Understanding Freud's Foundational Counseling Techniques | Introduction to Psychodynamic Counselling

Explore the psychodynamic approach in counselling, including Freud's free association and dream analysis techniques

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Psychodynamic Counselling Question & Answer

Question-A: What is the Psychodynamic Approach in Counselling

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The psychodynamic approach refers to the techniques based on psychotherapy. This is a kind of unconscious process practiced on the patient's behavior. This therapy is used to treat various mental disorders of patients. The core principles of the psychodynamic theory are based on some factors which are, thoughts, emotions, experiences in early life, and beliefs of the person (Hersh, 2018). These principles are guided by the unconscious mind, deep feelings, and memories that can affect a person's behavior. It helps the patients to improve their quality of life and get a better way of thinking.

Psychodynamic approaches

The psychodynamic approach determines the problems of the patients, and the reason behind their problems, along with that it helps people to understand their problems, unconscious thoughts, and feelings. Sigmund Freud was a prominent person, who brought various theories of psychological disorders, after Freud, there were many other psychologists who brought forward various concepts of psychological issues, they are, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler (Gabora, & Smith, 2019). Both Jung and Adler brought different theories of various psychological issues, after Freud.

Carl Jung’s theory of consciousness

Jung was the psychologist who founded analytical psychology and explored the concept of the religious nature behind human psychology. His concept is focused on human behavior, as he believes that people are connected to each other as well as to their ancestors (medium, 2022). His analysis is based on various things like thinking of the person, their feelings, sensations, and intuition. Based on these analyses he has brought four theories, which are, persona, shadow, anima, and the self.

Persona: People live in a society where they sometimes live alone and sometimes they are among the crowd. People do not display anything when they are alone, but they try to pretend like other people and make various moves to impress the people around them (medium, 2022). They also make another change by ignoring the primitive qualities that the person had which were not influential on other people (Hunt, 2020). The persona says about the people who adopt behavior to impress others and sacrifice themself for others’ wishes.

Shadow: People prefer the trait of persona and neglect their own character in themselves. Shadow is the neglected behavior and appearance of the people. Thus, if people want to regain their own appearance, emotions, and strength they would gain the shadow.

Anima: This theory of Jung states that every people possess some qualities of the opposite gender. This means that every man has some feminine qualities, on the other hand, every woman consists with some masculine qualities within them.

The self: The self is the part through which Jung states that it is the sum of all the qualities that a person consists of. This says that the person can come to their real self only when they can succeed to overcome the persona, shadow as well as anima.

Alfred Adler’s theory of personality

Adler’s theory of personality is also known as individual psychology which suggests that the success and assertiveness of a man come from some innate superiority. This was based on three different concepts, which are, the inferiority complex, style of life as well as the order of birth (psychologytosafety, 2022). These concepts determine the psychology of people and the changes in them. Adler believed that drive is the ultimate motivating force behind the human behavior.

Psychodynamic Tools

Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual (PDM): The diagnostic and statistical manual or DSM is considered the bible of clinical psychology. The main purpose of this DSM is to understand and evaluate the behavior of the client within a therapeutic context.

Rorschach Inkblots: Rorschach inkblots are an ambiguous and untidy spot of ink that is solely connected with Freudian psychoanalysis. It is used in some forms of the psychodynamic counseling process.

Psychodynamic Techniques

The psychodynamic approach to counseling is a form of psychotherapy that fundamentally relies on the concept of psychoanalysis. The procedure of psychodynamic counseling is based on several psychoanalytic techniques. The most well-known techniques for psychoanalysis are “Free association” and “Dream Interpretation” which are used to explore the unconscious.

Free Association

Free association is a famous practice in psychoanalytic therapy. This process encourages freely sharing thoughts, words, or anything else that comes into the mind of the counselee with the counselor. It works on the degree of authenticity of these thoughts.

Primarily Sigmund Freud developed this technique of psychodynamic therapy. It developed with the target of exploring the unconscious (Lapping & Glynos, 2019). Traditionally this technique suggests the counselee convey or write all thoughts that come to mind. There is a possibility of such words may be associated with some repressed memories and emotions. Hence this free association can guide the unconscious mind of the patient.

Freudian free association is not that relevant these days, even among the Neo-Freudian uses of this technique became uncommon but the contemporary mental health practitioner uses a modified version of free association. The modified version of this technique includes asking the counselee to recall all the memories associated with an event. The counselee might be asked to share the first thoughts or words that come after seeing an image or write down all the thoughts they have at that moment.

