung saw libido as referring to our creative and imaginative energies too.  These arguments led to splits within

psychoanalysis, splits which 104 years later are still to heal.  One of the reasons we now refer to psychodynamic counselling instead of psychoanalytic counselling is that the term psychodynamic counselling provides some distance from the complexities and arguments that still plague psychoanalysis.

Arguments and divisions

These arguments and divisions have also led to a weakening as to what psychodynamic counselling actually is. In the UK, in the mid to late twentieth century, the main psychoanalytic training organisations, the Institute of Psychoanalysis and the British Psychotherapy Foundation dominated the NHS and it might be said that as they argued over other training organisations right to refer to psychoanalysis, they overlooked the need to communicate effectively with the general public. In the end this contributed to them being marginalised and all their very high quality work becoming eclipsed in government health ministers minds by CBT.  This has been regrettable, but if psychoanalysts had been more open as to how they communicated with the public it might have been avoided.

The result as things stand now in 2017, is that psychoanalytic work has fallen from favour particularly in terms of what the NHS is prepared to offer patients.  This is one of the reasons why psychodynamic counselling exists, it is in part a rebranding of psychoanalysis.

Where is Psychodynamic Counselling going?

That is hard to say, but the upside of this rebranding is that it has meant that many more people are now able to train in psychodynamic counselling. While that is a good thing it also means that it is hard to evaluate the training courses that have mushroomed to cater for the demand.

Psychoanalytic trainings had high standards and that meant that trainings could be considered to deliver high standards. For anyone embarking on training now it may be harder to know what you are getting.  It has always been the case in psychotherapy training that you don’t really know what you are getting until you have signed up for it.

So the downside of this rebranding means that the quality of psychoanalytic work being delivered via psychodynamic counselling may be rather patchy.  Time will tell.  It is up to those who practice psychodynamic counselling to make sure it is as effective and high quality as possible.

Psychodynamic Counselling and Counselling Buckinghamshire

In practice psychodynamic counselling offers a serious chance to understand the forces that limit us and get in the way of us living more creative and satisfying lives. Counselling Buckinghamshire is grounded in psychoanalytic and analytic training, please contact me for a free telephone consultation to discuss how Counselling Buckinghamshire might be able to help you.