Indications for Psychodynamic Counselling.

  • Do you think that your current troubles may be being effected by events that have occurred in your past?
  • Do you feel that sometimes there may be parts of you acting on your behalf (e.g. phobias such as agoraphobia where a part of you is protecting yourself from fears outside the home, or emotional struggles like depression where the depression keeps you from doing other things)?
  • Do you suspect that you may have feelings buried deeply away?
Psychodynamic counselling is a form of talking-therapy that aims to understand the mind’s conflicts operating at an unconscious level. Although the unconscious cannot be known, its influence in our daily life can be felt in conflicts, phobias and repetitive behaviour that seeks resolution (e.g. always ending up with the same type of unhappy relationship).

In helping deeply forgotten or buried memories find conscious-expression again, psychodynamic counselling extends to finding relief, understanding and beginnings of transformation.

Aims of Psychodynamic Counselling.

Psychodynamic counselling is primarily done in conversation form (no forms to fill in, no psychometric tests) and you would sit in a chair facing the counsellor (although some therapists optionally offer a couch to lay upon).

An aim of using the psychodynamic approach is to help bring relief to the client through resolving conflicts between the unconscious and the conscious mind. For example, with something like agoraphobia, we might think of the unconscious mind saying to the person: “it’s dangerous to go outside”, whereas we might think of the conscious mind saying to the person: “there’s isn’t any real danger out there” … such different positions being held in the same mind can produce conflict.

The unconscious – by definition – cannot be known.  So psychodynamic counsellors tend to use indirect means to help both client and counsellor learn together what may be going on within the unconscious.  The counsellor may use such concepts as:-

  • Transference: the redirection to a substitute, often the therapist, of emotions that were originally felt at an earlier time.
  • Counter-transference: the internal emotional reaction of the therapist to the subject’s (often unconscious) contribution.
  • Projection: something within the mind that cannot be accepted as being ones-self, so instead it’s experienced as belonging to someone else.
  • Projective-identification: an unconscious process whereby someone else is influenced to become a container of / actor of one’s inner conflicts.

The above phenomena may occur silently in the counsellor’s mind without the client ever being aware of them, but the (experienced) psychodynamic counsellor is intent on becoming aware of their influence over him.


The client comes in to a session saying that she’s having a good week and she’s very happy (even though her mother had died the previous week).

Without revealing to the client, the counsellor notices that he is feeling very angry.  He notices the inconsistency between what the client is saying and his own feelings.  He consider this observation as if this might be a form of unconscious communication from the client; as if a part of the client might be sending a message by radar.

The counsellor might choose (i) to do nothing (yet) – particularly if he recognises that the client might not want to have her attention brought towards rage, (ii) the counsellor might offer a tentative thought out-loud: “You’re feeling happy, yet I could imagine someone feeling quite angry in your position” and leave that comment available for if the client wants to discuss it.

The psychodynamic counsellor will strive to interpret effects upon himself, using them to learn what the client’s inner world might be like, and using this to inform what sort of questions he might ask the client. The aim is to help both the therapist and the client understand the client better.

Psychodynamic counselling aims to reveal and work-through unconscious conflicts (that can be feeding a client’s conscious symptoms – such as phobias, sleeplessness, uncontrollable rages etc) – because once the unconscious is made conscious the client can have choices.

Overt use of Counter-transference.

Whilst many psychodynamic counsellors will use their counter-transference silently (informing the questions they may ask of the client), some counsellors take an approach outlined by Karen Maroda; if the counter-transference is a form of unconscious communication, then at some level the client already knows what has been communicated, so why not be open about counter-transference material (whist respecting the client’s ability to tolerate anxiety that self-revelation may bring about).

Such an approach encourages mutual emotional exchange between counsellor and client, promoting a form of peer-partnership; working together with unconscious material.

See “The Power of Counter-Transference” for more information.


By carefully building a strong working alliance between counsellor and client, painful memories and difficult issues and be worked through and resolved.

Why you might not choose psychodynamic counselling.

You may not wish to work with someone who uses a psychodynamic model…

  • if you believe that events of your past have no influence over your current life, and you want only to look at tackling problems today.
  • if you wish to focus only on changing your thinking/thought patterns without involving emotions.
  • if you do not believe in the unconscious mind (that there may be parts of your mind that are not yet understood).
  • if you are seeking someone to tell you how to resolve matters (like a coach) rather than to seek someone who would work with you in partnership.
For more information on psychodynamic counselling (sometimes called psychodynamic psychotherapy) see:

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Counsellor Dean Richardson MNCS(Accredited Registrant)

Counsellor Dean Richardson MNCS(Accredited Registrant)

Private Counsellor / Couple & Group Therapist

Dean Richardson is the counsellor asking the questions that no-one else is asking, assisting people in transforming confusion & stress into understanding & relief. We all get stuck in our lives & relationships, and we all have secrets that we'd rather the world didn't know, so Dean's approach is confidential, challenging but also kind, working together towards a place where you'll have no further need of counselling. Dean has been practising counselling since 1999 and business coaching since 1997. His private practice focuses upon providing effective therapies based on psychodynamic, systemic, cognitive behavioural and group analytic approaches for couples, individuals and small support groups. Dean also has a special interest in focussing on LGBT counselling (couples, individuals, polyamorous groups etc).

Learn more about Dean…

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