Understanding Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is a type of therapy that helps patients understand their underlying thoughts and feelings.

To do this, the therapist works to bring the patient’s unconscious thoughts into the conscious mind.

This technique can help an individual in addiction treatment begin exploring their emotions and figuring out how their unconscious thoughts relate to their addiction.

What Is Psychodynamic Therapy?

The goal of psychodynamic therapy in addiction treatment is to help individuals discover and analyze deep feelings they may not realize they had.

These feelings can manifest in behaviors like projection and denial. These evasive behaviors do more harm than good, as they only mask the symptoms instead of addressing the deeper problems.

Psychodynamic therapy helps individuals in recovery link current behaviors to past events. To do so, a therapist using a psychodynamic approach could examine any of the following elements — many of which may take multiple sessions to identify:

  • The degree to which the individual is aware of/comfortable with their own feelings
  • Any feelings the individual has but doesn’t know about or understand
  • How far inside the psyche negative feelings are buried
  • The physical or psychological effects caused by buried feelings

How Psychodynamic Therapy Helps In Addiction Recovery

Psychodynamic therapy can help an individual battling addiction identify their underlying cause for using.

By working through their emotions with a therapist (including unresolved conflicts, dysfunctional relationships, and much more), individuals can reduce their chances of feeling triggered to turn to drugs or alcohol again.

Psychodynamic therapy allows individuals to address the deep-seated reasons why they use and provide ways to manage that impulse. Addressing these emotions head on in therapy will lower the chances of relapsing in recovery.

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Who Can Benefit From Psychodynamic Therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy can work well for anyone suffering from any type of addiction as well as anxiety, depression, and panic disorders.

My therapist and youth director inspired me to be clean by convincing me over time I had more to offer.

- Lexi, recovering addict

Those who are open to a personal bond with their therapist will see the best results from psychodynamic therapy. This is due to the importance of establishing trust with the therapist in order to get to the underlying cause of an addiction.

Techniques Used In Psychodynamic Therapy

The specific techniques a therapist will use during a psychodynamic therapy session will vary depending on the client, since each has their own unique needs and situation.

However, a few of the most common techniques psychodynamic therapists may use during a session are as follows:

Free Association

Free association is essentially the act of a client talking to the therapist about the first thing that comes to mind. This often leads to the client discussing issues they feel most strongly about without even realizing it or feeling pressured to do so. This is because they are creating an organic, trusting relationship with their therapist – at least partially due to the fact that they’re able to speak to their therapist in a way that feels most natural to them.

Transference Of Feelings

Therapeutic transference is the idea of taking the feelings a client has – from anger and sadness to codependency and shame – in relation to a person or people in their life, and transferring or projecting them onto their therapist. This allows the feelings to be placed on another person in the room as opposed to buried deep within the client, making it easier for the therapist and client to explore and analyze them together.


Interpretation comes after a therapist has spent enough time with an individual in addiction therapy to be able to discuss what they think their client’s underlying thoughts might indicate. They will be able to help their client begin to interpret their newly conscious thoughts, as well as how those might affect their addiction.

Finding A Rehab Center That Offers Psychodynamic Therapy

While psychodynamic therapy may take several sessions to see results, it’s all part of the process to begin to fully understand and overcome your addiction.

Many inpatient and outpatient rehab programs offer psychodynamic therapy to help individuals get to the root of their addiction. By providing this service, therapists put the power of recovery and the ability to stay sober in their clients’ hands, allowing them to live a fulfilled life and better understand their emotions going forward.

Contact a treatment provider today to find a rehab center may provide this and many other types of addiction therapy.