Psychodynamic counselling has a long history and vast literature to condense so only a brief overview is possible here – following on from the themes already discussed and with particular focus on four psychologists: Freud, Jung, Adler and Klein. “The primary purpose of psychodynamic counselling is to help clients make sense of current situations; of memories associated with present experience, some of which spring readily to mind, others which may rise to consciousness as the counselling develops; and of the images that appear in fantasies and dreams.
” (Jacobs) In essence it is concerned with the presenting past, the use of the counselling relationship in terms of its meaning for the client, and insight into unconscious representations which intervene in the perception of everyday life. Philosophy The philosophy guiding the psychodynamic approach is one that views the person as a whole – mind, body and soul – and recognises that there are relationships between these dimensions which constitute the person, or the self.
These internal relationships are dynamic, always changing as they form the ‘inner world’ of an individual. Similarly, relationships to others and to objects in the environment are equally dynamic and create the ‘outer world’ of an individual. This understanding provides the key to both psychodynamic theory and practice in that present experiences and feelings can only be understood in relation to those of the past.
This is reflected within the current relationship between counsellor and client which is exploring experiences, events and feelings in the conscious and working to bring those suppressed experiences from the unconscious to the conscious. The aim of psychodynamic work remains close to that of Freud, ‘where Id was, there shall Ego be’, or as Jacobs puts it ‘to make the unconscious conscious, and in doing so, to help a person to act with more conscious control and awareness than unconscious reactions permit’. Theory
The interrelationship of external and internal worlds The dynamic, the activity, is between people, but also between the three aspects of the psyche – mind/thoughts, emotions/feelings and the soul/spirit. So it is possible to say “I don’t like her behaviour” which is about a relationship in the external world or to say “I don’t feel like my usual self today” which suggests a relationship between two parts of the self, the dynamic of the internal world. Great importance is attached to past experiences and feelings.
Aspects (objects) of the psyche develop in parallel with external relationships in childhood, i. e. , with mother and father. In addition, the childhood perception of experiences, feelings and relationships may not match reality, so such perceptions are significant. Object relations theory A third type of relationship is added to those of the outer and inner worlds, to non-human objects. The activity is going on all the time, but is increased in some circumstances – in stressful and anxious times, in dreams. The Unconscious
Freud identified the unconscious, the preconscious and the conscious in terms of mental activity. Within the unconscious are thoughts, experiences and feelings which are not easily accessible but which have great influences on the current mental activity in the conscious. Memories, half forgotten, but easy to access offer a route to the unconscious, thus belonging to the preconscious. Feelings such as grief and anger can remain in the unconscious and remain unexperienced and forgotten, that is, repressed; or suppressed if not forgotten.
The process of moving material from the unconscious to the conscious is often helped by the use of metaphor and imagery, especially valuable when the counsellor gains some understanding of what is in the unconscious of the client who remains unaware. The significance of the past and its repetition in the present This concept is central to the psychodynamic approach, informing both theory and practice and making a contribution to the development of the various layers of understanding which the counsellor works towards achieving.
The transference relationship between client and counsellor In addition to respect and acceptance which should characterise a counselling relationship, transference is significant in psychodynamic counselling. Previous patterns of relationships to significant others are transferred to the counsellor. This transference forms a central part of the work undertaken by both client and counsellor, who once again is able to use theory to inform practice. Practice and Techniques Regression Repressed and suppressed material frequently remains in the unconscious because it is so painful.
Regression is a way of helping a person return to the past at their own pace, to bring into the conscious gradually and thus experience the feelings and events of the past. The use of the dynamics of the counselling relationship – failures, loss, endings, resistance As may be expected transference is often negative. ‘The value of this within the counselling relationship is that the patterns of past failures, losses and unsatisfactory endings to relationships can be worked with in the present through the counsellor in the ‘here and now’.
Resistance is seen as a defensive mechanism, and as such is as much material to be worked with as the story of the client and transference within the counselling relationship. The distinctive feature of the psychodynamic approach is to understand where the resistance comes from, the reasons for it, to try to interpret it in order to help the client understand the reasons for it. The rule of abstinence This is about the counsellor ‘holding back’ from responding in the ‘normal’ way, for example, by not answering a question.
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