This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 13 table of contents.

The Psychodynamic Approach

The therapy approaches we examine in this chapter range from the old to the new. Some are speculative, others are based on research. Some aim at straightforward behavior change, others concentrate on exploring unconscious processes. We will start with one of the oldest traditions in psychotherapy: cathartic therapy, an example of the psychodynamic approach.

What do Adelson and Doehrman say is "distinctive" about the psychodynamic approach?

What is a second characteristic of this approaches?

Psychodynamic approaches attempt to analyze the dynamics (energies, movements, interactions between parts) in a person's psyche (overall personality and mind). Two common features distinguish psychodynamic approaches.

1. Psychodynamic approaches emphasize personal history.

In comparison with almost all competing theories, the psychodynamic is distinctive in its emphasis on personal history. It holds that in truly important moments of one's life one is unwittingly held captive by the past. Whom we marry and how the marriage fares; the work we choose and how well we do it; whether we have children and when and how we raise them and feel about them; when we become ill and how we survive or fail to—all these and other vital events of the life course can be understood in depth only after we have a sufficient understanding of the personal past. (Adelson and Doehrman, 1980, p.100)

2. Psychodynamic approaches emphasize unconscious motivations.

Many therapists believe that people are affected by forces within themselves that the person does not understand. For example, a person may feel jealousy of a rival without realizing it. Psychodynamic therapists also believe that people benefit from becoming aware of things previously hidden from themselves.

Write to Dr. Dewey at

Don't see what you need? Psych Web has over 1,000 pages, so it may be elsewhere on the site. Do a site-specific Google search using the box below.

Custom Search

Copyright © 2007-2011 Russ Dewey