Psychodynamic Approach

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Psychodynamic Approach

  • A group of theories originating from Freud’s ideas
  • Strong clinical and therapeutic orientation
  • ‘Schools of thoughts’ that diverged and at times challenged each other
  • Stronger in Europe and the Americas, not so favoured in some countries
  • Practiced today in various ways
  • Displacement: transferring emotional content from one situation or person to another
  • Strength of Psychoanalysis: a quest for (underlying) MEANING in all mental phenomena
  • The mind is a system that contains and directs instinctual drives
  • Major scientific problem is to explain how mental energy flows, gets sidetracked, gets dammed up
  • In psychoanalysis, sexual and aggressive drives are an inborn part of human nature
  • Society teaches the child that biologically naturally drives are socially unacceptable and maintains social norms and taboos that drive this lesson home
  • Freud was an early critical and radical thinker
  • Two conceptual models of the mind
  • Levels of consciousness
    • Conscious (includes thought of which we are aware)
    • Unconscious (parts of the mind of which we are unaware and cannot become aware except under special circumstances)
    • And the pre-conscious (contains mental contents of which we easily could become aware if we attended to them)
  • Functional systems in the mind which form structure of personality (Note: problem – cannot be found as specific regions of the brain – they are conceptual only – that is, a theory)
    • Id (seeks pleasure)
    • Ego (seeks reality)
    • Superego (seeks perfection)

Experiment 1 – Freud – Case Study of Anna O

  • Anna O. found that she would experience relief from a symptom if she could trace it to an event in her past
  • “Catharsis” = a release and freeing of emotions by talking about one’s problems
  • Two implications of catharsis
    • Mind is an energy system
    • The mind has more than one part
  • A region of ideas of which people are consciously aware
  • A more mysterious, hidden region of ideas that lie outside of awareness: the “unconscious”

Experiment 2: Silverman and colleagues’ (1978) research on subliminal psychodynamic activation studies

  • Subliminal stimuli, presented after participants engaged in a dart-throwing competition:
  • “Beating Dad Is Wrong” vs. “Beating Dad Is OK” vs. neutral stimuli (e.g., “People Are Walking)
  • Participants tested again for dart-throwing performance following subliminal exposure
  • “Beating Dad Is OK” stimulus produced higher scores than the neutral stimulus
  • “Beating Dad Is Wrong” stimulus produced lower scores

Experiment 3 – Defensive functions carried out by the ego to cope with impulses of id; Anna Freud, Freud’s daughter, developed the idea of defense mechanism regarding anxiety

  • Experimental research of Newman and colleagues (1997)
  • Participants exposed to bogus negative feedback on two traits
  • Asked to try to suppress thoughts about one of the two
  • Later viewed a videotape that depicted a somewhat anxious-looking individual
  • Asked to rate this person on a series of traits
  • Participants projected their suppressed negative trait onto the target

The psychodynamic perspective of psychology is about exploring and working through specific intra-psychic and interpersonal conflicts that a person may have.

This consists of material from current and past interpersonal and intra-psychic conflicts and interpretation in a process in which the therapist is active in creating the alliance and ensuring the time-limited focus.

In contrast, long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy is open-ended and intensive and is characterised by framework in which the central elements are exploration of unconscious conflicts, developmental deficits, and distortion of intra-psychic structures. Confrontation, clarification and interpretation are major elements, as well as the therapist’s actions in ensuring the alliance and working through in the therapeutic relationship to attain conflict resolution and greater self-awareness.

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