Explore the psychodynamic and Humanistic approach

In this essay I will assess and explore the psychodynamic and Humanistic approach. I will evaluate them contrast their strengths and weakness ,and give my personal opinion in which one I felt is better for treatment of the human behavior.

The psychodynamic approach was started by Sigmund Freud. He has had an enormous impact on psychology, and even now his work his referred in the psychologist literature. He is the creator of psychoanalysis.

The term psychodynamic means the active force within the personality that motivates the behavior and the inner causes of behavior, especially the conflict between the different structures that make up the personality. In this approach there are six main points, the model of personality development, the philosophy of human nature, the method of psychotherapy, identified dynamic factors that motivate behavior, focus on role of unconscious, and developed first therapeutic character. In Freud perspective behavior is determined by irrational forces, five psychosexual stages of life, theory driven by belief that problems that arise in life are result of our early experiences. The five psychosexual stages of life are the oral stage (birth -2 years), anal stage(2-4yrs) ,phallic stage(4-6 yrs), latent period (6-12yrs) and the genital stage(12yrs to death).

The personality consists of the id or pleasure principle of the ego, the reality principle and the superego morality principal. According to Freud ,these three elements are often in conflict with the restraints of reality (ego) and norms and laws of society (superego), conflicts cause the individual to experience anxiety, and this lead to ego spend much time trying to resolve this conflicts, using a number of defence mechanisms, according to Freud (1915,p.86), “The essence of repression lies simply in the function of rejecting and keeping something out of consciousness”.

In this theory there are three levels of consciousness, the conscious state, the pre-conscious and the unconscious. The conscious state is the art of the mind that contains our current thinking , this is the part of the mind that psychodynamic counseling psychotherapy seeks to make the ultimate destination of our thoughts and feelings which have been repressed in the unconscious. The preconscious states are thoughts that are out of consciousness because we are either currently preoccupied with something else or we deliberately chosen to put it out of our mind. Thoughts can be brought into consciousness with relative ease. The unconscious state is the most important concept in psychodynamic thinking, the individual has suppressed material that is considered to be too threatening to the unconscious mind ,the suppressed material doesn’t disappear but continues to make its presence felt through physical symptoms, anxiety, panic attacks ,phobias etc.we have different types of defence mechanisms, repression, sublimation, regression ant rationalization , these defence mechanisms are used to protect ego, against the painful and threatening impulses arising from the id, we distort reality. one of the key strategies in all Psychodynamic therapies is the uncovering and revelation of unconscious memories, wishes, motivations and fears. These are seen as the cause of emotional disturbance and are not able to be explicitly voiced due to a coping mechanism of internal repression. To uncover the unconscious, Freud used techniques such as free association and the analysis of dreams. In free association, the therapist picks up on any unforced remarks made by the patient that may unwittingly reveal wishes and motivations not able to be explicitly revealed.

Freud never carried out any experiments to test his ideas. He relied on the observations that he made of his patients over the years.

The humanistic approach, seen as Third force in psychology, explains us as individuals in terms of our subjective interpretation of past experience. Or life as it has affected our personality it is an approach in psychology that is interested in what means to be human. It came about as a reaction to the behaviourist approach, and the psychoanalytic approach. It believes we have an state of self-actualization. It emphasizes the importance of self, which is who we think we are as a person. Influential figure in the development of the approach include Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers . Maslow gave the humanistic approach his theory of self- actualization by the hierarchy of needs consisting of seven levels he argued that physiological needs such as food and water are at the bottom of the hierarchy , next come security and safety needs, followed by love, up is self esteem , then cognitive needs like curiosity and need for understanding, Then the need for self- actualization ,which involves fulfilling ones potential .Carl Rogers extended Maslow work into the field of humanistic person-centred psychotherapy with his emphasis on empathy, unconditional positive regard and genuine. Creating these conditions for growth in therapy facilitate an environmental that helps the client a more functioning person. This application of theory in clinical practice move the person from incongruence or from a poor perceived self to a more psychologically healthy ideal self. The ultimate in personal growth is the fully functioning person who has achieved self-actualization .The notion of self-actualization lacks empirical support, but correlations have been generated to help validate the effectiveness of the approach in practice.

An important contrast between Psychodynamic approach and the humanistic is that Freud believed that, human nature to be fundamentally destructive and irrational; his view of human beings was very pessimistic, whereas humanist psychologists such as Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow saw human beings in a positive optimistic light. Carl Rogers saw early development as an important factor. When clients where brought up with unconditional positive regard, they where more likely to have a positive view of themselves. He believed children need positive regard to feel loved and accepted.  This means that they feel themselves valued by their parents and others even when their behaviours are less than ideal.  If parents offer only conditional positive regard -valuing the child only when it is behaving correctly – the child is likely have a distorted self concept and learns to act in ways that earn approval from others rather than in ways that may be intrinsically more satisfying and real, which may lead to problems later on.

