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Psychodynamic and Systemic Clinical Psychology Unit


Chef de service
: Professeur Stéphan Hendrick

The Unit provides courses on two of the four main models in clinical psychology: the psychodynamic model and the systemic model.

What is Psychodynamic Clinical Psychology?

The psychodynamic approach offers an operative way to describe the mental universe of people. This mental universe is sometimes overrun with painful and repetitive psychic conflicts that go beyond awareness and understanding. To get better from this, it is important to clarify these conflicts and give them meaning.
This approach is based on a concept of psychism initiated by Sigmund Freud, but was then the subject of new elaborations (Winnicott, Luborsky, Tisseron Lebovici, Laplanche, Dejours, among others) and is today the subject of much research.  This concept is based on the idea that our thoughts, our emotions and our actions are governed by unconscious motives (instinct) forged during childhood.  The satisfaction of instinct is sometimes suppressed and sometimes adjusted according to moral constraints and social taboos.  This conflict situation shapes our personality and can lead to a mental balance and even creative processes or various psychopathological states, sources of occasional intense suffering.

What is Systemic Clinical Psychology?

The systemic approach highlights the importance of our relational universe. Man develops, grows, lives and changes largely for and by others. It is therefore logical to seek effective and rewarding solutions by (re-)shaping our relationships with others!

This approach is based on a concept of psychism not least because of Gregory Bateson.  With this approach, our thoughts, our emotions and our actions are governed by the human environment that surrounds us and constantly shapes.  This process certainly begins during childhood, within a family setting, but also as a result of previous generations (transgenerational) and, additionally, as a result of interactions that we have and experience here and now!  As a result, suffering, among other symptoms, can certainly emerge in an individual, and can perhaps only be understood within the context of an individual's human environment, including family life, spouse, and general everyday life.  Therefore, systemic therapy almost always mobilises the presence of several people (spouse, parent, children, etc.) because it is only in this context that understanding followed by change can occur sustainably.

In conclusion, the psychodynamic model and the systemic model are considered two sides of the same coin, accounting for the complexity of human beings facing both their private lives  and the  world around them.