Psychodynamic Theory

Psychodynamic Theory

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The theory our learning team is studying is the psychodynamic approach or what is sometimes called psychoanalytic approach. The main contributors to Psychodynamic approaches was the founder Sigmund Freud (1859-1939), Anna Freud (1895-1982) gave significant contribution to the psychodynamics of adolescence and Erik Erickson (1902-1994) called the “new” Freud but with an emphasis on ego (conscious) forces, termed as psychosocial theory (Craig & Dunn, p 11-13). Psychodynamics is the explanation or interpretation (as of behavior or mental states) in terms of mental or emotional forces or processes (www.merriam-webster.com)
Through case study, the psychodynamic approach was developed by Sigmund Freud. Freud visited Charcot’s, a laboratory in Paris investigating people suffering from hysteria. There, Freud began patient case studies (Crain, p. 254). Freud developed 5 stages of human development known as the Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency and Genital stages. The Oral stage is from the ages of birth to 18 months. This stage engages in oral activities such as sucking. Next the Anal stage begins around age 18 months to 3 years of age. Freud suggests that during the Anal stage a child focuses on the pleasure of purging from the rectal area. The Phallic stages, none as the masturbation stage, when a child get’s pleasure from focusing on his genital areas usually happens during ages 3 years to 6 years of age. After the Phallic stage come the Latency stages. Latency is when children at the ages of 6 to 12 years old work to develop cognitive and interpersonal skills suppressing sexual interests but those 12 years and older fall into the Genital stages. During the Genital stage those suppressed sexual interests re-occur and the need to find gratification dependent on finding a partner (Craig & Dunn, p 12)
In addition to Freud’s stages of development his best-known concepts are those of the id, ego, and superego (Crain, p. 268). The id personality called ‘the unconscious” is the personality that focuses on maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain through reflexes and drives such as hunger or bladder tensions (Crain, pp. 268-269). The id concept is impulsive, chaotic and unrealistic.
Although the id stage stands for “the untamed passions” it is balanced out by “reason and good sense” called the ego (Crain, p. 270). The ego evaluates situations comparing them to what has happened in the past and make realistic changes planning for the future. This is what is called “secondary process thinking”. Ego considers the possibilities of the act in question giving the opportunity to make safe and sound choices.

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Then there is the superego. Superego is called the “control systems” of the personality. The superego is our standards of what is right and what is wrong. The superego has two parts: the conscience and the ego ideal. The conscience is the part that gives us guilt if we do something we feel is wrong or not within our standards. The ego idea is how we look-up to people and want be like a person such as wanting to be a teacher or doctor because we may have an ideal of “that” or have been impacted by someone that holds that position. Ego idea can also come in forms of wanting to have specific characteristics like having more compassion, strong or impactful (Crain, pp. 270-271).
Freud’s theory dissects the whole person and explains that there is a realistic and a make-believe side of an individual and that the id, ego and superego make up a complex human being (Crain, p. 280). Freud’s daughter Anne Freud elaborated on this area relating to the adolescence stage.
Anne Freud added to Freud’s theory on adolescence by extending the common stages of teenage girls and boys. A. Freud explained that the need for a teenager to separate themselves from their parents is normal as they are learning about themselves by engaging in practices that may not be desirable by their parents. A. Freud doesn’t suggest psychotherapy for teens at this age however parents may want help with understanding and coping with the changes and turmoil teens may go through.
Erik Erickson another contributed to human development focused most on conscious processes and psychosocial development of an individual. Erickson’s core concept is called the ego identity. This is the basic sense of who we are as individuals in terms of self-concept and self-image. Erickson based his theory on thoughtful observation of people in different cultures and backgrounds. Where Freud’s theory lacked Erickson theory included stages of the whole lifespan. Erickson’s stages went beyond adolescence and extended into older adulthood of 65 and older (Craig & Dunn, p 13). In comparison to Freud’s stages Erickson’s observed eight stages that go into much detail about an individual’s social forces that shape a person. Erickson’s stages are the trust, Autonomy, initiative, industry, identity, intimacy, self and integrity stages (Crain, p. 300).
Sigmund Freud, Anne Freud and Erik Erickson all made great contribution to psychodynamic theories that have shaped how psychologist practice today. Even though Freud and Anne Freud focused most on unconscious motivations it was clear that more work needed to be done and that is where Erik Erickson came in to make the psychodynamic presumption a more rounded theory.

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