Psychodynamic theory is one tool social workers use to help clients understand collective unconscious patterns of human behavior and emotions.
What is Freud’s Psychodynamic Theory?
Sigmund Freud is often referred to as the father of talk therapy. This is because he developed one of the first methods for investigating the sources of people’s mental disturbances from large cities such as New York (as they would have been described) through talk and exploration. Freud was influenced by ideas about the mind and collective unconscious that had become popular in intellectual circles during the mid-nineteenth century. He was fascinated by the proposed association between the unconscious mind and presenting psychological and physiological symptoms.
Sigmond Freud: The Father of Talk Therapy and Psychodynamic Theory
Freud originally was involved in the fields of anatomy, physiology, and neurology or psychodynamic approach. He moved away from neurology in his early thirties, however, when he became interested in the case of Anna O. Anna was a young woman who developed a variety of symptoms following her father’s death including sleepwalking, suicidal thoughts, paralysis on one side, and being unable to drink fluids for days at a time. Her physician, Josef Breuer, diagnosed her with “hysteria”, a psychodynamic approach. Freud’s ideas played a roll in diagnosing human behavior in psychodynamic approach.
Studies in Hysteria and Psychodynamic Theory
Anna would go into a trance-like state some evenings and speak about her fears. Breuer noticed that her symptoms were greatly alleviated a day after she spoke of her problems in this hypnotic state. Breuer began to discuss daily with Anna her early experiences and latent fears in a non-hypnotic state. He called this treatment “talk therapy,” and Anna went on to make a full recovery.
Breuer was one of Freud’s mentors. Freud was fascinated with the case of Anna O. This case helped him assess the practice of bringing unconscious fears and experiences to the forefront of consciousness to alleviate symptoms of hysteria and other psychological ailments. Freud’s thinking evolved into what would be called psychodynamic approach theory. This psychodynamic approach theory emphasizes the role of early experiences, trauma, and unconscious fears in the development of later psychological ailments.
Psychodynamic Approach to Discovering the Unconscious
Freud has been celebrated as the “discoverer of the unconscious” (although this claim can be challenged!) (Deecke, 2012). Along with Breuer, freud suggested many cases that illustrated how bringing unconscious experiences to the forefront of consciousness alleviated symptoms of hysteria.
Today, hysteria, as it was referred to back then is better understood as encompassing a range of symptoms such as anxiety, obsessions, and phobias. Women were commonly diagnosed with hysteria in the eighteen hundreds; it was often thought that women with hysteria had unconscious psychosexual issues, sexual fears, or sexual dysfunctions that manifested in the symptoms of hysteria.
Breuer and Freud published Studies in Hysteria (1895) in which they discussed their ideas about the origins of hysteria. The case studies explored in this book helped Freud develop psychoanalytic theory. The talk therapy Breuer conducted with Anna O. came to be referred to as psychoanalysis.
What is Psychoanalytic Theory?
Many academic fields contributed to the early development of psychoanalytics. They included psychiatry, philosophy, neurology, archaeology, and also physics. Physics contributed to the psychoanalytic theory with the idea that when conservation of energy (psychosexual energy) occurs neurons (individuals) will want to discharge this energy (Page, 2011). A new field called neurophysiology began looking at the role of unconscious processes in the development of neurotic symptoms.
What Are The Three Layers of Consciousness?
A key component of psychoanalytic theory is understanding the structures of the mind and layers of consciousness. According to Freud, there are three different layers of consciousness: “The conscious, consisting of everything a person is aware of at a given moment in time; the preconscious, comprised of memories that can easily be brought back to awareness; and the unconscious, or everything that a person is unaware of at a given time.”
What are the Id, Ego, and Superego?
What are the 3 structures of personality? Freud divided the mind into three structures: the id, ego, and superego. First, he described the id as the primitive part of the mind that wants what it wants when it wants it.
The id has to do with basic needs and instincts. Next, the ego is more self-reflective and understands that there are rules and consequences in society. It helps you function. The ego also helps individuals get things done in a socially acceptable way that doesn’t hurt others. Finally, the superego is the aspirational and morally driven part of the mind. The superego views reality more abstractly and through a lens of what’s wrong and right.
What Is The The Psychoanalysis Influence on Psychology?
