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Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

The photo shows the waters at Port Hardy, Vancouver Island, BC. The lower half of the image dips underwater to reveal the hues and shapes of that world, while the upper half shows a woman in a kayak paddling through the narrow passage.

Image credit: edb3_16 -

When we say "I" or "me," we think we know what we are talking about, who that is. It feels known – and it often seems immutable. This sense of self was shaped by formative experiences of the past, particularly early experiences with those who raised you. The past continues to shape our lives until we undertake a sincere and deep exploration, until we are witnessed authentically, until we have new experiences and new relationships that let the past fade away. The primary purpose of the psychotherapy relationship is to give a new mirror, a new container of experience, where the longed-for Self, based in true being, can come forward and live, feel, breathe, love, act.

As newborn infants, we are likely not depressed, or think ourselves ugly, or concerned about a lack of meaning in our lives. Most of what we take ourselves to be – our mind, self-images, ways of relating, ways of making meaning – develops after birth in the context of relationships with caregivers and significant others in our experience. Psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott wrote, “Tell me what you fear and I will tell you what has happened to you.”


By the time a person comes to psychotherapy, they have formed a sense of self, a "me," through decades of life experience. (As an aside, the word "ego" is Latin for "me"; it's that simple.) Most of this "me" is like an operating system that runs below the surface of our consciousness, yet it profoundly shapes our life. And while we think of this "me" as unitary, the reality is that most of us are internally conflicted, holding ideas, beliefs, and experiences that are at cross-purposes, which is why we can find ourselves thinking, saying, or doing things we don't plan and don't understand. 

The psychodynamic approach (also called psychoanalytically informed psychotherapy) understands that past experiences have shaped our sense of self and continue to pattern our thoughts, feelings, relationships, and actions. These patterns will show up in your life, and also in psychotherapy sessions, giving us opportunity to bring them to consciousness. As you feel, sense, and reflect on these in a different relationship than the ones you grew up in, there's a potency available to understand them and to fundamentally change. You become able to experience new ways of relating, behaving, and knowing yourself. 


In this process, we'll consider whatever you want to share about your outer life and relationships. I'm also deeply interested in your inner life, your inner experience, including repetitive thoughts, the voice of the inner critic, dreams and daydreams, recurrent images, memories. Through these we'll reveal – and uncouple – linkages between life experience past and present. 

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