Ep. 15: Dr. Richard Summers – Finding the Best Psychotherapy for Each Individual


There are many types of psychotherapy available, and it can be hard to know which one might be most helpful to an individual at a specific point in his or her life. In this week’s episode I spoke with psychiatrist Dr. Richard Summers about an approach called psychodynamic (or dynamic) psychotherapy, which is a direct descendant of Sigmund Freud’s school of thought.

Rick has been practicing psychotherapy for many years, and has given a lot of thought to the nuances of therapy and what makes it effective. I’ve had several guests on the podcast who were cognitive behavioral therapists, and I was glad to get to speak with Rick about a very different approach. Dynamic therapy is widely used, and is what comes to mind when many people think of psychotherapy.

Rick and I spoke about many issues related to the psychodynamic approach, and therapy more generally, including:

  • The essential features of dynamic psychotherapy
  • How psychodynamic therapy has evolved over the past several decades
  • Strengths and limitations of different therapy approaches
  • The complementary features of psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral (CBT) therapies
  • The relationship between CBT and psychodynamic practitioners
  • Surprising overlap between CBT and psychodynamic therapy
  • Why our early experiences can have enduring effects throughout our lives
  • The idea of a “life narrative” and its relation to psychodynamic therapy
  • The combination of medication and psychotherapy
  • How to find an excellent psychotherapist

It was great to talk with Rick and to learn more about his perspective on psychotherapy, which I always find illuminating. I look forward to hearing your feedback about this episode.

Richard F. Summers, MD, is Senior Residency Advisor and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Summers is a nationally recognized educator, author, and clinician. He is Trustee-at-Large on the Board of Trustees at the American Psychiatric Association, a Past President of the American Association of Directors of Psychiatry Residency Training (AADPRT), and a faculty member at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia. He currently serves as Chair of the APA Workgroup on Psychiatrist Wellbeing and Burnout.

Dr. Summers has written on psychodynamic therapy training, therapeutic alliance, psychodynamic formulation, positive psychology, and psychiatry residency training. He wrote Psychodynamic Therapy: A Guide to Evidence Based Practice with psychologist Jacques Barber, which is used in over thirty training programs. Drs. Summers and Barber wrote a second book together entitled Practicing Psychodynamic Therapy: A Casebook. Dr. Summers is also lead editor with Dilip V. Jeste, MD, of Positive Psychiatry: A Casebook. (Please note that these are affiliate links to the books, meaning a percentage of any sales through these links will be used to support the podcast, at no additional charge to you.)

Dr. Summers is the recipient of numerous awards including the Earl Bond Outstanding Teacher Award of the Department of Psychiatry at Penn, the Robert Dunning Dripps Award for Excellence in Graduate Medical Education from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and the Psychiatric Educator of the Year from the Philadelphia Psychiatric Society. He has been named Teacher of the Year by the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia and five times received the Outpatient Teacher of the Year Award in the Penn Department of Psychiatry. Most recently, he received the University of Pennsylvania Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2014. He is a Philadelphia Magazine Top Doc.

Dr. Summers’ clinical interests focus on psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacologic treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, and adult lifecycle development. His research interests include the contemporary revision of the theory and technique of psychodynamic psychotherapy and new approaches to psychotherapy training and education.

You can find Rick on the web at Penn’s Psychiatry Residency webpage and on his practice website. He is on Twitter @summersrpa.

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