Difference Between Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Therapy

Main Difference – Psychoanalytic vs Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychoanalytic therapy and Psychodynamic therapy are two of the most important treatment modalities recommended to address various psychiatric illnesses due to their broad range of advantages associated with clearly identified objectives and scopes. The main difference between psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy is their time limit and intensiveness; psychodynamic therapy is known to be briefer and less intensive than traditional psychoanalytic therapy.

This article looks at

1. What is Psychoanalytic Therapy? – Goals and Efficacy, Methods Used, Duration and Intensity

2. What is Psychodynamic Therapy? – Goals and Efficacy, Methods Used, Duration and Intensity

3. What is the difference between Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Therapy?Difference Between Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Therapy - Comparison Summary

What is Psychoanalytic Therapy

Psychoanalytic therapy is a type of treatment, based mainly on the psychoanalytic theories introduced by Sigmund Freud, and focuses on how an individual’s unconscious mind influences his respective thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns.

The fundamental objective of psychoanalytic therapy involves the rational analysis of early childhood experiences which can give rise to potential behaviors, personality traits and various actions of an individual.

The duration of treatment will vary according to individual needs, but as a rule, there should be initial meets should occur least once a week; this may gradually decrease in frequency (once per month) but remain for a number of weeks, months or even years, depending on the patient response.

As far as the history of psychoanalytic therapy is concerned, Charcot, the person who worked together with Freud is known to have used hypnosis to treat women with hysteria who indicated symptoms such as partial paralysis, hallucinations, and nervousness.

Psychoanalytic therapists mostly use talking to patients, highlighting the concept of talk therapy, which is the commonest mode of intervention used here. Also known as talking-cure, this therapy tries to identify a relationship between a person’s childhood experiences, negative life events, unconscious feelings, thoughts and emotions which are thought to be playing an important role various human behaviors. Psychoanalytic therapy also involves free association, exploration of the transference, observing defenses and dream interpretation.

Although some professionals suggest that this method is time-consuming, expensive and lacks a definitive scientific basis, several research studies have proven its effectiveness in emotional growth as a result of the empathy, non-judgmental listening, understanding, and many other motivational factors.

Main Difference - Psychoanalytic vs Psychodynamic Therapy

What is Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic Therapy is defined as a systematic study of psychological forces which result in various human behaviors, feelings or emotions and how they can occur in relation to previous life experiences. In simpler terms, it mainly focuses on the dynamic relationship between concepts of conscious and unconscious motivation which relies on the fact that various processes of the mind have a definitive flow of psychological energy in the human brain.

The main types of this therapy include interpersonal therapy (IPT) and person-centered therapy which are associated with free association, resolving objectives on unconscious conflicts, enhancing defense mechanisms, positive transference, and symptomatic treatment.

Psychodynamic therapy involves taking repressed childhood experiences to conscious levels, using in analyzing an individual’s present issues.

Although there is some deficit of quantitative and experimental research, psychodynamic therapy is accepted throughout the world for treating phobias, anxiety disorders, depression, etc.

Difference Between Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Therapy

Difference Between Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Therapy


Psychoanalytic therapy is defined as a process by which a person is cured by bringing up unconscious thoughts to the conscious level which will ultimately result in the release of several repressed emotions and experiences.

On the other hand, Psychodynamic therapy, also known an insight-oriented therapy, is the oldest type of modern therapy used in the field of psychiatry and defined as an intervention  that mainly focuses on unconscious processes which tend to decide an individual’s present behavior.

Duration and Intensity

Psychodynamic therapy is known to be briefer and less intensive than traditional psychoanalytic therapy, but both of them stem from the fundamental theory which accepts that the development of the individual is more or less affected by numerous unforgotten childhood experiences.

More importantly, the universal central concept of brief therapy is encouraged in psychodynamic therapy which mainly focuses on short-term, rapid interventions that directly target the patient’s issue, rather than associating him freely and discussing numerous, possibly unconnected problems, which usually play the hallmark in psychoanalytic interventions.


Both types of treatment can be used to address the same psychiatric condition; the effectiveness will tend to depend on the individual requirements, the severity of the illness, environment and possible past experiences.

Image Courtesy: 

 “Clinic Counselling Session”  via

“Balanced Life Institute – Santa Monica Psychotherapy” By Bliusa – Own work  via

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music

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