The Difference between Person Centred and Psychodynamic therapy

Category: Therapy
Last Updated: 21 Mar 2023
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'Person-centred and psychodynamic counsellors have a lot to offer each others..... however when the differences between the approaches are examined there are significant areas of contradiction and incompatibility' Wheeler and McLeod (1995) briefly compare the key principles of Person Centred and Psychodynamic approach and critically evaluate where the approaches part company with one another

Person centred and psychodynamic counsellors, both have one main aim -to help people develop in a positive way and to move forwards , however the methods they use to reach this goal varies . I will give a brief description of both of the key concepts and compare them ,then evaluate how these differences make the two approaches separate . The Psychodynamic Approach focuses on our mind soul and spirit and how our past can influence these aspects especially our childhood experiences and unresolved childhood conflicts can lead to anxiety and problems when older.

Psychodynamic is very much about looking into our unconscious it also delves into how people deceive themselves as to our intentions desires and beliefs and how these deceptions can cause conflict between our expressed goals and our actions. Important aspects of Freudian theory has been the idea that these traumatic experiences are actively repressed and therefore clients are likely to repeat patterns of behaviours .

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He key concepts address psychosexual stages that occur in the childhood stages of development, the id, ego, super ego and ego defences mechanisms, Freud believed all of these unconscious thought processes lead to a persons present behaviour. Psychodynamic counsellors goal is to make the client aware of there unconscious and dive into there early childhood conflicts . Interpreting transference is often used to link these past conflicts to the present problems, dream analysis may be used to achieve this, free association and possibly transference is used to unlock past conflicts

The Person-Centred Approach is more directed as looking at a person as a whole and looks at people with a positive approach and believes with the right given conditions everyone should be able to grow and reach there full potential and even though the past is taken into consideration it is not the main theme like psychodynamic , the main matter now is the present and the relationship between the client and the counsellor and counselling skills are vital in order to make the client feel like they can express themselves Dave Mearns acknowledged the important skills as being congruence ,empathy and unconditional positive regard.

The key concepts involves looking a persons present and helping them move onwards to do this counsellors must look at aspects such as the actualising tendency(growth and development) and the six therapeutic conditions (the conditions needed to embrace change).

The aims of a person centered counsellor is to provide the right environment for a client and offer a place where the client can feel free to explore themselves and the aspects of change that need to occur a counsellor must have certain qualities to encourage these changes, they must be genuine and have UPR and often try to achieve change by probing and formal analysis this involved a lot of questions and can be time consuming, especially if a client does not want to open up.

We can see where these approaches part with each other, the two approaches both have different models of looking at personality and have different therapeutic aims and different techniques to reach these aims. Whereas the person centred approach focus's on experiencing and expressing feelings the psychodynamic approach aims to look at the underlying anxiety behind these feelings and the unconscious thought behind them. n a person centred approach this may result in congruence (directly addressing a situation ) which entails genuineness and personal disclosure in order for the client to feel self aware and would help with self acceptance and possible help the client with some aspects of there questions .

However counter-transference would be used in psychodynamic counselling ( expressing ones own unconscious feelings onto the therapist) and use this as psychodynamic counsellors believe a client may be using defence mechanisms, therefore must look into their unconscious and may not always answer questions . this may lead to different reactions in the client a client may feel that the psychodynamic approach of counter transference my be distant as psychodynamic counsellors try to be more professional however in person centred the client may feel more invited to open up .

Another clear difference in the two is the way that gender is addressed , psychodynamic counsellors see men and women as psychologically different due the theory of the Oedipus complex yet person centred does not emphasised gender ,therefore psychodynamic approach has been criticised for being phallo-centric . The same applies when cultural differences is looked at however this time it is the psychodynamic approach that does not address culture but the person-centred approach that adapts its skills to suite peoples backgrounds .

When I look at these two approaches its clear that they separate because overall psychodynamic counselling is about detailed elaboration and looks towards the past and what did exist and what conflicts have not been resolved and believes that people are very self destructive ,all in all psychodynamic approach is a very un-positive look on people as a whole and it is often criticized for putting to much emphasis on the past and the stages of development Freud often gets criticized for being old fashioned in comparison to the person centred approach however psychodynamic counseling did offer a lot of new ideas into counselling and still remains very influential.

In conclusion I think that there are benefits to both of the counseling approaches and combined persons centred and psychodynamic approaches and together would be a good way to approach counseling however this is debated over widely and not always considered plausible but I think it depends on the therapists individual skills and the model of therapy they use with a client . overall I think that both approaches aim to help the client excel but have very different ways of approaching this and in terms of focusing on a individuals recovery and their overall well being I believe the person-centered approach succeeds.

Related Questions

on The Difference between Person Centred and Psychodynamic therapy

Is person Centred therapy psychodynamic?
No, person-centred therapy is not psychodynamic. Person-centred therapy is a type of humanistic therapy that focuses on the individual's subjective experience and emphasizes the importance of self-determination and personal growth. Psychodynamic therapy, on the other hand, is a type of therapy that focuses on unconscious processes and the exploration of past experiences.
What is the main difference between psychoanalytic psychotherapy and the person-centered approach?
The main difference between psychoanalytic psychotherapy and the person-centered approach is that psychoanalytic psychotherapy focuses on uncovering unconscious conflicts and motivations, while the person-centered approach focuses on creating a supportive environment for the client to explore their feelings and experiences. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy also involves the therapist interpreting the client's behavior, while the person-centered approach is more focused on the client's self-exploration and self-discovery.
What are the differences between psychodynamic person-centred and CBT?
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the unconscious mind and how it affects behavior, while person-centred therapy focuses on the individual's subjective experience and how it affects their behavior. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and how they can be changed to improve mental health.
How does person-centered therapy differ from other therapies?
Person-centered therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the individual's subjective experience and emphasizes the client's self-determination and personal growth. It differs from other therapies in that it does not involve the therapist providing advice or direction, but instead focuses on creating a supportive environment for the client to explore their own feelings and experiences. Person-centered therapy also emphasizes the importance of the therapeutic relationship, which is based on trust, respect, and acceptance.

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The Difference between Person Centred and Psychodynamic therapy. (2017, Jul 28). Retrieved from

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