Contemporary psychodynamic therapy (also known as insight or relational therapy) focuses on early childhood attachments, interpersonal dynamics, unconscious motivations, and intergenerational and socio-political influences. 

In the context of trauma-based therapies, Attachment Focused-EMDR and Somatic Experiencing, the stated goals of therapy, will be incorporated with symptoms and dysregulating experiences to explore how the past informs the present and how life experiences manifest in a person’s present-day life through decisions, behaviors, relationships, thoughts, the nervous system, and even dreams. 

Psychodynamic therapy increases self-awareness, examines unresolved past and present conflicts (family, work, relationships, self) and contributes to a deep understanding of how past experiences may lead to a life filled with unintended choices and unsatisfying relationships. Working with a professional who is empathic, thoughtful, and reliably attuned offers a place for reflection, insight, and healing.

Research confirms what many therapists and clients have known for a long time, namely that the therapeutic relationship between therapist and client is one of the strongest predictors of therapeutic outcome. 

As in any relationship, feelings may arise (anger, disappointment, unmet needs) within the context of the therapeutic relationship. When these feelings surface, a unique opportunity occurs among the therapist and client to understand what is coming up in the context of past childhood dynamics and disappointments, and how those formed a template for relational experiences, including with oneself.  

I bring my years of training and practice with this developmentally focused therapy and integrate this framework into the trauma modalities needed to process, integrate, and repair childhood and adult relational wounds.

Oftentimes, a client comes to therapy in a crisis with experiences such as anxiety, depression, a life transition, the death of a loved one, a move, or work problems. Sometimes, a client enters therapy because of feeling stuck or numb with the realization that events from the past are somehow influencing one’s current life. For example:

  • Entering a love relationship, immediately anticipating loss, and protecting against that by distancing 
  • Entering therapy already feeling, “I am too much,” pushing or poking others until the expected outcome happens, and then feeling both relief and rejection
  • Overworking to please or to feel worthy 
  • Disempowering oneself or expressing verbal self-criticism as a way to illicit reassurance and connection from others or to avoid anticipated criticism
  • Feeling overwhelmed and confused each time a warm and supportive supervisor wants to meet 
  • Extreme discomfort being alone

At this point, it is well understood that insight alone is not sufficient for lasting change. Insight is one point along the therapeutic journey. It is not a starting point nor an ending point. Relational therapy involves, in part, bolstering the capacity for reflection, insight, and to monitor body sensations, thoughts and emotions. 

Folding relationally oriented understandings into effective trauma therapies such as AF-EMDR and Somatic Experiencing moves the work more rapidly and adaptively through processing, integration, and healing.

What psychodynamic psychotherapy contributes better than any other modality is the wealth of research and clinical emphasis on child and adult development as well as an understanding of unconscious motivations. Theorists such as Winnicott, Bowlby, Ainsworth, Main, Tronick, Stern, and Beebe, among others in the field, were some of the original researchers to study attachment behavior in infants and children. 

Parent-child dynamics, in the context of a predictable environment, lay the foundation for secure attachments. This infrastructure creates conditions of safety, trust, body boundaries, and pro-social behavior. Certain parenting styles or social circumstances create non-secure attachments such as avoidant, anxious, and disorganized types of relational patterns. These patterns form templates that adults bring to the work place, friendships, and intimate relationships. They affect one’s world view, since “home” sets the stage for what to expect in the world.

Adults who grow up in an unpredictable household, where parents are volatile, or loving one moment and then suddenly withdrawn, may experience a dysregulated nervous system-always on the look-out for danger. One may feel people are not to be trusted and protect themselves by maintaining a “safe distance.” 

As an adult, that “safe distance” causes disconnection in relationships with partners or children. Protective strategies may help a child to survive, but those same protective functions, no longer serve the adult self and tend to disrupt important goals and connections and pose obstacles to living life fully.

Unfortunately, not all licensed therapists hold knowledge, clinical training and experience in all of these foundational categories: 

  • Child, adolescent and adult development 
  • Family and intergenerational dynamics
  • Social forces affecting psyche and nervous system responses
  • Knowledge of attachment research
  • The physiology of trauma and stress
  • Adverse Experiences of Childhood (ACE) that influence later life health and well-being
  • The role of chronic or single-incident stressor(s) in shaping the nervous system
  • Polyvagal theory & practice 
  • How to pace therapy according to clients’ nervous system responses
  • Expertise in AF-EMDR and Somatic therapies

Symptoms and triggers are the manifestation of deeper root causes. For lasting change to endure, the root causes of symptoms and behaviors must be a part of the processing. The symptoms are anxiety, depression, anger, avoidance, perfectionism, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, phobias, addictions, and harsh self-criticism. 

The holistic work I provide is informed, in part, by the field of child, adolescent, and adult development as it pertains to ethnic, economic, religious, and geographical differences. These factors provide a way to understand a person’s life experiences, the evolutionally adaptive mechanisms used to survive maladaptive experiences, and the impacts of social forces such as immigration, poverty, racism, and homophobia on intergenerational and individual development. 

In my practice, I offer integration of relational/attachment processing into AF-EMDR  and Somatic Experiencing therapies. 

Please read the therapy pages on AF-EMDR and Somatic therapy to better understand how I integrate all of these modalities into one seamless, safe, and collaborative experience.