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Psychodynamic therapy, also known as insight-oriented therapy, focuses on unconscious processes as they are manifested in an individual’s current behaviour. The goals of psychodynamic therapy include the development of client self-awareness and an understanding of the influence the past has, on current behaviour. A psychodynamic approach enables the client to examine unresolved conflicts and symptoms that arise from past dysfunctional relationships.

The theory supporting psychodynamic therapy originated in, and is informed by, psychoanalytic theory. There are four major schools of psychoanalytic theory, each of which has influenced psychodynamic therapy. The four schools are: Freudian, Ego Psychology, Object Relations, and Self Psychology. Each of the four schools presents discrete theories of personality formation, psychopathology formation and change, and techniques by which to conduct therapy. Psychodynamic therapy is distinguished from psychoanalysis in several ways, including the fact that psychodynamic therapy need not include all analytic techniques and is not conducted by psychoanalytically trained analysts. Psychodynamic therapy is also conducted over a shorter period of time and with less frequency than psychoanalysis.

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