Skip to main content

A Guide to Psychodynamic Counselling


Psychodynamic counselling is a therapeutic approach rooted in the understanding that our past experiences, emotions, and unconscious thoughts significantly influence our present behaviour and mental well-being. Developed by pioneers like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler, this approach delves deep into the intricacies of the human psyche to help individuals gain insight, resolve inner conflicts, and achieve personal growth.

Understanding the Basics

At the core of psychodynamic counselling is the belief that our conscious mind is just the tip of the iceberg; beneath it lies a vast realm of unconscious thoughts, feelings, and memories. These hidden aspects of our psyche often drive our behaviour, even when we’re not aware of them.

1. Unearthing the Unconscious: Psychodynamic counsellors use various techniques, such as free association, dream analysis, and exploring childhood experiences, to help clients uncover these hidden elements. By bringing them to the surface, individuals can better understand why they think, feel, and act in certain ways.

2. The Role of Childhood: A significant aspect of psychodynamic counselling involves examining early childhood experiences and how they shape one’s personality and relationships. Traumatic or unresolved issues from childhood can continue to impact an individual’s adult life, causing distress and emotional turmoil.

3. The Importance of the Therapeutic Relationship: The relationship between the client and the counsellor is paramount in psychodynamic therapy. It serves as a microcosm of the client’s other relationships, offering an opportunity to explore patterns of behaviour, attachment styles, and unresolved conflicts.

Key Concepts in Psychodynamic Counselling

1. Transference: Clients often transfer feelings and attitudes they have towards significant people in their lives onto the therapist. These transference reactions can provide valuable insights into unresolved issues and emotions.

2. Countertransference: This refers to the therapist’s emotional response to the client’s transference. Skilled psychodynamic counsellors use countertransference as a tool to gain insight into the client’s unconscious processes.

3. Defence Mechanisms: Psychodynamic theory identifies various defence mechanisms (e.g., repression, projection, denial) that individuals employ to protect themselves from distressing thoughts and feelings. Exploring these defences can help clients understand their coping strategies and their limitations.

Applications and Effectiveness

Psychodynamic counselling is versatile and can be applied to a wide range of issues, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and relationship problems. Its effectiveness is supported by research, showing that long-term psychodynamic therapy can lead to lasting improvements in mental health and well-being.


In a world that often focuses on quick fixes and surface-level solutions, psychodynamic counselling offers a profound journey into the depths of the human psyche. By exploring the unconscious mind, addressing unresolved conflicts, and fostering self-awareness, individuals can experience profound personal growth and emotional healing. While it may not be the right approach for everyone, for those willing to embark on this introspective voyage, psychodynamic counselling can be a transformative and enlightening experience.