Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud is considered the father of psychoanalysis, and the ideas he developed more than 100 years ago are still widely used in the fields of psychiatry and psychology. Freud's theories have been the basis for numerous offshoots based on similar assumptions but taking different approaches, such as psychodynamic therapy.
Freudian psychoanalysis is predicated on the assumption that everyone has a conscious and an unconscious mind. Our unconscious mind is where we keep feelings and memories too painful to be addressed consciously, which causes us to develop psychological defenses to prevent these unconscious feelings from spilling over into the conscious mind. Psychoanalytic therapy forces the patient to delve into these unconscious feelings through techniques such as free association and dream analysis. The goal is for the psychoanalyst to explore the patient's unconscious thoughts to help him deal with any issues or trauma buried in the unconscious mind. In Freudian psychoanalysis, this almost always stems from traumatic childhood incidents.
Psychodynamic analysis shares the same basic assumption that painful memories are hidden in the unconscious mind. However, psychodynamic analysis takes the idea one step further by assuming the patient's psychological problems are caused by a malfunction in the defenses meant to protect the conscious from the subconscious. Psychodynamic analysis typically has a specific aim and focuses on dealing with a particular problem that brought the patient to analysis in the first place, such as a phobia or personality trait that is having a negative impact on the patient's life.
Length of Treatment
The time frame involved when undergoing psychoanalytic therapy can vary, although treatment can typically last for five to six years, sometimes even longer. Patients are expected to commit to regular sessions, usually once a week, but sometimes even several times a week. Psychodynamic therapy, however, can take significantly less time to complete. Since psychodynamic therapy is usually addressing a specific issue as opposed to understanding the patient's entire personality, treatment may be completed within a few months. However, psychodynamic therapy can also be ongoing over a number of years, depending upon the severity of the issue being addressed.
Differences in Therapy
The overall goal of psychoanalysis is to help the patient delve deeply into his unconscious thoughts and desires so he can better understand how past experiences continue to affect his behavior in the present. By understanding these past experiences — which are usually painful — the patient can then work through these buried feelings and hopefully live a better, more fulfilling life. Psychodynamic therapy also seeks to help the patient deal with past events, but the focus is typically on addressing problems that are more immediate and specific than the issues dealt with in psychoanalysis.