Updated: Jul 29, 2021
My name is Laura Gallivan and I’m excited to join the wonderful team at Conscious Counselling and Wellness! Since I’m new, I would like to introduce myself and share a bit about how I work. Mental health professionals work in many different ways and it is important to understand and fit well with our therapist’s style in order to facilitate a trusting and healing relationship.
First, a little bit about me! I started my own journey studying philosophy, earning my BA in the field from Mount Allison University, and later my MA from Concordia University. I loved exploring questions about life and understanding different philosophers’ points of view, but I noticed that the point of philosophy, for me, always came back to the question of “How do we live well? How do we use what we know to help make a happy life?” I found I wanted to use the ideas and skills I learned in philosophy not only to explore these questions, but also to connect with other people in doing so. This led me to complete my MA in Counselling Psychology at McGill University in 2021, where I was trained to offer individual counselling. My internship there involved a particular focus on psychodynamic psychotherapy (PDT)—a form of therapy about which I have become passionate.
Now, what is psychodynamic therapy? This is a difficult question to answer, and PDT can look different depending on the practitioner. However, there are some key aspects of PDT that may help you determine if this form of therapy would be a good fit for you:
1. Making space for emotions
PDT will involve a focus on expressing all types of emotions. The therapeutic process is meant to be a space to explore and give voice to any feelings the client might have—even emotions which seem confusing, unclear, or which contradict each other.
2. Exploring the past and identifying patterns
Psychodynamic therapists believe that our earliest experiences in life shape how we think, feel, act, and relate to others. The idea is that these experiences and relationships work as blueprints from which we learn and grow into the people we are. For example, if we learned growing up that behaving in certain ways would either help us receive love or avoid punishment, those ways of behaving may linger into adulthood and shape how we respond in various situations, whether we are aware of it or not.
Such inherited, unconscious patterns of thinking, feeling, acting, and relating to others may cause problems in our lives—and even if we are aware of them, we may find that we have trouble changing them. Therefore, PDT will often explore past events with a focus on helping clients become aware of the ways in which past experiences may be unconsciously influencing their lives in the present. By helping clients identify and understand past-based patterns, it aims to help clients break unwanted cycles and choose something new, in order to live more intentional and satisfying lives.
3. Focusing on overall wellbeing, not just symptoms
Another interesting feature of PDT is that it does not focus solely on relieving symptoms. While, of course, symptom relief is one important focus of psychodynamic therapy, it also aims to help clients work toward increased life satisfaction and improved functioning across different areas of life. Put simply, it is not just about eliminating unwanted symptoms, but also about gaining skills and capacities that enrich one’s life. The psychodynamic therapist will help the person reduce symptoms (e.g., anxious thoughts) and improve the contexts in which those symptoms emerge (e.g., your relationships)— this is because PDT views the person in a holistic way, as a complex system wherein change in one area affects another.
Note: As you may have guessed, this often means that psychodynamic therapy is less structured than other types of therapy. While, of course, the therapist is flexible and will incorporate more or less structure depending on the client’s wishes, generally this type of therapy does not have a set structure or involve assigning homework.
4. Developing mindfulness
Finally, the way I practice PDT involves cultivating an element of mindful self-compassion. This approach involves helping clients nonjudgementally notice and name their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Mindful self-compassion is a powerful addition to PDT for two reasons: first, even if we know in our minds that we have certain patterns of thinking, feeling, or relating, we have to be good at noticing them in the moment when they're happening if we’re going to change them. Second, it is important to learn to notice these patterns with compassionate acceptance, so we don’t get caught in yet another pattern of self-judgement and shame. When we add these mindfulness and self-compassion based skills to the knowledge and insight emphasized in PDT, this is a winning combination.
The above offers an overview of what PDT is like in practice, although the therapeutic process is always tailored, to some extent, to the wishes and needs of each individual client. However, if the above characteristics appeal to you, consider reaching out to Conscious Counselling and Wellness [Phone: (506) 230-4105] and mentioning that you are interested in working with me, Laura Gallivan, or contacting me directly by email at email@example.com, to see about setting up an appointment. I would be delighted to the possibility of collaborating with you on your journey! Below I have linked some helpful additional references about psychodynamic therapy if you are interested in learning more.
Conscious Counselling and Wellness: 506-230-4105
Binder, J. L., & Betan, E. J. (2013). Core competencies in brief dynamic psychotherapy: Becoming a highly effective and competent brief dynamic psychotherapist. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group. https://doi-org.proxy3.library.mcgill.ca/10.4324/9780203837412
Shedler, J. (2012). The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. In R. A. Levy, J. S. Ablon, & H. Kächele (Eds.), Psychodynamic psychotherapy research: Evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence (pp. 9–25). Humana Press - Springer. https://doi-org.proxy3.library.mcgill.ca/10.1007/978-1-60761-792-1_2
Tartakovsky, M. (2021, June 22). Is Psychodynamic Therapy Right for Me?. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/lib/psychodynamic-therapy
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