I believe that there is no “one right way” of healing or living. We are all complex beings and have many dimensions to ourselves – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, religious, sexual, social, occupational and financial. These all interweave, affect and influence one another in unique, ongoing and changing ways. Based on this I attempt to understand and work with each client as a whole, encouraging and facilitating self-exploration, awareness, growth, empowerment and authentic living.
I work from a Psychodynamic orientation which resonates with the above philosophy and have an interest in the contributions of affective neuroscience (the link between brain science and emotion) and mindfulness research (related to mental, emotional and physical health). I am committed to my own ongoing personal and professional development and to providing each client with an opportunity for a useful and meaningful therapeutic relationship.
What is Psychodynamic Therapy (PT)?
Psychodynamic therapy is a form of “talk therapy” which extends beyond trying to reduce or relieve symptoms of distress in the short term. This therapy attempts to address the root causes of distress and promotes longer-lasting change. It encourages one to explore and question one’s recurring patterns of thoughts and behaviour, beliefs and motives with an attitude of curiosity and compassion. It promotes greater self-awareness and the strengthening of skills and psychological resources to resolve or manage old conflicts in new ways and encourages more fulfilling and honest living. Depending on the person and the circumstances, this may include the ability to have more fulfilling relationships, making better use of one’s talents and creativity, achieving more realistic self-esteem, tolerating and embracing a wider range of emotions, better understanding of oneself and others and meeting the challenges of life with greater freedom, flexibility and authenticity.
The bases of PT is that our difficulties are often rooted in factors outside of our awareness. What we are conscious of in our minds is only a small part of what really goes on in our mental lives. Actually many of our feelings, motives, beliefs and behaviours are influenced by factors that we are not aware of. The less aware we are of these unconscious factors, the more they control us and the more we remain stuck in patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that are unproductive, limiting or disabling. PT helps you develop greater self-awareness and the capacity to reflect honestly on the many different aspects of yourself and how you engage with your life.
Linking Past to Present
Our difficulties, personality, feelings and beliefs about ourselves, others and life in general are understood as being greatly shaped by our unique history, particularly our early relationships with our main caregivers and the accumulation of all our life experiences. This therapy therefore explores early experience and the way in which your present difficulties are influenced by your past.
The Therapy Relationship
The repetitive themes (thoughts, feelings, behaviours) that occur in our relationships with others in our lives, tends to naturally re-emerge and play out in the relationship between oneself and the therapist in the therapy setting. Therefore the therapy relationship itself becomes an important and useful means of both learning about and changing how we relate to ourselves and others. The therapy thus involves expressing and exploring your varying thoughts, feelings, wishes, and fantasies about the therapist. This allows for issues to be worked with live, in the here-and-now, which is a powerful means of facilitating change.
PT recognises that intellectual insight is not the same thing as emotional insight, which resonates at a deeper level and can lead to change. Research on emotion has found that change occurs through the experience of a certain level of emotion. This therapy focuses on the expression and exploration of the full range of one’s emotions in order to encourage emotional awareness, acceptance and better management.
PT therapy tends to be non-directive and unstructured. This means that the therapist doesn’t control and direct the therapy in a specific way but is generally guided by the client who sets the agenda for each session by beginning talking about whatever thoughts and feelings are present at the time.
Regular and Consistent
The effectiveness of this type of therapy is based on creating a consistent, reliable and safe therapy space. This enables a strong therapeutic relationship to be built and for important unconscious issues, patterns and resistances (to healing) to arise and be effectively worked with. Therefore sessions occur on a frequent and regular basis. This takes the form of session attendance occurring between (minimum) one to three times a week, with sessions being scheduled at the same time/s each week. Greater frequency potentially allows for more in depth and quicker work. Breaks from the therapy are significant as they can interrupt the process and goals of the work.
(1) Shedler, J. (2010). Effectiveness of Psychodynamic Therapy. Psychotherapy and Human Sciences, 44(1), 9-34.
Gabi Levine Clinical Psychologist Morningside Sandton Johannesburg