Sudden historical events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, may critically change the circumstances in which psychotherapy is conducted. The objective of this study was to analyze Polish psychodynamic psychotherapists’ experiences of working with patients at the onset of the pandemic and hence to understand the process of their coping with the external reality challenges. 183 Polish psychotherapists (160 women and 23 men) aged 26-66 years (average 38) completed a survey about their therapeutic work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data were analyzed in accordance with Braun and Clarke’s thematic analysis framework. Five general themes were identified: (1) Facing a taboo; (2) One must work well (despite having doubts); (3) COVID-19 as the “Third”; (4) Who am I, what am I doing; and (5) Who is the author of the therapeutic principles? The themes show dilemmas that emerged in a psychotherapeutic community that explored a previously non-practiced form of work in the context of the pandemic. These experiences can reflect more general phenomena of the therapists’ adapting to unexpected yet critical external circumstances. Both a personal willingness to seek solutions flexibly and to remain in a dialogue with the professional community is an integral part of this process.


psychodynamic psychotherapy, COVID-19, remote psychotherapy, psychotherapy adaptation, thematic analysis

Author Bio(s)

Monika Zielona-Jenek, Ph.D., is a psychologist with a specialization in psychosexuality and a psychodynamic psychotherapist in training. She works as a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, where she also holds the position of vice dean for education. Her main areas of interest are sexuality and its development, particularly - the significance of sexual abuse (being abused and abusing others) for the course of development. She is also interested in the usefulness of different methodologies in studying sexuality. Author of the monographs, I Am a Girl, I am a Boy. Supporting Children's Psychosexual Development (2010, with Aleksandra Chodecka) and Interrogation of a Minor Witness (2012). Member of the Polish Sexological Association. Please direct correspondence to monika.zielona-jenek@amu.edu.pl; https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2730-5202

Agnieszka Izdebska, Ph.D., is a psychologist with a specialization in psychosexuality, a psychodynamic psychotherapist, and a supervisor of the Polish Sexological Society. She works as an associate professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. She is interested in the normative and non-normative course of sexual development, personality determinants of sexual functioning, personality psychopathology, and psychotherapy. She is also the author of publications on human sexuality and personality, including the monograph, Revictimization. Repetition of Sexual Violence in the Lives of People with Experience of Child Sexual Abuse (2021) and a Member of the Polish Sexological Association, the Polish Society for Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and the International Society of Transference-­Focused Psychotherapy. Please direct correspondence to agnieszka.izdebska@amu.edu.pl; https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9050-7742

Emilia Soroko, Ph.D., is a psychologist, associate professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. She directs the Health Psychology and Clinical Psychology Department at AMU and the Laboratory of Qualitative and Mixed Research in Clinical Psychology. She is interested in personality psychopathology, autobiographic stories, as well as qualitative and mixed approaches in terms of methods of eliciting verbal data as well as their analysis. She is the author of the monograph, Self-narrative Activity of People with Different Levels of Personality Organization. Stories of close relatioships (2014). She received her psychotherapeutic training at the Cracow Psychodynamic Center. Member of the Polish Society for Psychodynamic Psychotherapy. Please direct correspondence to emilia.soroko@amu.edu.pl (Faculty of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, Adam Mickiewicz University, 89 Szamarzewskiego Street, 60-547 Poznań, Poland); https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3527-1698


The authors would like to thank the PTPPd’s therapists for sharing their experiences openly.

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