Dream Analysis:

Dream analysis is another well-known technique of psychodynamic counseling. Sigmund Freud originated this technique to encounter the unconscious and subconscious mind of the counselee. Freud considered the unconscious mind as “the royal road” to the unconscious. Later, excluding Freudian therapists, Jungian, Gestalt cognitive behavioral, and art therapists also included dream analysis as a technique of psychodynamic counseling process (Bax, Nerantzis & Lee, 2022). It seems a very simple process, the client in counseling relates a dream to the counselor. Elaborately discussion of the thoughts being made. The counselor must gather information about the dream from these conversations. Although there are various applications of dream analysis in counseling.

This psychodynamic approach in counseling helps individuals to deal with several psychological disorders such as Mood Depressive Disorder (MDD), Dual personality, and many other disorders. In general, this approach helps the counselee to be more self-aware and helps them to understand the long-standing conflicts from the past.

Question- B: How is the Self used in Psychodynamic Clinical Work?

The use of self in psychodynamic or psychoanalytic counseling is concerned with the ways in which the counselor communicates with the counselee makes an appeal with the feelings, experience, and personality. The role of the therapist’s self during the counseling procedure involves several aspects such as transference, countertransference, and exploration of the unconscious mind of the client.

As the father of Psychodynamic theory, Sigmund Freud suggested that human behavior can be analyzed through an intrapsychic approach. An insight into the human mind can be observed by analyzing an unconscious mind out of their conscious mind. This unconscious mind consists of one’s past experiences, childhood experiences, and suppressed desires. The analysis of this unconscious mind can lead the therapist toward the answer of why an individual behaves in a certain pattern.

There are several roles of a psychodynamic counselor. They are as follows;

The Authenticity of the Counsellor

According to Carl Rogers, there is a significance of a counselor’s authenticity in the therapeutic alliance with the client. He also pointed out the necessity of congruence for personality change. Remain authentic in therapy is one of the fundamental requirements in psychodynamic counseling.


The counselor must be completely aware of their own self during the therapy, if the responses counselor has against their problems is out of self-awareness, then the therapist will be unable to reflect on how the therapeutic process becomes fruitful. Personal therapy of the counselor, supervision of the counselor, and many other personal and professional development resources has a huge impact on the psychodynamic counseling process.

Presence of the Counselor:

The point has already been made that an authentic presence in therapy is the basic content of the counseling. According to Rogers, the therapist’s attentive presence in the psychodynamic counseling process can be a cause of motivation for clients to reveal comfortably themselves. The key rule of counseling is to be empathetic toward the counselee, regular eye contact during the process, and many other things are also important. A relationship between the counselor and the client without any pretentiousness is necessary for effective counseling.


There is an argument on the personal self-disclosure of the counselor, whether it is effective to answer about themselves outside the therapy room. The other side of the argument suggested that if it helps to enhance the trust of the counselor then it is justified to disclose information about the counselor’s self (winchesterhospital, 2022). Although there is no conclusive point in this debate, therefore if there is no impact of self-disclosure in the therapy, or if there is any risk associated with the self-disclosure then it is better to abstain from self-disclosure or keep the discussion of the issue under supervision.

Relational Self-Disclosure: Relational self-disclosure implies the disclosure of feelings by the counselor about the therapeutic alliance with the counselee here and now. When a counselor discloses the feelings about the therapeutic relationship, that implies that the counselor offers a new perspective to see the process.


Relational self-disclosure leads the counseling process to the therapeutic skill of immediacy. When the therapist uses the skill of immediacy, they make an intervention based on the experience of the moment (Hopwood & Bornstein, 2019). It often invites the counselee to consider what is occurring in the therapeutic relationship now. Immediacy in the counseling process involves sharing feelings along together the counselor and the client in the context of the therapy. This skill demands a degree of instinct on the part of the counselor and trust in their own understanding. This is the area where self-awareness is significant in the psychodynamic counseling process.

The Unconsciousness of the Therapist

There are many feelings and desires that take place outside of an individual’s conscious awareness and by self-reflection one can encounter the previously unacknowledged thoughts or feelings in the light of the awareness. When it occurs in the context of the relationship between the client and the counselor it can take place in several different ways. Transference and countertransference take place in this area of the counseling process.

Transference: Transference occurs when a counselee deflects their feelings about some person onto some other person. During the counseling process, it refers to an individual transferring his or her feelings about someone else onto the counselor. For example, a patient can direct their feelings associated with their parents toward the counselor. There are three types of transference. Positive Transference, Negative Transference, and Sexualized Transference.

