M. Christina Benson, M.D., D.L.F.A.P.A


Introduction to Psychotherapy

People often seek psychiatric services for long-standing psychological issues or for anxiety, depression or psychosis. Others come to treatment during periods of significant change in their lives especially in the context of loss, changing relationships, or changing responsibilities. Some people seek treatment when their normal patterns of coping with their jobs, stress or with relationships no longer serve to provide them with happiness and fulfillment. Still others come to treatment to help improve their relationships or to further their personal growth. Some form of psychotherapy is beneficial for all of these issues. The approaches I use are a combination of a psychodynamic and psychoanalytic framework, which are extremely similar to each other.

What is Psychotherapy?

Psychoanalytic therapists are interested in underlying meanings. The psychoanalytic belief is that conscious, visible symptoms like catastrophizing or phobias or panic have to do with other less conscious, less easily visible problems. Psychoanalytic therapy is designed to address the less conscious problems that underlie the conscious ones.

Who Can Benefit?

While there is no simple answer to this question, it is important to emphasize that psychodynamic psychotherapy can be an effective treatment or component of a combined treatment for a very wide range of emotional and psychological difficulties. This includes all ages and many diagnostic categories. The range of indications is significantly wider than that for psychoanalysis. In order to address this question for any individual, a careful evaluation with a well qualified therapist is an important first step.

What Are the Rewards?

In my view, of all the therapy approaches, the psychoanalytic approach is the most powerful for dealing with human complexities and contradictions. It can be a very meaningful and life changing experience to find someone who is interested in and trained in helping you get into sealed off areas of your psyche and helping you to understand them.

Types of Psychotherapy

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a form of depth psychology, the primary focus of which is to reveal the unconscious content of a patient’s psyche in an effort to alleviate psychic tension. In this way, it is similar to psychoanalysis. It also relies on the interpersonal relationship between client and therapist more than other forms of depth psychology. In terms of approach, this form of therapy also tends to be more eclectic than others, taking techniques from a variety of sources, rather than relying on a single system of intervention. It is a focus that has been used in individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, family therapy, and to understand and work within institutional and organizational contexts.

Psychoanalytic or Psychodynamic Psychotherapy is a form of clinical practice based on psychoanalytic theory and principles. It’s a treatment modality that uses psychoanalytic theories as the frame for formulation and understanding of the therapy process. These multiple theories apply to the therapy situation, with a focus on increasing self-understanding and deepening insight into emotional issues and conflicts which underlie the presenting difficulties. Typically therapists make use of exploration of unconscious thoughts and feelings, understanding aspects of the relationship between therapist and patient, which may relate to underlying emotional conflicts, interpretation of defensive processes which obstruct emotional awareness, and consideration of issues related to sense of self and self-esteem.

Most often therapy sessions occur between one and four times weekly. The focus is on exploration of the patient’s inner experience, emphasizing this as it occurs in current daily life, as it carries over from significant and influential events and relationships of the past, and as it is manifest in the context of the therapeutic relationship.

The efficacy of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, often referred to as psychodynamic psychotherapy, has been well documented. Current research indicates this as a powerfully curative treatment.