Psychodynamic theory and psychoanalytic theories became and continue to be highly influential in psychology and clinical social work. However, there is a subtle difference between psychodynamic theories and psychoanalytic theories. McLeod (2107) describes the difference this way:
“The psychodynamic approach includes all the theories in psychology that see human functioning based upon the interaction of drives and forces within the person, particularly unconscious, and between the different structures of the personality. Freud’s psychoanalysis was the original psychodynamic theory, but the psychodynamic approach as a whole includes all theories that were based on his ideas, e.g., Jung (1964), Adler (1927) and Erikson (1950). ……. Remember that Freud’s theories were psychoanalytic, whereas the term ‘psychodynamic’ refers to both his theories and those of his followers. Freud’s psychoanalysis is both a psychodynamic theory and therapy.”
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What Are The Concerns of Psychoanalytical Theory
The practice of psychoanalysis flourished during the early twentieth century. Freud did a lot of work in the area of convening, training, and standardizing psychanalytical practice. He was quite vocal about eliminating bias from the patient treatment of individuals from different class backgrounds. (Danto, 2017).
Some of the main concerns of early psychoanalytical theory included understanding traumatic events in a child or adult’s history that could disrupt his development. Freud was a vocal proponent of countering sexual repression and believed all children were born bisexual.
What Is Psychoanalytic Theory and Social Work?
The rise of the psychoanalytic method paralleled the development of social work as a profession. During the early twentieth century, psychoanalysts and social workers worked with various groups of patients and advocated for them. Some social workers took up the psychoanalytic practice.
By the middle of the twentieth century, psychoanalysis treated a variety of ailments ranging from addiction to sexual deviance, and schizophrenia. Social workers adopted psychoanalytic methods early on in work with vulnerable children and adolescents. However, not all social workers endorsed psychoanalytic theory. Some objected to the centrality of sexuality in Freud’s understanding of the unconscious and human development (Danto, 2017).
Psychoanalytic Theory Emphasizes Collaboration And More
The psychoanalytic theory fits well with the values of social work practice. For example, the psychoanalytic theory emphasizes the collaboration between clinician and patient. However, during Freud’s time, the therapist took a much more authoritarian approach. It also acknowledges the capacity of people to grow and change and the complexity of interpersonal relationships. Psychoanalytic theory is still very influential in clinical social work practice, although its influence has waned since the late twentieth century. There have been many revisions of classic psychoanalytical theory over the years.
What Are The Psychoanalytic Approaches in Social Work
In social work practice, psychoanalytic approaches treat patients with a wide range of presenting problems, in short-term and long-term therapy, and individual, couple, and group therapy. However, many contemporary psychoanalytic therapies do not focus on uncovering past traumas and experiences to understand psychological symptoms. But rather they focus on utilizing common therapeutic factors that are effective in treatment. These common factors include free association and the ability to trust the therapist.
Psychodynamic Theory Approaches
Psychodynamic therapies refer to theories and techniques not limited to psychoanalysis but that emphasize the unconscious’s role in solving problems. They are effective in treating a wide range of presenting problems including depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, and also personality disorders (Leichsenring, Leweke, Klein, & Steinert, 2015).
Furthermore, psychodynamic theory approaches consider the impact of a person’s social environment on human behavior. And this is a natural fit with social work’s emphasis on the person in the environment. Techniques in the psychodynamic theory approach used by clinical social workers include free association, use of transference, ego-state analysis, dream analysis, uncovering unconscious or subconscious psychological content or experiences, and also play therapy (Shepherd Cowley, 2017, p. 212)
Neuroscience has illuminated the biological and psychological changes that can occur with psychodynamic therapies. Neuroscience can help us understand how the mind and brain work together to create psychological problems and to heal. Understanding this interface of mind and brain is key to the effective practice of psychodynamic theory therapies.
Theories for Social Work
Social worker students must gain a basic understanding of psychoanalytic theory, psychoanalysis, and psychodynamic theory theories and models. Any student of psychology or clinical social work benefits from learning the history of talk therapy. There are numerous books, websites, and videos that can provide students with introductory information about these theories and models, but of course, they can also take a course or series of courses that focus in part or wholly on psychodynamic theory theories.
What is Psychoanalytic Approaches in Social Work?
It is extremely important for graduates working in the social work field to be able to communicate well with others. A large portion of all social work jobs is interviewing and speaking with people to be able to help them properly in a variety of different situations. Many times, a psychoanalytic approach provides great techniques for the social worker to utilize to obtain the information they need in a variety of different situations.
