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ENG 1102- Implementation of Psychodynamic Theory to Treat Mental Illness

Sep 12, 2023


What is a recent/relevant/discussed story that exemplifies the problem:

Identify the connection between this story and YOUR perspective/argument on the topic:

2-sentence thesis statement: what is the problem? Preview your solution.

Section 2: Defining the problem or How did we get here? 

How did we get here?

Define your key term (s)

What are some other arguments for what the problem is? Why is your emphasis/perspective preferable to these other arguments? 

Why is this urgent now? 

Section 3: Proposal 

What are some proposed solutions that are out there currently? How is this problem being treated currently?

What is your proposal?

Intended consequences? Unintended consequences? 

How does this proposal address the problem you have laid out?

What does this proposal offer that other existing proposals do not provide?

Implementation of Psychodynamic Theory to Treat Mental Illness         

Our mind is very powerful, and many aspects of it are still shrouded in mystery. In recent years, the developments in the field of psychology have made it possible to understand on a deeper level the function of the mind and its multiple facets. The selection and implementation of the right psychological approach to treat mental problems has gained more relevance as the world saw a spike in the number of mental illness cases after the covid pandemic. The pandemic had affected people not just physically but also mentally. It gave rise to certain circumstances where negative emotions and fears took control of the minds of the people giving rise to cases of insomnia, depression, loneliness, and anxiety (Conversano, 2021).    

In recent times, there has been constant experimentation and evaluation of both Psychodynamic Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to determine their best application. Therefore, the research by Mechler reveals the findings of internet-based treatment and therapy. It also compares the psychodynamic and cognitive approaches in therapy. The main focus of this paper is Psychodynamic theory and its scope in comparison to its substitutes. PDT brings various theories and orientation techniques with the help of which psychologists can treat mental illness and disorders. It also helps counselors and therapists guide people when they are going through difficult times by developing a plan in which the patient can learn to cope with their problems. Additionally, this therapy includes talking and conversation which makes it relieving for the client and helps them to gain better insight about their situation. Thus, there is a need for exploring therapeutic approaches because a person’s mental health is as important as physical health and matters while making important decisions in life. Also, scientists and psychologists proved that the mind and body are interconnected and significantly impact each other. Using psychodynamic therapy, clients learn to deal with their emotions and express them in a healthy manner and are able to adapt to new environments. Moreover, psychodynamic theory and practice identify several complicated aspects of the mind, like memory, consciousness, and thoughts. Hence, this paper aims to explore the nature and scope of psychodynamic theory by considering its evolution and present relevances. The development of the Psychodynamic theory has advanced the treatment in all the fields of psychology. It presents a promising future in Neuro analysis where brain activity is studied with metaphysical aspects of the mind like thoughts, emotions, and idea generation. Therefore, psychodynamic theory gives a multi-dimensional view of the mind and has been proven to efficiently cure mental illness faced by people by giving them a healthy mind. Hence, this paper aims to explore the nature and scope of psychodynamic theory by considering its evolution and present relevances.    

The psychological theories developed into scientific approaches after years of research and experiments. There are two popular theories that are used by therapists and psychologists most of the time. The first one is psychodynamic theory and the second one is cognitive-behavioral theory. There have always been divided opinions on the scope and effectiveness of both theories. Psychodynamic therapy deals with identifying human behavior in the context of the unconscious part of the brain. Cammell stated that these memories and thoughts that “remain unresolved”  result in “conflicts and defensive positions in their interpersonal functioning “. This continues until these memories, thoughts, and emotions are acknowledged and accepted. Therefore, a psychodynamic approach has proven to be effective in improving reflective functioning and helping people to channel their intense emotions in a better manner. It involves dwelling deep into the person’s consciousness to evaluate their personality and their relationship with their environment. He follows the same aspects of the unconscious part of the brain that were first explored by Sigmund Freud. In other words, psychodynamic therapy is developed from psychoanalytic theory (Cammell, 2022).     

The psychoanalytic theory presented a model of an iceberg that showed only a small amount of our mind is conscious while the rest of it is hidden beneath the water. The model divides human awareness into three parts – conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. The portion that is visible contains all human thoughts, emotions, memories, and desires that a person is either aware of or that can be remembered or observed easily is called the conscious. The other half of the iceberg which is hidden is then divided into two parts. The one closer to the surface represents the subconscious or preconscious part of the mind that can be brought into consciousness or on the surface circumstantially. The last portion is the unconscious part of the mind where Freud claims rests the thoughts and memories that a person has repressed over time. The reason behind such repression is the defense mechanism system in the human mind that helps to bury painful or traumatic memories to avoid anxiety and pain.      

