Defense Mechanisms in Therapy

By Halifax Psychologist, Brad Peters

This video is all about defense mechanisms in therapy. I define defense mechanisms as having two main parts: 1) they are denials or distortions of reality, and 2) they operate unconsciously (outside of our awareness).

The main function of a defense mechanism is to relieve psychological tension and anxiety about some distressing event or situation through experiential avoidance. Examples include: repression, denial, and intellectualization. In the video, I provide examples of how defense mechanisms might present in therapy, and how a psychologist might work with a therapy client from a psychodyanmic perspective.


Most therapy clients experience anxiety. As I argue in this video, the anxiety is often a symptom – hinting at an underlying feeling that the person is unaware of and may unconsciously avoid. Good therapists should be aware of these psychodynamic processes – otherwise, we might only be promoting symptom management (helping the individual cope with their anxiety). I think we can do better than that.

If you liked this video, please subscribe to our YouTube channel, and take some time to navigate through our previous blog posts for more therapy topics. If you have any questions about psychological services, or would like to book an appointment with one of our Halifax psychologists, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Latest posts by Brad Peters (see all)