Affective change in psychodynamic psychotherapy: Theoretical models and clinical approaches to changing emotions

Claudia Subic-Wrana, Leslie S. Greenberg, Richard D. Lane, Matthias Michal, Jörg Wiltink, Manfred E. Beutel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objectives: Affective change has been considered the hallmark of therapeutic change in psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic writers have begun to incorporate theoretically the advanced un-derstanding of emotional processing and transformation of the affective neurosciences. We ask if this theoretical advancement is reflected in treatment techniques addressing the processing of emotion. Methods: We review psychoanalytic models and treatment recommendations of maladaptive affect processing in the light of a neuroscientifically informed model of achieving psychother-apeutic change by activation and reconsolidation of emotional memory. Results: Emotions tend to be treated as other mental contents, resulting in a lack of specific psychodynamic techniques to work with emotions. Manualized technical modifications addressing affect regulation have been successfully tested in patients with personality pathology, but not for psychodynamic treatments of axis I disorders. Conclusions: Emotional memories need to be activated in order to be modified, therefore, we propose to include techniques into psychodynamic therapy that stimulate emotional experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-223
Number of pages17
JournalZeitschrift fur Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychotherapie
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016


  • Emotion focused psychotherapy (EFT)
  • Emotional activation
  • Emotional memory
  • Levels of emotional awareness (LEA)
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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