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Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic School of Psychotherapy

The early schools have had a massive impact on psychotherapy today. One of the more famous ones, Sigmund Freud, developed several theories, concepts, and techniques that are regarded highly in psychology and still used in practice.

Freudian psychoanalysis could take up to five or seven years to complete.   It consisted of a patient sitting on a couch while the therapist listened. The main concepts of a therapist using psychoanalysis is, “(1) being a blank slate for the client to inscribe meaning upon and (2) giving verbal interpretations according to the stage of the process. The client always starts the discourse; psychoanalysts do not wish to direct the client’s flow of talk, especially in the first stage as they develop and check interpretations,” (Day, 2008, p. 153). The three main codes are neutrality, abstinence, and anonymity.

According to Freud, the personality consists of the id, the ego, and the superego which is all developed from energy systems and comes in various stages. The is basically, “the original system of personality, (Corey, 2005, p.57). The ego, “governs, controls,

and regulates the personality,” (Corey, 2005, p. 57). Finally, the superego decides whether something is the right or wrong thing to do. The focus is also on conscious vs. the unconscious as well as the development of personality.

He also believed that life comes in various sexual stages. The stages are: the oral stage, the anal stage, the phallic stage, the latency stage, and the genital stage. The genital stage is the largest and starts at the age of 12 and continues until death.

The oral stage occurs during the first year of life and the infant has an oral fixation. The second stage in life is the anal stage which is of major significance according to Freud. It occurs from ages one to three. The third phase, known as the phallic stage, occurs from ages three to six. During this phase, there is a basic conflict that, “centers on unconscious incestuous desires that child develops for parent of opposite sex, and that, because, of their threatening nature, are repressed,” (Corey, 2005, p. 62).

The latency phase occurs from ages six to twelve and focuses on sexual interests being replaced with other interests of normal childhood. From age twelve until death, Freud developed the genital stage. Throughout the genital stage, there are various forms of discovery and acceptance whilst learning how to balance all of it with friendships, relationships, work, and life (Corey, 2005).

Carl Jung deviated from strictly sexual explanations and rejected Freudian determinism. Freudian determinism is the theory that we as humans are shaped by our past. Jung maintained that, “we are influenced by our future as well as our past,” (Corey, 2005, p. 74).

Despite varying theories and aspects of psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy, there were basic common factors that could be agreed upon. The therapeutic process is done through three main stages which are the initial stage, the middle stage, and the final stage.

In the initial stage, the therapist works through the resistance given from the client and interprets it. Digging into the client’s childhood experiences is imperative because, “the client’s view of his or her past (whether factual or not) is critical to accurate interpretations,” (Day, 2008, p.151). During this phase transference also occurs.

The middle stage is about working through. The client begins to let his or walls down and also starts to open up to the therapist. Things are clarified and interpreted and, “themes from the past and themes from the present are interwoven,” (Day, 2008, p. 151). The final stage is termination which happens when the therapist and client are completing the therapy. Problems have been worked through and a solution has been found.

In today’s society of psychology, there are some critiques of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory and of Freud in general with things such as his view of women, negativity towards mankind, homosexuality, and lack of culture. He presented women basically as, “masochistic, passive, narcissistic, envious, deficient in superego, and moreover inferior in relation to men (due at the core to anatomy and biology)” (Gelso & Fessinger, 1992).

Several developments since then have proven his opinions to be inaccurate and sexist. Therefore, adaptations of his viewpoints have been made to more accurately use psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychotherapy as a form of treatment.

He also theorized that establishing heterosexual relationships and reproduction were important parts of life growth which many psychodynamic counselors reject. Although they endorse most of Freud’s theories, they, “reject the idea that only mature sexuality is between men and women,” (Corey, 2005, p. 164). Finally, many found, “Freud’s outlook on human nature distasteful and dreary,” (Corey, 2005, p. 165).

Although some of Freud’s initial theories and ideas have been built upon or disregarded, psychoanalytic / psychodynamic psychotherapy are still successfully used for several different problems from minute to great, and he is still seen as a vital part of psychotherapy. They can be used by the therapist, “to provide a corrective emotional experience for the client,” (Day, 2008, pp. 159-160).  They are used to help various disorders such as anxiety-based disorders, narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and schizoid disorders, (Day, 2008, pp. 160-162).

Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Boston therapist and a Boston Marriage Counselor.

Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety.


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