Literature relevant to Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: beginning

Also known as Before Starting the Long Case

Psychodynamic Theories

This is a small subset of literature that might prove to be useful. But often I find at the beginning with something manageable is much better than trying everything. We are referring to some articles by Freud and some chapters from Gabbard’s Psychodynamic Psychiatry in Clinical Practice.

  • On Beginning the treatment (1913) : Freud’s classic description of how to begin psychoanalytic treatment. It is especially useful when thinking about the therapy frame. You will notice that it dates back more than a hundred years. Please, get used to the idea that not everything that is very recent is necessarily going to give you the best head start. Often newer articles are based on a lot of older ones. I find that a mixture of historic and recent literature is better - more grounding, if you will.
  • Basic Principles: Chapter 1 from Glenn O' Gabbard’s excellent book “Psychodynamic Psychiatry in Clinical Practice” (2005). This chapter gives high level overview of the basic ideas in the psychoanalytic approach (psychodynamic is derived from psychoanalytic and for practical purposes the terms can be considered the same) - such as the unconscious, the subjectivity, neurobiological correlates, transference, etc.
  • Theoretical Basis: Chapter 2 from the same book. Overview of major theoretical schools of thought: Ego psychology - including defence mechanisms, Object Relations, Self Psychology and Attachment Theory. Ego and Object Relations are of particular importance, but this chapter is a very good overall read.
  • Psychodynamic Assessment: Chapter 3 - this is an interesting read as it shows how the principles from the previous chapters can be used when assessing a psychiatric situation. Even though the chapter is about assessing a patient for therapy, parts of this can apply to any psychiatric challenge and it helps you to broaden your perspective in psychiatry.
  • Treatments: Chapter 4 - my favourite chapter after number 2. It talks about the types of psychotherapy (keep in mind a continuum between supportive and expressive) and sets out interventions. It helps you to think in a structured way about what you are going to say, or to understand what interventions you have been using. It further talks about transference and stages of an episode of treatment. A must-read.
  • Four Basic Components of Psychoanalytic Technique (2016) A short article by O Kernberg about what it is that the therapeutic interventions do. This would be a more useful read after you have read Chapter 4.
  • Remembering, Repeating and Working Through (1914) Another classic article where Freud describes in his usual clear and colourful style as to what happens during psychotherapeutic treatment. One needs to remember this was written a while ago, however this article will help to bring into relief what you have gained from the overview in chapters 1 and 2. This juxtaposition of an older text with a new brings salience to the subject material.
  • Gabbard (1993): Concept of Boundaries in Psychoanalytic Practice The article touches upon therapeutic boundaries and problems that may arise upon boundary violation. This is a useful article to read when thinking about psychodynamic psychotherapy frame.
Psychotherapy Tutor
Psychotherapy Trainer for Psychiatric Trainees

My professional interests are around practice of psychotherapy within psychiatry.