What is Psychodynamic Counselling?


‘Psychodynamic counselling recognises the power of the past on the emotions of today’.

Psychodynamic counselling evolved from psychoanalytic theory, however it tends to focus on more immediate problems, be more practically based on shorter term than psychoanalytic therapy.

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on unconscious thought processes which manifest themselves in a client’s behaviour. The approach seeks to increase a client’s self awareness and understanding of how the past has influenced present thoughts and behaviours, by exploring the unconscious patterns.

Clients are encouraged to explore unresolved issues and conflicts.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a depth psychology. It also relies on the interpersonal relationship between client and therapist.



John MacLeod, author of ‘An introduction to counselling’, has identified 5 key principles of the psychodynamic approach:

1. People have troubled relationships because they are repeating a destructive relationship pattern from the past.
2. The person may seek to control or hide difficult or unacceptable mental desires, memories and feelings by use of ‘defence mechanisms’ such as ‘transference’, ‘projection’, ‘denial’, ‘repression’, ‘sublimation’. ‘splitting’ and ‘projective identification’.
3. It is important for helpers including counsellors to be aware of his own feelings, fantaisies and impulses interaction to the person they are helping.
4. The person’s problems can be understood as representing unresolved development tasks( e,g.: separation from the mother/father/parents).
5. People have a need for secure consistent emotional attachments.