PSYCHOTHERAPY: HOW I WORK
Katherine E. Scharff, LLC
Child and Adult Psychotherapy with Individuals, Couples, and Families
Weekday Hours by Appointment
“At some point in our lives most of us will get emotionally overwhelmed. At that point we will not be free to be our best, most fulfilled, most creative selves. Therapy can help us get back on track.”
— From Kate’s Therapy Demystified: An Insider’s Guide to Getting the Right Help (2004)
The type of psychotherapy I practice is called “psychodynamic.” Psychodynamic psychotherapy may be referred to as “insight-oriented,” “psychoanalytic,” “exploratory,” and the shortened term “dynamic” therapy. But all of these terms refer to an approach which focuses on understanding connections between past and present experience. The idea is that events and relationships in our earlier lives shape the ways we continue to feel and act in the present, even though we’re often not aware of this influence. Symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fears, or problems in relationships are expressions of old conflicts we haven’t fully faced and understood. In this type of therapy you’ll get relief by learning how your problems reflect patterns that were laid down earlier in your life, and working through your feelings about them.
Answers to common questions about psychodynamic therapy
How does a psychodynamic therapist act?
All good therapists are warm, empathic, reliable, non-judgmental, and trustworthy. They are not cold blank screens, but real people with real feelings and reactions they ask questions and offer guidance when its needed. But your relationship with your psychodynamic therapist is unique- a special collaborative partnership. A psychodynamic therapist doesn’t impose an agenda she facilitates, guides, illuminates, interprets, and sometimes even explains— but mostly tries to follow the flow of your ideas and feelings without trying to direct them too much. Inevitably this process will lead you to the important issues that need attention. Your psychodynamic therapist will also pay special attention to what is going on in the room between the two of you, since the therapeutic relationship is like a controlled, concentrated version of all your other relationships (past and present), and you can learn a lot about yourself by studying it.
When is psychodynamic therapy a good choice?
Feeling better now is important in any therapy. But psychodynamic therapy also aims for long-term growth. If you’re interested learning things about yourself that will help you change longstanding, problematic patterns of behavior and enhance your life for the long haul, this approach is for you.
I’m in crisis. Will psychodynamic therapy help me?
All good therapists know that to be helpful they must meet you where you are. If you come to therapy reeling from a recent loss, newly diagnosed with a serious illness, or having been physically assaulted, this isn’t the time for you to be uncovering hidden conflicts. You need someone to help you focus on your strengths and mobilize whatever supports might be available to you. On the other hand, if your current trauma is reawakening feelings from an earlier trauma in your life, you’ll need a therapist who can help you make sense of that connection. Psychodynamic therapists can do both: they can attend to your need for support in the present while remaining sensitive to the ways the past is being stirred up. We have lots of tools in our toolbox, and the training to know which one to use when.