On the other hand, cognitive behavioral theory focuses on the timeline of negative thoughts rather than their origin. It treats the disruptive behavior without going into its psychosexual development and unconscious repression. According to the research done by Hofmann, the cognitive behavior theory CBT gives consistent and “higher responsive rates”. Instead of focusing on the unconscious memories and desires, he paid a great deal of attention to the cognitive, behavioral, and physiological actions of the client. He examines the effect of the therapy on a variety of problems like substance use, depression, personality disorder, criminal behaviors, and many more. It was observed that the therapy was most successful in the cases where nicotine was more addictive than alcohol. Also, there was an improvement in the patients with psychotic disorders. Hofmann accepts that there is not much evidence to label CBT as superior to other pharmacological methods but it is extremely successful in bipolar disorder and anxiety and panic disorder (Hofmann et al. 2010).

Key Terms

Psychology- It is a branch of science that deals with or analyzes the behavior related to the mental condition of living beings be they human or animal. It is commonly called the Study of Mind but lays emphasis on the feelings and experiences of an individual.

Psychoanalysis- is used in two scenarios, for referring to therapy and theory that involves unconscious desires, inner conflicts, or impulses. This is the major theory of Sigmund Freud in the field of psychoanalytic therapy. This is used to treat past traumas and disorders giving rise to mental illness.

Psychodynamic – It is treated as a field within psychology that studies unconscious factors and emotions that affect behaviors in humans. A modern branch of psychology uses psychodynamics as a therapy where communication related to the hidden self is discovered and treated for a better personality.

Psychiatry- This is one of the important disciplines of medicine where mental illness is studied and treated with the help of an understanding of emotional and behavioral disorders.

Open-ended- psychodynamic therapy involves open-ended sessions which means there are no specific questions and answers. It is unstructured and without any limitations for clients to answer the questions asked, which in fact are also broad in nature.

Cognitive – deals with the reasoning, thinking, and learning ability of the brain. This therapy based on a cognitive approach revolves around a negative thought process and treating the pattern to change the way of thinking into a positive one.

Evidence-Based Practice- or EBP is a method where research findings and outcomes that are rational and valid are used for client care and clinical practices.   

Both Cammell and Hofmann evaluate the nature of change that takes place during the therapy. The former reflects on the emotional response of the patient and “in-depth exploration of the patient’s history”.However, the latter focuses on the cause of the main complaint or problem instead of doing a deep investigation into its origin. In the case of the Cognitive-behavioral approach, the stages of change are generally identified by noticing the change in the intensity of negative thoughts and behavior of the client. As the stage progresses, the client shifts from negative thoughts to more positive ones. This happened first by inciting personal reflections from the client and then slowly resolving them to move towards the goals that help to increase optimism (Hofmann et al. 2010).    

In contrast, the pre-contemplation stage in the psychodynamic approach includes the exploration of a person’s past and history to recognize the “recurring themes”. Emotions and expressions become the center of attention. In the contemplation stage, the psychologist or therapist is more vocal and tries to bring the hidden thoughts from the unconscious by probing or asking open-ended questions. This stage involves more interpretations than self-reflections by the client. The later stages consist of resolving the issues and the acceptance and retaining phase by the client.  The Psychodynamic Theory tries to analyze defense mechanisms built by clients in order to cope with daily struggles. There are various ways in which clients do this like repressing their feelings, denying true expressions and desires, and rationalizing their thoughts. The psychologist helps to let out such suppressed emotions and thoughts that are unconscious. After this kind of process, defensive mechanisms are seen reduced. Psychodynamic therapy includes open-ended questions that are more or less intense depending on the condition of the client. The session is comfortable and requires a psychologist to be face-to-face with the client (Cammell, 2022).     

Therefore, this widens the scope of Psychodynamic theory but at the same time gives rise to debates. The main challenge posed by PDT is that there is ambiguity regarding the long-term outcomes of the therapy.  Moreover, it doesn’t have a structured nature so it requires the immense effort of the counselor to interpret feelings. Due to the long tenure of therapy, the cost of such therapies can increase making it less approachable to different classes. Furthermore, finding unconscious thoughts and their impact on behaviors is difficult to prove practically and is mostly discussed in theoretical aspects. Sometimes the techniques involved in therapeutic relationships can make clients too dependent upon the counselor resulting in low self-awareness. Ignorance of biological issues and excessive concentration on psychological aspects can make it complicated and less valid to some clients. Hence, psychodynamic therapy is subjective and may not suit all personality types.     

