If you've read anything about depression at all, you'll know that antidepressants and talk therapy are the first-line treatments. While your doctor will usually take on the task of deciding what antidepressant is right for you, you may have more of a say in what kind of talk therapy you choose. With so many different approaches out there, that's no easy task.
What is psychodynamic therapy?
Psychodynamic therapy is likely the kind of therapy that comes to mind if you've never attended therapy but have immersed yourself in pop culture. Influenced by Freud and others (the people who came up with psychoanalysis), it's the kind of therapy where you seek to uncover which things lingering around your subconscious influence your current behavior and thoughts. Yes, it wants you to delve into your "past conflicts" — including issues going back to childhood — to discover how they impact you, ultimately leading to catharsis and permanent change.
Psychodynamic therapy traditionally goes on for at least two years. When you understand that its goal is to process your entire life thus far and to actually integrate things you have missed out on, as it were, into your very identity, that makes sense. However, therapists — and patients, for that matter — can also take the approach that even shorter therapeutic interventions will kick-start these important processes, and progress can be made faster.
People who are determined to give psychodynamic therapy a go but who aren't ready to commit to two years of sessions can have between 25 and 40 sessions, or even less. Some therapy is better than no therapy, you might say. During traditional sessions, you'll be encouraged to talk about whatever you want, as it "comes up", even if the topics seem entirely unrelated. During briefer programs, however, your therapist will encourage you to stick to a central, most urgent, issue — so you can get the most out of your therapy in the shortest amount of time.
Childhood trauma is common in depressed patients, and psychodynamic therapy is good for childhood issues
One study reported that 75.6 percent of chronically depressed people suffered "clinically significant" trauma during their childhoods, while 37 percent experienced multiple different traumas. These traumas can include sexual abuse, emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and physical abuse. The more traumatic the experience and the longer it went on, research shows, the more likely you are to be depressed as an adult.
Psychodynamic therapy works
If you're currently looking to attend talk therapy, whether for depression or something else, chances are pretty high that you'll be advised to choose cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or will just randomly "end up with it". CBT, one of the most popular kinds of therapy out there at the moment, is "time-limited" (which means brief) and teaches you to analyze, basically, what's wrong in your thought patterns. The idea is that you can then change them, ending up with different outcomes.
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the roots, not just the symptoms
As a therapeutic approach, psychodynamic therapy doesn't take the "lazy way out". It is not just a stop-gap to get you out of crisis, but a therapy that helps you work toward lasting change that can leave you feeling comfortable with yourself for a long time to come. Research shows, in fact, that the effects of psychodynamic therapy extend well beyond the time at which your treatment ends. Yes, psychodynamic therapy can help you with the symptoms of your depression right now, but the insights you gain from it can percolate and mature over the years, leading to a reduction in the risk of relapse.