In this essay I mainly discuss the theory and concepts behind psychodynamic counselling, followed by brief discussions of the practice and skills involved in working as a psychodynamic counsellor, and the client’s experience of counselling.
Psychodynamic counselling is mainly concerned with unconscious processes; it takes for granted that humans possess a largely unconscious inner world. Freud argued that while the conscious mind is governed by logic, the unconscious mind is not, and functions in a very literal way, motivated only to experience pleasure, unable to delay gratification. Although Psychodynamic counselling works with the conscious mind, it mainly focuses on unconscious processes.
We have key figures in our lives – e.g. parents, carers, and partners - are referred to as ‘objects’, and relationships with them termed ‘object relationships’. The phrase ‘object’ refers to the Freudian concept of the target, or object of the instinct. Object relationships embody not only actual relationships but also the ways that the conscious mind distorts them. The unconscious is viewed as dynamic and purposeful, having huge impact on emotions and behaviour. Psychodynamic theory posits that humans are driven by a need to remain unaware of uncomfortable truths that emerge from the unconscious, experiencing many conflicting needs and demands, e.g. between one’s own wishes and those of others.
To deal with conflicts people develop ‘defences’, these include ‘repression’, a form of forgetting, ‘denial’, claiming that something is not upsetting when really it is, and ‘rationalisation’, where a story is created to account for that which feels uncomfortable. ‘Projection’ involves attributing to others characteristics unacceptable to the self, making assumptions about them based on the need to avoid threat. Psychodynamic counselling encourages the client to recognise and accept the troubling attribute, a process called ‘reintrojection’. To engage in...
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