The goal of such PDT is to bring changes in the current mental illness of clients by helping them to build self-awareness and have a healthy adjustment to past experiences as a child or an adult. The assumptions that are considered by psychologists are that the unconscious mind wraps problems that are serious for mental health and with the help of guidance as well as due understanding it can be solved or treated. Contemporary rational research backed up with reasoning shows the impact of the interaction between organizational matters and clinicians’ knowledge of therapy. It argues that a proficient culture and climate of an organization are necessary for successful Evidence-Based Practices. In order to understand the effectiveness and need of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Psychodynamic Therapy, it is necessary to evaluate the factors that play an important role in constructing the environment. Therefore, the circumference of the organizational climate can be affected by clinicians’ attitudes. The positive attitude of clinicians will motivate an efficient application of EBP. While a negative attitude will lead to just the opposite. Furthermore, these observations will help to identify the reason behind the adoption of the two approaches. Even though the Psychodynamic approach has shown positive performance, it is still not adopted largely as compared to CBT because it requires a good amount of money. Thus, the preference given to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is due to the factor that it is more cost-effective as compared to Psychodynamic therapy. (Becker, 2019)     

Technology has revolutionized medicine and healthcare facilities. In order to make therapy affordable and efficient for people, internet-based therapy programs are promoted. The research regarding which method is more suited to treating the client is still going on. Research from Mechler revealed that adolescents with depression disorder under Internet-based treatment of ten weeks showed significant improvement and many called for further sessions. Moreover, the findings reveal that Internet-based Psychodynamic Therapy was non-inferior to Internet-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Thus, it requires patience because the sessions of PDT are lengthy and demand more concentration (Mechler, 2022).     

The new advancements in psychodynamic therapeutic formulations and some recent research demonstrate the advantages of psychodynamic practices in clinical psychiatry. It evaluates interrelated factors such as subjectivity, trauma, and “the holding environment” to present a multi-dimensional view of the mind. Furthermore, it argues the necessity of psychodynamic theory in the recent development of neuroscience and neuropsychoanalysis. The main objective is to develop a model that studies brain activity with the metaphysical aspects of the mind like thinking, emotion, and idea generation. A deeper understanding of these elements will result in better goal formation and treatment plans for the client. (Harari, 2022)     

There are some challenges posed by PDT that can be understood and dealt with in a proper and holistic manner. PDT is a new method and still has many aspects to discover. It is best among many therapies available as it improves self-confidence in the client as they verbalize and analyze their best to the worst thought process. It helps to expand the personality of the client by increasing positivity, self-worth, and trust which helps people to build strong bonds.  After receiving help from counselors, a more tolerant and accepting attitude develops in the individual that helps them to adjust to the existing circumstances. It is now observed that in the treatment of depression, borderline personality disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, and psychopathological problems in children and adolescents, the psychodynamic approach yields better and demonstrates more durable results than alternative therapies. Psychodynamic therapy is used for curing mental illness and helps clients with less avoidance. The therapeutic techniques have shown high-quality results in treating Anorexia Nervosa. The therapeutic approaches have produced excellent outcomes in the treatments and are on track to have a big impact on psychotherapy and neuroanalysis.

Psychodynamic therapy is not as much adopted as cognitive behavioral therapy because it is expensive in nature and requires both time and patience. In spite of its few setbacks, it provides a promising opportunity to improve the understanding of the mind aided with adequate resources for research and development. Because psychodynamic therapy not only improves personality but also alters a person’s manner of life for the better. Whereas CBT only examines the client’s present issues, placing little emphasis on prior traumas. Additionally, because it is brief, there is less time to identify root reasons and problems that are connected to the client’s personality, especially their mental aspect. Other therapies have placed a greater emphasis on a patient’s actions or medications, whereas PDT places a greater emphasis on a patient’s defense systems and unconscious mind. analysis of mental responses. For these reasons, future research initiatives must demonstrate how different therapies as well as psychodynamic therapy are developing new mechanisms. It will assist in developing an understanding of the sessions and results in light of various personality types. The more findings will help to improve evidence-based therapies to treat mental illnesses and disorders more effectively. By bridging the gap and aiding patients psychologically as well as physically.

Works Cited

Becker-Haimes, Emily M., et al. “Interactions between clinician and organizational characteristics to predict cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic therapy use.” Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research 46.6 (2019): 701-712.

Cammell, Paul. “Defending and Demonstrating the Psychodynamic Orientation in Psychiatry.” Australian &Amp; New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 56, no. 6, SAGE Publications, May 2022, pp. 583–85, doi:10.1177/00048674221099164.

Conversano, C. (2021). The Psychodynamic Approach During COVID-19 Emotional Crisis. Frontiers. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from

Hofmann et al. “The Empirical Status of the ‘New Wave’ of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.” Psychiatric Clinics of North America, vol. 33, no. 3, Elsevier BV, Sept. 2010, pp. 701–10, doi:10.1016/j.psc.2010.04.006.

Harari, Edwin, and Donald C. Grant. “Clinical wisdom, science, and evidence: The neglected gifts of psychodynamic thinking.” Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (2022): 00048674221077622.

Mechler, Jakob, et al. “Therapist-guided internet-based psychodynamic therapy versus cognitive behavioral therapy for adolescent depression in Sweden: a randomized, clinical, non-inferiority trial.” The Lancet Digital Health 4.8 (2022): e594-e603.


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