What is Psychodynamic Counselling?

Many people seek help through counselling because they feel distressed and burdened by life's events. In today's busy world, it is a relief to share that distress with a person outside the situation, who is able to hear and reflect upon what is being said.

Psychodynamic counselling is about enabling a person to make changes in his/her life, which he/she feels, would be of benefit. This often involves a clearer understanding of what led to him/her having a particular problem in the first place. A painful situation in the present may have its roots in the past, but the individual may not be aware of the connection. Psychodynamic counselling assists a person to uncover these hidden links, which in turn allow the individual greater freedom of thought and action.

Human beings have a tendency to repeat patterns of behaviour, and even when they would like to change, they find themselves unable to do so. These patterns may repeat themselves in the counselling room, and this enables the client to look at his/her behaviour without fear of rejection or retaliation.

In this model of counselling, the relationship between the therapist and the client is central to the work being done. As part of their training, all counsellors have had their own personal therapy. This is an essential experience for psychodynamic counsellors in their work with clients. This is because it allows the counsellor a greater inner freedom and enables him/her to have a clearer understanding of the client?s experience both in and out of the therapeutic relationship.

Psychodynamic counselling is based, among other things, on the understanding of the unfolding of a person?s life from birth onwards. It also includes an understanding of the network of relationships that develop during growth into adulthood.

This model of counselling draws on the insights of psychoanalysis as a way of understanding the human personality, including the way individuals interact with each other. It takes note of the unconscious mind as well as conscious attitudes, and aids the resolution of unconscious conflicts which allows for the development of a person?s full potential.

The counselling relationship is different from social relationships in that it is limited to the counselling sessions. It provides a safe place in which to explore past and present feelings and the meaning of past and current relationships.

The Process

When the client and counsellor meet, the counsellor introduces him/herself but will not talk to the client about him/herself or answer personal questions. This is to give the client time and space to use the time available (50 minutes) in whichever way he/she wishes.

Regular counselling sessions differ from the assessment session in that the counsellor will not ask as many questions. As the two people concerned will be meeting every week, there will be time to clarify issues and facts as they arise. It also allows more space for the client to express him/herself, although periods of silence are not unusual.

Some people find the early sessions of a counselling relationship difficult or uncomfortable, as they are unsure what is expected of them, or how to proceed when they are given a time to talk about themselves. It is helpful to let the counsellor know if this happens, as the communication of how the client feels is an important aspect of the counselling sessions. If there are any concerns about confidentiality or other aspects of the counselling process, it is best to raise these issues in the early stages, so that they can be addressed at the beginning.