Is Freudian theory valid in terms of treating mental illness?

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Is Freudian theory of any practical use in terms of treating mental illness and addressing mental beahiviour?

Posted Sat 20th April, 2013 @ 11:09 by Amina Haq
Edited by Amina Haq on Wed 24th April, 2013 @ 13:02

1 Answer

  • 2 votes

Psychoanalysis - the therapy based on Freud's theories - is traditionally very slow and time-consuming, often involving 4-5 50 minute sessions a week for potentially years. It also involves talking extensively with the therapist and gaining an insight into the conflicts rooted in childhood that caused the disorder.

This all makes the treatment highly ineffective for many people, regardless of whether the theory is right or wrong. Severe depressives, for exampe, may simply need a faster cure, particularly if suicidal. They may also be reluctant to talk at length. The treatment is also fairly useless for people with psychotic illnesses (i.e. being out of touch with reality) such as schizophrenia as the patient is not sufficiently in touch with reality to gain insights and think rationally about their situation and early life. It also seems unlikely that psychoanalysis would help a disorder with such a strongly evidenced genetic basis.

Assessing the effectiveness of treatment for those with milder depression or anxiety disorders is tricky as the treatment is so long. This means it's hard to compare to shorter treatments because you aren't comparing like with like and you can't be certain that people wouldn't have been cured anyway by time or just regular chats with a friend. However, many studies do show that psychoanalysis is effective for some clients. For example, a briefer form of the therapy for those with depression - short-term psychodynamic interpersonal therapy - appears to be effective particularly for single people rather than married people. This may be because it focuses on relationships which may be a contributing factor to the depression. However, it's still not immediately clear that it's superior to shorter therapies such as CBT which can be delivered more easily - e.g. via the internet.

Answered Sun 21st April, 2013 @ 10:22 by janet m
Edited by janet m on Sun 21st April, 2013 @ 10:23