How can a psychodynamic approach help couples?

Bringing awareness to the past and how it affects our present relationships.

counselling focuses primarily on the concept that we are all subject to unconscious motivations which result in our behaviour and emotions seeming inexplicable to us consciously. We sometimes find ourselves repeating patterns of behaviour and making choices which are not helpful to us.

By having the space in therapy to reflect upon our feelings with someone who tunes into our unconscious, underlying messages, we can try to bring our consciousness to some of these deeply buried experiences. This is helpful to process these feelings and allow them to lose some of their power of control over our actions against better judgement.The focus of the psychodynamic approach is in the present. But you’ll learn to to try and become aware of and how past experience will affect behaviour and feelings that seem to make no sense in the present. 

Building relationships

When we fall in love, we are partly unconsciously recognising hidden desires in our partners. Whilst we choose our significant others for many reasons of which we are entirely conscious, there are also unconscious elements at work. It may be that our partners have similar personal histories and shared unconscious beliefs about relationships and how they work, which will in some way be ‘re-enacted’ in your own relationship together.

‘Couple fit’

We can think of the relationship as a ‘psychological container’ for each partner, which allows capacity for empathy and connectedness. The unconscious hope is that through the relationship we will find a psychological space. This space allows us to process not only our individual emotional experience of the past, sometimes as far back as early childhood, but also understand the impact on our current relationships and behaviour and modify them.

The relationship between therapist and client offers a confidential and safe space in which to explore problems and anxieties. It’s probably the most important tool in the work they undertake together, acting as a mirror between the past and the present and opening up a route to a better understanding. This can make it easier to move away from unhelpful or unwanted behaviour patterns and to make different choices.

The present relationship

In psychodynamic couple work, it’s the relationship which becomes the primary client, as the couple and counsellor try to think about what each partner brings to the conscious and unconscious relationship. By reflecting on this - with someone whose job it is to focus both consciously and unconsciously on the interactions in the counselling room - you’ll develop methods of understanding more effectively the issues within the relationship and between the individuals.

Very often this increased understanding, bringing hidden feelings to the consciousness, is enough to make sense of the present. It improves the way in which couples can manage their relationship for the future.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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