Psychodynamic Theories

(All Emphasize Unconscious Mental Activity.)

Copyright 2002 by John Tennison, MD



Principle Ideas & Emphasis

Transference & Countertransference

Resistance to Compliance

Techniques & Goals



Unconscious conflicting wishes and drives, especially sexual or aggressive nature.  Emphasizes Id, Ego, Superego, and defense mechanisms.

Competition between patient and therapist.

Patient experiences feelings of guilt over perceived competitive struggles.

Focus on relationship between current difficulties and past struggles with parents.



Emphasizes grandiose idealism of self and others, ambitions, narcissism, and empathic failures.

Idealization then devaluation of therapist as unempathic.

Patient becomes disillusioned with less than perfect results of therapy

Help patient appreciate that doubts and yearnings underlie fragile grandiosity.

Trace perception of therapist as unempathic to empathic failures of patient’s parents.




Emphasizes borderline traits, such as projection, and good/bad splitting, often with a lack of recognition of “bad self” in patient, which includes unacceptable negative emotions, fantasies, dreams, and memories.

Projection of unfavorable “bad self” traits onto therapist, with the possibility that therapist will feel compelled to identify with these projections.

Patient retreats from integration of “bad self” by continuing to project it onto therapist.

Use interpretation to intercept destructive transference and acting out.  Point out that patient experiences therapist like a bad parent.  Encourage patient to use fantasies, memories, and dreams to prove a capacity to express anger and other unpleasant emotions that patient might otherwise project onto others.



* The techniques of all three theories emphasize:

1.  Non-Judgmental Atmosphere

2.  Recognition and Reinforcement of Strengths

3.  Conveyance of a Sense of Control to Patient




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