1. What is a Psychodynamic Formulation?

  1. Deborah L. Cabaniss,
  2. Sabrina Cherry,
  3. Carolyn J. Douglas,
  4. Ruth L. Graver and
  5. Anna R. Schwartz

Published Online: 22 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118557181.ch1

Psychodynamic Formulation

Psychodynamic Formulation

How to Cite

Cabaniss, D. L., Cherry, S., Douglas, C. J., Graver, R. L. and Schwartz, A. R. (2013) What is a Psychodynamic Formulation?, in Psychodynamic Formulation, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118557181.ch1

Author Information

  1. Columbia University, Department of Psychiatry, New York, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 22 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 22 MAR 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781119962342

Online ISBN: 9781118557181



  • mental health treatment;
  • psychodynamic formulation;
  • unconscious feelings;
  • unconscious thoughts


This chapter introduces some basic concepts of psychodynamic formulations. A psychodynamic formulation is an hypothesis about the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves, which considers the impact and development of unconscious thoughts and feelings. A person's development is affected by both hereditary and environmental influences, and thus, both should be included in a psychodynamic formulation. Psychodynamic formulations do not offer definitive explanations; rather, they are hypotheses that we can change over time. The problems that bring people to mental health treatment are often caused by thoughts and feelings that are out of awareness – that is, that are unconscious. This is called a psychodynamic frame of reference. A news story gives a report of what happened; a psychodynamic formulation offers an hypothesis of why things happened. The chapter presents two examples to illustrate the difference between the two.