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Psychodynamic Therapy

The psychodynamic approach was originally developed by Sigmund Freud but includes ideas from many other people who have developed Freud’s arguments.

The main assumption of the psychodynamic approach is that all behaviour can be explained in terms of the inner conflicts of the mind. Psychodynamic theories commonly hold that childhood experiences shape personality. Such theories are associated with psychoanalysis, a type of therapy that attempts to reveal unconscious thoughts and desires.

The psychodynamic approach emphasises the role of the unconscious mind, the structure of personality and the influence that childhood experiences have on later life. For example, in the case study of Little Hans, Freud argued that Little Hans’ phobia of horses was caused by a displaced fear of his father.

Freud believed that the unconscious mind determines much of our behaviour and that we are motivated by unconscious emotional drives. He believed that the unconscious contains unresolved conflicts and has a powerful effect on our behaviour and experience. He argued that many of these conflicts will show up in our fantasies and dreams, but the conflicts are so threatening that they appear in disguised forms, in the shape of symbols.

Freud proposed that the adult personality has three parts the id, ego and superego. The id is the combination of pleasure-seeking desires and we are born with it. The ego develops later and it controls the desires of the id. The superego is the moralistic part of personality which develops as a child interacts with significant others such as its parents. The superego can be seen as the conscience. It is the role of the ego to maintain a balance between the id and the superego.

According to Freud, the mind can be seen as being similar to an iceberg with only the very tip being exposed and the bulk of the iceberg being unseen. The id is completely in the unconscious (beneath the sea) and the ego and super ego operate at conscious, pre-conscious and unconscious levels. Information that is painful, anxiety-producing or threatening is pushed into and contained in the unconscious mind. Other information that can be brought to consciousness is contained in the pre-conscious level. Our consciousness is what is currently in our minds.

Not all psychologists accept psychodynamic theories, and critics claim the theories lack supporting scientific data. Other theories of personality include behavioural and humanist theories.




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