Psychological therapies fall into three general categories:
Behavioural therapies work with conscious processes and focus on cognitions and behaviours.
Humanistic therapies seek to empower the client through self actualisation – working with the ‘here and now’.
Psychoanalytic therapies have unconscious processes at the heart of the work. Psychodynamic counselling is derived from psychoanalysis and the work of Freud and subsequent psychoanalytic theorists. It is a model that uses psychoanalytic concepts to explain human growth and development, and the nature of psychological problems. Counsellors are not analysts and they can expect to work in a broad range of settings, with both long and short term clients. Psychodynamic counselling uses the therapeutic relationship to gain insight into unconscious relationship patterns that evolved since childhood. Memories and other evidence of early relationships are used to make sense of current concerns. The process of change occurs as clients become more aware of the power of the unconscious, including defence mechanisms, instincts and rules for life, to influence behaviour, and hence more able to control their actions and responses.
The therapeutic relationship in contemporary psychodynamic counselling is based on acceptance, empathy and understanding, with an emphasis on developing a good working alliance that fosters trust. The counsellor takes account of the real world of the client, including the impact of trauma, cultural difference, sexual orientation, disability and social context.
Psychodynamic counselling skills and theory can be valuable in many working and social environments. The insight and understanding about human functions gained from psychoanalytic theory, can enhance the life of the counsellor as well as the client, and can be put to a variety of good uses.