Psychodynamic Therapy for Depression

Mental health professionals have many tools at their disposal to treat patients with depression, anxiety, and other mind disorders. Psychodynamic therapy is one of the oldest forms of psychological treatment, and one that some psychologists and social workers still use.

If you took a basic psychology course in high school or college, you probably learned about Sigmund Freud and his theory that human behavior is driven primarily by unconscious motivations, or drivers. Freud is one of the founders of modern day psychodynamic therapy, also called talk therapy or free association. Psychodynamic therapy helps to explain behavior by understanding our subconscious, or unconscious, processes, and resolving conflicted feeling that linger from earlier life experiences that may (unbeknownst to us) produce maladaptive patterns of behavior.

Four major schools of thought make up psychodynamic therapy.

  • Drive theory describes our biologically based impulses, which prompt us to seek gratification and play a critical role in determining human behavior.
  • Ego psychology explains how individuals grow, adapt, and master their environments.
  • Object relations motivate us to stay connected with others.
  • Self psychology defines humans as isolated, fragmented, and vulnerable and says that empathic attunement is the key environmental condition facilitating the development of a healthy, cohesive, and secure self.

According to psychologist Kathleen Holtz Deal, psychodynamic therapy treatment modalities lie along a continuum. At one end, the goal is to modify or change personality structures. At the other end of the continuum, therapy supports, enhances, and strengthens individual functioning. Ego supportive approaches focus on present situations and conscious processes to improve adaptive coping abilities, while ego modifying approaches use insight to understand unconscious conflicts and their effects on behavior to modify personality.

Mental health professionals may use psychodynamic theory in conjunction with Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), one of the most commonly used forms of treatment for depression. Where psychodynamic treatment focuses on, and emphasizes, unconscious motivations for behaviors, cognitive behavioral therapy is concerned with creating new, healthier behaviors, not understanding why we behavior in certain ways.

There is evidence that psychodynamic theory helps patients suffering from depression, although there's no evidence that it is more or less effective than CBT or other forms of therapy. According to psychologist Renee Spencer, psychodynamic therapy works best for people who are curious about how their mind works and who believe that their internal life is worth taking the time to understand.

Understanding the underlying theories of different types of mental health treatments will help you chose a therapist and a mode of treatment that is best for you.

Sources "Psychodynamic Theory." Web.

Deal, Kathleen Holtz. "Psychodynamic Theory."  Advances in Social Work 8(1) (2007): 184-195. Web.

National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Mental Health. "Psychotherapies." Web. 16 April 2010. "Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: Overview." Web.

Bond, Michael. "Psychodynamic Psychotherapy in the Treatment of Mood Disorders." Current Opinion in Psychiatry 19(1) (2006): 40-43. Medscape Medical News. Web. 27 December 2005.