According to Freud ‘s Theory early development is more than just important, it is all defining as the sexual drive and experiences in this period determines adult personality and any behavioural problems stem from this period.

The humanistic approach contrasts completely with these explanations. They recognise people can be influenced by causes, but this is not always the case, they have the ability to choose there actions and exercise free will. They believe in self actualisation and people controlling their own lives as potential exists in every individual to seek and achieve self actualisation. The enforces for the humanists is on how you are feeling here and now whilst Freud focused on what happened in the past in form of repressed childhood experiences to explain human behaviour.

Both of these approach where completely different but both of them ,bring positive contributions for the science.

Criticisms to Humanistic Approach

Emphasizes the role of the individual, humanistic psychology gives more credit to the individuals in controlling and determining their state of mental health.

Takes environmental influence in account rather than focusing in our internal thoughts and desires, humanistic psychology, believe that the environment influence our experiences.

Humanistic psychology continues to influence therapy, education, healthcare, and other areas.

Positive Contributions

Emphasize the role of the individual, humanistic psychology gives more credit to the individual in controlling and determining their state of mental health.

Freud theory overemphasizes the unconscious mind, aggression, sex and childhood experiences.

Many of the concepts proposed by psychoanalytic theorists are difficult to measure and quantify.

Strengths of Psychoanalysis

Most psychodynamic theories did not rely on experimental research, the methods and theories of psychodynamic thinking contributed to experimental psychology.

Many of the theories of personality developed by psychodynamic thinkers are still influential today including, Erikson’s theory of psychosocial stages and Freud psychosexual stage theory.

The Psychodynamic approach was the first personality and psychotherapy theory, That emphasised on sexuality as influence, it identified the importance of early childhood experience, developed the concept of unconscious, and developed the scientific approach to mental health based on physical health. However it is a pessimistic and deterministic approach to personality, it is pathology based theory, there are no controlled studies, overemphasis on differences between men and women and it is unconcerned with interpersonal relations, individual identity and adaptation over one’s lifetime. The key features of this approach are that early experiences have a major impact on the development on our conscious and unconscious mind. Adult personality and behaviour are maintained by the unconscious as well as the conscious mind. Attachment is also identified as a key feature of early experience. The Humanistic approach is directly opposed to the medical-like model of an expert professional diagnosing what is wrong and then treating the disorder, which is the main concept of the Psychodynamic.

In the humanistic approach the individuals is treated as a whole person as opposed to the part person model, of other approaches. This approach explains that neither the environment nor our early experiences control our personality and behaviour but people have an built tendency to develop, their potential self-actualization. Problems with conditional regard or unmet needs prevent people from fulfilling their potential. A person view of themselves (self-concept) will control the development of their personality and behaviour.

I also prefer this approach than the psychodynamic, the humanistic approach provide more comprehensive information of the human motivation than the psychodynamic approach. Millions of people in the world suffer from depression and are unfulfilled with themselves, they need to work in the growth of needs, also the client-centred therapy have proved to be effective. The value of client -centred therapy was assessed by Davison and Neale (1986, p.489)

“As a way to help unhappy but not severely disturbed people understand better client-centred therapy may very well be appropriate and effective…Rogerian therapy may not, however, be appropriate for a severe psychological disorder, as Rogers himself has warned.”

The psychodynamic approach at the theoretical level is that the unscientific approach, that is very hard to test most of Freud theories .He didn’t had any prove that the mind was divided in three parts id, ego, and superego. Crews (1996, p.67)

“The vagueness of the theory is such that it can withstand almost any number of surprises and be endlessly revised according to the theorist’s whim, without reference to data.”

Freud’s theory of defence mechanisms was hard to prove is ethically unacceptable to create experimentally the high levels of anxiety that are needed before clients develop mechanisms. Eysenck (1989, p.435)

“The greatest weakness of Freud theory …is that we cannot predict ahead which defence mechanisms will be used by a given individual. According to Freud, someone who is exposed to an extremely anxiety-provoking situation is likely to resort to a defence mechanism, but it is impossible to predict whether that defence repression, displacement, denial, intellectualisation, projection or reaction formation. This greatly reduces the scientific usefulness of the theory,”

About Freud theory of psychosexual development some parts that could be tested had be founded to be incorrect, also there are little evidence of the Oedipus complex or the Electra. Freud never did experiments to test his ideas, he relied on observations that he made to his patients over the years. Most of his patients were middle-class women from Vienna, and did not represent all the population.

However his approach continues bringing debates in the Psychology area.

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