Insight Or Action–Or Both? Psychodynamic Vs. Solution-Focused

Oprah’s term “aha moment” was officially added in 2012 to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and is defined as “a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension.”

Aha moments are pretty much like flashes of insight, those internal discoveries often made in therapy and elsewhere. One common type of therapy, psychodynamic, is even otherwise known as “insight therapy.”

As wise physician Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894), once said, “A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.” So, surely these are worth finding.

On the other hand, according to psychotherapist Milton H. Erickson (1901-1980), “Change will lead to insight far more often than insight will lead to change.” And isn’t change what we’re really looking for in therapy?

Not surprisingly, Erickson’s work has been highly influential in the development of therapies that are more solution-focused, problem-focused, or action-based than psychodynamic. Often these are shorter-term in nature but not always, and, as Lindsey Antin states on website Good Therapy, “I consider these kinds of therapies to be ‘strength-based’ as opposed to ‘insight-oriented.'”

Antin lists “Three Simple Reasons Solution-Focused Therapy Works”:

  1. Focusing on your strengths always produces the best return on your investment…
  2. People are always trying to right themselves…When a client and therapist can tap into the right system to solve problems, the client’s constant efforts to right themselves will eventually work. A solution-focused therapist works hard to believe the best in the client and to act as a coach and facilitator toward the client’s goals.
  3. Thoughts are our best predictors of happiness…(T)here is a direct link between the thoughts you think and the feelings you feel. When practiced over time, healthy and productive thoughts produce effective long-term results.

As an eclectic therapist, I’m a proponent of both types of therapy, as well as a hybrid that is sometimes called process-oriented solution-focused therapy. (Oh, the many labels there are!)

Interestingly, there’s often a natural mix of insight and action no matter what the professed therapy orientation. Solution-focused therapy often becomes insight-oriented, and insight-oriented therapy generally also involves some solution-focusing.

Bottom line: Whatever a client wants. Whatever works for the client. And, whatever a client wants is often what works.

It doesn’t even have to be labelled. It just happens.

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