Psychodynamic therapy, formerly known as psychoanalysis, is a Freudian-based method of psychology often utilized to treat substance use disorder. While the majority of psychotherapies used in addiction treatment are behavioral therapies, psychodynamic therapy focuses on the individual’s emotions.
The psychodynamic model exposes some of the deeper emotions that may have contributed to the development of a substance use disorder. Read on to learn more about this particular approach for substance use recovery.
What is addiction?
Before delving into the theory behind psychodynamic therapy, let’s first explore the definition of addiction. In the past, there was a misconception that addiction was caused by weakness of character or a lack of willpower. That concept has all but disappeared as scientific research continues to clarify what addiction actually is.
Addiction is now believed to be the neurological result of engaging in the use of psychoactive substances for the purpose of escaping emotional or physical discomfort. Individuals use substances to self-medicate or seek a variety of sensations.
Based on the interactions between the substance and the brain’s reward system, repeated substance use can create a psychological dependence, resulting in addiction.
Psychodynamic treatment for addiction recovery
Sigmund Freud developed the theory of psychoanalysis, which features a long-term type of psychotherapy.
Freud sought to understand what drives and influences human behaviors, and delved deeply into his patient’s early childhood experiences to discover the source of a person’s issues. The idea was that a person’s motives, feelings and decisions are driven by past experiences that are stored in the unconscious.
Over the last century, Freud’s psychoanalysis methods have evolved. They now incorporate other similar theories, such as those conceived by Carl Jung, Erik Erikson and others, to become what is now referred to as psychodynamic theory.
In addiction treatment settings, psychodynamic theory is applied to help guide the individual to examine past experiences that may have factored into the substance use disorder. By openly confronting these experiences — which may be painful, traumatic events from as far back as early childhood — the patient can process and eventually heal from the pain in a guided, therapeutic environment. Once this emotional healing has occurred, the underlying pain that may have fueled the substance abuse will subside, opening a clearer path to recovery.
Psychodynamic therapy and its effectiveness with other treatment approaches
Substance use disorder professionals understand that human beings are multi-faceted. Thoughts, feelings and behaviors are intertwined in active substance use, so all of these aspects need to be addressed during treatment in order to achieve long-term recovery.
While psychodynamic therapy is an appropriate treatment method, especially when the individual has a history of trauma or abuse, it is most effective when combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or dialectical behavior therapy. These behavior-based methods provide the tools to assist the individual in making lasting changes in substance-seeking behaviors. See how these therapies can complement each other:
- Psychodynamic therapy: This therapy helps the individual become more aware of their unconscious thoughts, what past experiences drive those thoughts and the resulting feelings that have led to substance use.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps the individual identify thought patterns that have led to maladaptive coping behaviors. CBT helps the individual break free from the disordered thought-behavior patterns.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT equips the individual with coping tools, such as communication skills and ways to improve self-esteem to help them manage emotional or stressful events without returning to substance use.
Psychodynamic therapy can be a useful treatment method to help individuals better understand the emotional issues behind their behaviors. Combining psychodynamic therapy with behavioral therapies like CBT and DBT can provide a comprehensive multi-modal approach for the treatment of substance use disorders.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.