Psychodynamic Organisational Therapy

The helping professions are made up of people who want to make a difference to those in pain, physical or psychological, or whose lives have been difficult and stressful. The desire to work with vulnerable clients is a profound aspiration for many people and they enter their various professions with high ideals. The reality is often very challenging: they can find themselves in the grip of strong emotions that make them feel strangers to themselves and the unremitting nature of the work can leave them feeling exhausted and unappreciated.

Some leave, others develop survival mechanisms that do not serve themselves or their clients well. The quest to understand these dynamics, with a view to making a difference is at the heart of organisational therapy. Psychodynamic theories make an important contribution: their emphasis on what can unconsciously pass between individuals, sometimes called transference or communication by impact is very significant. It can perhaps be better understood as an individual’s unconscious attempt to give the other an emotional experience for which they cannot find words.

For example a worker goes into a children’s home full of hope, looking forward to the day ahead and within a very short period of time feels helpless and hopeless and struggles not to explode in anger. These feelings belong to a young client who cannot find the words to express himself and can only unconsciously convey them through behaviour. If the worker is not helped to understand this they can be left feeling disillusioned and rejected and can grow a thick skin, defences, in order to survive.

Helping workers make sense of these experiences is at the heart of what an organisational therapist does, as is understanding the dynamics of teams and organisations. Communication in these settings is fraught with anxieties and tolerating these and helping people get to a point where once again they can think, about their feelings, about how they interact with each other, is also the business of the organisational therapist. Human beings need other human beings: their problem is that human interaction makes them anxious.

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