Psychodynamic theory focuses on exposing unconscious relations through a process of seemingly irrelevant associations. While the relationship between these associations is not apparent to the patient, the analyst uses them to expose the subject's unconscious patterns of thought that they do not seemingly use or that prevent expression of their true desires.
The most basic method of psychoanalysis is free association in which the patient says anything that remotely crosses their mind. While this can include dreams, fantasy and other elaborate descriptions, it may also be a free association of words or concepts. Meanwhile, the analyst simply listens, taking notes and looking for hidden connections between the ideas presented by the patient. It is these relationships between ideas that are the focus of the analyst, and which profoundly impact the patient's behavior. Whether the analysis is simply for research or treatment, the analyst will remain aloof from the patient's association, commenting only when necessary to maintain empathy, while remaining neutral.
The behavioristic approach to psychology relies on the premise of behavior as a reflection of the mind, though influenced by outside forces. Such forces exert influence upon free will, affecting a change in behavior, through association (relationships of ideas) or reinforcement (support of ideas).
The most famous behaviorist experiment is also one of the simplest example, in which Ivan Pavlov induced such a significant association in dogs (test subjects), that they would salivate at the sound of a ringing bell, because he had taught them to associate the sound with food. Emphasis within the behaviorist approach itself range from simply observing behavior as a convenient heuristic of psychological research, a branch that uses only behavior to gauge psychological processes, and a third that only behavior is relevant to the study of the human mind, as less observable terms refer only to behavior.
The humanistic theory of psychology is the successor to both behavioristic and psychoanalytic approaches. Primarily, it refutes the practice of analyzing quantitative data in the study of human behavior with an approach focused on the qualitative aspects of that research.
The roots and inspiration of the Humanistic approach lie partly in the existential movement (of art and philosophy).