The main idea of psychoanalysis is based on the belief that everyone possesses unconscious thoughts, memories, desires, and feelings. The goal of a psychoanalytic approach is to help the person release any repressed emotions and experiences they have in their minds. Basically, this type of therapy is used to make their unconscious thoughts conscious thoughts that can be talked about and dealt with.
Sigmund Freud is the person who came up with this approach and it works well when it comes to the field of social work. This is due to the fact that many people repress traumatic memories, including children. For example, a child who is being sexually abused may repress the thoughts of what is happening to them and replace those thoughts with better memories and thoughts.
Psychoanalysis is the type of global therapy that has the goal of helping clients to be able to make major changes when it comes to their perspective on life. This is all based on the assumption that the current thoughts and perspectives of the person are maladaptive and rooted in personality factors. In other words, psychoanalytic approaches in social work are based on helping the person change the way they think about certain things. This type of approach works well for different types of anxiety orders, such as panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and a variety of phobias.
What are the Elements of Psychodynamic Theory and Therapy?
When it comes to psychodynamic theory approaches in social work, it comes down to the fact that this type of therapy is used to help people release emotions and experiences that have been suppressed. Sigmund Freud came up with this idea as a type of therapy that has the goal of releasing repressed or pent-up memories and emotions to help the person heal.
This process is very helpful and social work because once the person’s unconscious thoughts or subconscious thoughts are brought up to a conscious level, they are able to communicate those thoughts with their social worker. This assists the social worker in determining if a home environment is the proper one for that particular child or adult. It can also dictate the outcome of the case overall.
For example, a social worker in a hospital setting may realize that there’s more going on with an elderly person that presented with a broken bone. While the person may have reported they fell, the social worker may find out that there is elder abuse happening if the person is able to articulate those thoughts.
There are several elements of psychodynamic theory therapy. One of them is interpretation. Psychoanalytic psychologists view psychological problems as being rooted within the unconscious mind or in the subconscious part of the conscious mind. Getting a person to be able to articulate those thoughts is important so that they can then be interpreted by the psychologist to determine their meaning.
Transfer analysis is another element of psychodynamic theory therapy that refers to the presumption that the patient’s feelings and a person’s behavior toward their therapist. The insight given deals with how the person has experienced authority figures and caregivers during their childhood experiences. This can help the therapist analyze the patterns so that they can gain more insight into their patient’s unconscious mind due to their past experiences.
Technical neutrality means that the therapist will not take sides or lean more towards one side or the other in regard to what the patient is telling them. In other words, the therapist works hard not to mirror the client’s thoughts but instead, remain neutral.
Another element of psychodynamic theory therapy is Countertransference analysis . Countertransference refers to the way a therapist reacts to the patient on a moment-to-moment basis. It also refers to how the therapist reacts to what the patient is telling them. It is a way for a therapist to not influence the patient’s thoughts, conscious awareness, personal agency, and approach but to guide them in experiencing and articulating them.
Another simple yet very effective technique in psychoanalytic therapy is Free Association. A therapist reads words to a client and the client responds immediately with the first word that pops into their head. This technique can help shed light on some of the connections and associations that the client has deep inside their mind.
Dream analysis involves discussing the patient’s dreams in graphic detail. The therapist can help guide the person through this type of discussion by asking questions and encouraging the patient to remember the dream and describe it as well as they can.
What are the Tools of Psychoanalytic Therapy?
When it comes to psychoanalytic therapy, there are some main tools that are used. Techniques like transference analysis, dream analysis, interpretation, and free association help identify self-defeating patterns of behavior and thinking.
1. Psychodynamic Theory Diagnostic Manual (PDM)
The first one is obvious because therapists rely on the Psychodynamic Theory Diagnostic Manual (PDM) often. It is basically a clinical psychologist’s Bible and it serves as the basis for understanding and evaluating human behavior within the realm of therapy.
2. Interpretation using Rorschach Inkblots
The Rorschach Inkblots may seem like messy splotches of ink, but they are closely connected to Freudian psychoanalysis and are used in a variety of different types of therapy. The Rorschach Inkblot test provides patients with ten different inkblot images so the therapist can determine their reaction to each one. After the client describes each image, the therapist makes notes on how the person interpreted the image. This helps give the therapist insight when it comes to a particular patient’s thought processes.
3. Freudian Slip
The Freudian Slip is also referred to as a slip of the tongue. Therapists can analyze these slips to determine the unconscious aspects and deeper meaning behind them for their patients. For example, if a person’s boss is telling them to do something and they respond with thanks dad, it could mean that they’re feeling micromanaged or have issues with authority.