Positive transference occurs when feelings regarding positive past experiences are reflected onto the counselor (Sayers, 2021). Negative transference takes place when negative or antagonistic feelings are directed at the therapist. Sexualized transference occurs when the counselee feels attached to the counselor.

Countertransference: Countertransference occurs when the counselor reciprocates the feelings of the counselee. When the counselor directs their emotions, and feelings onto the counselee (Nissen-Lie, Dahl & Høglend, 2022). For example, during the counseling process, the therapist may be got triggered by a personal issue related to their own child while solving the issue of the client regarding his or her child.

Interpretation: After every session of counseling the counselor usually tries to gain insight into the progression of the counseling process. The destination of the psychodynamic counseling journey is to move the clients close to their unacknowledged feelings and desires to find out the fundamental contents of the unconscious mind of the patient. This interpretation helps the counselee to become aware of what is going on (Pitman & Knauss, 2020). For Example, a client revealed something about his or her last night's dreams. The counselor can interpret this dream and can get an idea about the client’s unconscious mind because according to Freud, the dream is the royal pathway of an individual’s unconscious mind.

In Conclusion, being more attentive to the clients, being transparent with the counselee, inviting them to reveal themselves more fully, and creating a comfortable and safe environment for the clients in which they can process the counseling procedure and accept the counselor. From the relational perspective “self” is a key tool for building therapeutic alliances strongly that enhance a psychological relationship between the therapist and the client.



Bax, O. K., Nerantzis, G., & Lee, T. (2022). Transference-focused psychotherapy as an aid to learning psychodynamic psychotherapy: qualitative analysis of UK psychiatry trainees’ views. BJPsych bulletin, 46(1), 57-63. Retrieved from: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin/article/transferencefocused-psychotherapy-as-an-aid-to-learning-psychodynamic-psychotherapy-qualitative-analysis-of-uk-psychiatry-trainees-views/EFED005B9289956CA8C55363652B27C2

Gabora, L., & Smith, C. M. (2019). Exploring the psychological basis for transitions in the archaeological record. In Handbook of Cognitive Archaeology (pp. 220-240). Routledge. Retrieved from: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rstb.2020.0184

Hersh, R. G. (2018). A psychodynamic approach for the general psychiatrist: Using transference-focused psychotherapy principles in acute care settings. Psychiatric Clinics, 41(2), 225-235. Retrieved from: https://www.psych.theclinics.com/article/S0193-953X(18)30006-6/abstract

Hopwood, C. J., & Bornstein, R. F. (2019). Psychodynamic approaches to treating antagonism. In The handbook of antagonism (pp. 337-350). Academic Press. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128146279000232

Hunt, H. T. (2020). Intimations of a Spiritual New Age: IV. Carl Jung's Archetypal Imagination as Futural Planetary Neo-Shamanism. Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.ciis.edu/advance-archive/20/

Lapping, C., & Glynos, J. (2019). ‘Two for joy’: Towards a better understanding of free associative methods as sites of transference in empirical research. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, 24(4), 432-451. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/s41282-019-00133-9

Little, R. (2020). Boundary applications and violations: Clinical interpretations in a transference-countertransference-focused psychotherapy. Transactional Analysis Journal, 50(3), 221-235. Retrieved from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03621537.2020.1771031

Nissen-Lie, H. A., Dahl, H. S. J., & Høglend, P. A. (2022). Patient factors predict therapists’ emotional countertransference differently depending on whether therapists use transference work in psychodynamic therapy. Psychotherapy Research, 32(1), 3-15. Retrieved from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10503307.2020.1762947

Pitman, S. R., & Knauss, D. P. (2020). Contemporary psychodynamic approaches to treating anxiety: theory, research, and practice. Anxiety Disorders, 451-464. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-32-9705-0_23

Sayers, J. (2021). Online psychotherapy: transference and countertransference issues. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 37(2), 223-233. Retrieved from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/bjp.12624


medium, (2022), 4 theories of Carl Jung, Retrieved from: https://medium.com/personal-growth/4-carl-jung-theories-explained-persona-shadow-anima-animus-the-self-4ab6df8f7971 [Retrieved on:7th November, 2022]

psychologytosafety, (2022), Adler’s theory of personality, Retrieved from: https://psychologytosafety.com/adlers-theory-of-personality/ [Retrieved on: 7th November, 2022]

winchesterhospital, (2022), Psychodynamic Therapy: Exploring the Unconscious Mind, Retrieved from: https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=14306 [Retrieved on: 7th November, 2022]


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