Psychodynamic Theory and Mental Health.

Early life and Mental Health

Psychodynamic Theory informs us that our Mental Health is influenced by the people around us from the moment we are born. We have left the safety of the womb and come into a world surrounded by our parents, grandparents and possible siblings. In the early stages of life, we will wholly depend on our parents or caregivers to survive. Nature has provided us with five senses (hearing, taste, touch, sight and smell) to interact with the world. This is how we gather the cognitive information from the world around us, which influences our Mental Health. Even as a baby, we begin to develop the self-confidence of knowing what we need to survive.

In an ideal world, both of our parents will respond to us when we cry. Thus, ensuring we receive the right amount of nurturing, attention and feelings of security as we grow up. This applies from our early days, right through to the time we are ready to leave home. Suppose our needs are met in the right ways. In that case, psychodynamic Theory informs us that we will develop a positive sense of Mental Health, including a sense of self-confidence and self-worth. This healthy attachment enables us to develop a healthy balance of creating our personality, “our authentic self” while knowing that our parents are there should we need them.

What happens if there was an unhealthy attachment?

Psychodynamic Theory informs us a negative environment may impact our Mental Health. This may include such things as a loss of self-confidence, self-worth and anxiety. This may lead to challenging relationships as we develop an expectation that others will fulfil our missing needs.

We continue our life’s journey from these very early days. We gather all sorts of information and experiences, which will form our personality and perspective of ourselves, our relationships and life in general.  As we continue growing up, we also experience other relationships which will be different to our parents. These, in turn, will also have an impact on us in varying ways.  Such relationships may include our siblings, grandparents, friends, nursery, and schools. All of which widens our perspective of relationships.

Psychodynamic Theory advises us the saying “past experiences can affect your life today” can indeed be very accurate. This includes areas of our feelings, personality traits, behaviours and overall Mental Health. For example, suppose the experiences of our childhood were traumatic or painful. In that case, this could be impacting your current and future life. If we are not aware or unable to link these traits with our past, we can become “stuck”. Often noticing only that there is a repeating pattern but not understanding why our relationships do not last. This, in turn, can erode self-confidence and generate feelings such as anger or anxiety.

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What do clients ask?

When clients start counselling with me, the question I often get asked is, “How can I fix this?”. The answer to this is quite complex:

The unconscious mind is the primary source of human behaviour. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part you cannot see. Nevertheless, our feelings, motives, and decisions are powerfully influenced by our past experiences and stored in the unconscious.”

Freud (1915)

As a Psychodynamic Counsellor, your past experiences, up to current days experiences, that I will work with you during your sessions. The goal of therapy is often to enable your self-awareness and understand the influences of childhood on your present life. We will aim to bring the unconscious into consciousness.  There may also be some critical developmental learnings missed as a child. At the same time, you were stuck at an early stage of emotional development.

I will provide you with a safe, caring, supportive and non-judgemental environment to help you explore your way through your difficulties.  It can often be easier to talk to someone outside the typical family and friends support network.  

What happens typically in the early sessions counselling?

I usually start by doing a Genogram with you and exploring the family relationships and interactions between family members. Next, we examine your perspective surrounding these relationships. Doing this can give a wealth of information that can help you better understand your current relationships. Often I have found that families repeat patterns that have been passed down through the generations. Many things during childhood have influenced generational parenting styles. These may include such things as culture, mental health and finances. The list is almost endless.

I also ask you to tell me about your life’s story, as far back as you can remember. Exploring how it was growing up through to what life is like now. For me, it is like a jigsaw puzzle. By telling me about you, we can see the links between current patterns and early childhood influences.

Is it tough to explore my Mental Health?

If your childhood has been difficult, your thoughts and feelings about certain events or experiences can be a struggle to recall. This can be due to a perceived lack of safety attached to these memories. Unlocking the “Pandora’s Box” of our memories can usually take time and is typically long-term work. It can feel like the endless “peeling of an onion”. So it does take commitment to work through your story.  However, the benefits of this can be a truly powerful experience. During the therapeutic process, you become aware of your thoughts, feelings and subsequent behaviours. This allows you to reframe your life experiences and make peace with the wounded inner child.  

Remember, Psychodynamic Theory tells us you are who you are because of your childhood. But your past does not have to define your future. You can change if you want to. You can live differently if you desire. Make a new life for yourself. However, you see fit and at any age. You do not have to do what you have always done. You have the strength inside you to reinvent your life as you did to survive your childhood.

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Michele - counselling in Leighton Buzzard

Michele is a qualified, highly competent and very sought-after Relationship and Couples Counsellor and Clinical Supervisor, who has gained experience in various professional settings alongside having her own private practice.

She is a fully qualified Integrative Counsellor who has also gained a post-graduate qualification in Psychotherapeutic Counselling. This along with further specialist training makes her an ideal Counsellor to support you and possibly your partner, as you work through a variety of life’s relationship challenges.

To find out more about Michele, take a look at her profile in a little more detail:

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