Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Psychodynamic Therapy in Toronto

For those looking to build their self-awareness and understand the influence of the past on their present behaviour, psychodynamic psychotherapy is an excellent approach.

A psychodynamic therapist enables their clients to examine unresolved conflicts and symptoms that arise from past dysfunctional relationship dynamics such as family issues, bad relationships, and toxic friendships.

What is psychodynamic therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy is a form of therapy with four major goals:

  1. Providing emotional insight
  2. Increasing the limits of autonomy
  3. Making the unconscious, conscious
  4. Understanding the present through the past

Because psychodynamic therapy requires openness about the past, it relies deeply on the relationship between the client and therapist. 

A psychodynamic therapist prioritises trust, and emphasises nonjudgement and safety within sessions.

Core principles of psychodynamic therapy

The major objective of psychodynamic therapy is to help people gain insight into their external lives by reviewing their:

  • Childhood experiences
  • Emotions and thoughts
  • Internal views of themselves, others, and the world

Psychodynamic therapists will ask about your dynamics with your parents, partners, friends and siblings. You will be asked to walk through your history of relationships and look for patterns and relational wounds. 

Often, these patterns happen because you’re trying to fix an ‘original wound’. 

For example, if you constantly find yourself in romantic relationships with emotionally unavailable people, a psychodynamic therapist might inquire whether a parent withheld love from you as a child.

It may be that your unconscious mind believes that gaining love from someone who does not willingly provide it will fix your problems, so you constantly look for those that mirror the behaviour of your parent.

A psychodynamic psychotherapist will work alongside you to help heal your original wound so you can break dysfunctional patterns of behaviour. Some common techniques include dream analysis and transference. 

Transference is the act of projecting one’s feelings about a key figure in their life (for example, a parent) onto their therapist. The therapist will help you explore other ways of responding to your key figure to improve your relationship with them, and yourself.

Defense mechanisms in psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy focuses a lot on defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms are unconscious ways to cope that help us keep painful feelings and memories out of our awareness. 

Some common defense mechanisms include: 


Denial is one of the most common defense mechanisms. It refers to the refusal to accept reality. Those in denial will block experiences, evidence or feelings from their mind so they don’t have to deal with the pain associated with them.

Example: Someone who drinks excessively will not accept that they have an alcohol issue because they are still able to go to work every day.


Projection refers to someone who refuses to acknowledge their own ‘unacceptable’ thoughts, feelings, or motives, so they attribute them to someone else. 

Example: A married individual who is attracted to their coworker cannot handle the reality of their emotions, so they blame their partner for cheating to help alleviate their own guilt and justify their thoughts.


Regression is when someone reverts back to an earlier stage of development when they’re in distress.

Example: An adult may dig up an old stuffed animal after experiencing a distressing event, for comfort.


Repression is pushing unpleasant thoughts that are seemingly impossible to tolerate deep into the unconscious. These repressed thoughts usually come up later in life.

Example: An adult who was bitten by a dog as a child now feels anxiety and fear when they’re around animals without understanding why.


Rationalisation means explaining or justifying an undesirable or intolerable event, thought, or behaviour.

Example: Someone who is passed up for a promotion tells themselves that they didn’t really want the promotion anyhow to cope with the pain of rejection.

A psychodynamic therapist will help you notice defense mechanisms, and work alongside you to find new, more functional ways to cope with difficult emotions and realities.

How does psychodynamic therapy at KMA work?

Psychodynamic therapy at KMA Therapy begins with a 50-minute introductory session with one of our intake counsellors.

Because the therapeutic match is so important for successful psychodynamic therapy, at KMA we ensure we pair you with the best possible fit. The consultation is also a wonderful time to address any questions you may have.

We will provide you with a customised ‘plan of action’. It includes the recommended psychodynamic therapist who is best equipped to help you, as well as any additional testing or psychological services we feel would be helpful. 

One you’re matched, your personalised psychodynamic therapist will ask you questions like:

  • What are your common dreams and/or nightmares?
  • Can you tell me about your most important relationships?
  • When you argue, are you more passive or confrontational?
  • When you think about some impactful childhood memories, what comes to mind?

These questions are designed to get to know you, build rapport, understand your patterns of behaviour, and tap into your unconscious mind.

Get started with psychodynamic therapy today

KMA Therapy has five locations throughout Toronto and we offer online therapy, too. To learn more about psychodynamic therapy, give us a call at 416 487 6288 or fill out our registration form to have our care coordinator reach out with more information. 

You can also book a session with us directly. 

If you want to learn about other mental health concerns, visit our issues page.

Want to know if psychodynamic therapy is effective for depression? Read The 4 Best Types of Therapy for Depression

Read The 5 Best Types of Therapy for Anxiety to learn whether psychodynamic therapy is effective for anxiety.

KMA Therapy

Register Online

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Ontario's Premier Counselling Practice

Therapy has been proven to increase happiness, reduce anxiety, and increase overall fulfillment. Our team of specialized therapists are here to help you work through the issues that are important to you.

Or, are you all set and ready to book?

Choose from available times and book your intake now.