Psychoanalysis - Depression

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  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 12-06-13 21:16

Psychoanalysis - Depression

Freud developed psychoanalysis in the beginning of the 20th century.

The main aim of psychoanalysis is not to ‘cure’ patient’s problems or remove symptoms but to enable the person to cope more with inner emotional conflicts (because it won’t tackle underlying problem).

The purpose of the therapy is to uncover unconscious conflicts and anxieties from past to gain insight into causes of the psychological disturbance.

CATHARSIS: Examining and dealing with the conflicts and anxieties and releasing the power they have over behaviour.

Adults are better suited to deal with problems because their confusing/traumatic childhood experiences can be better understood with the benefit of adult knowledge.

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Free association is where the client  is asked to allow free flow of feelings/thoughts/images and expresses them in words, without censorship. Associations should arise from and reflect internal dynamic conflict.

Word association is where the client responds to particular words with others that come instantly to mind.

In dream interpretation, the client recounts dreams and analyst helps interpret hidden meanings.

Transference redirects feelings (e.g. hostility) towards therapist, unconsciously directed toward significant person in their life (e.g. parent) but which have been censored by conscious mind.

Examples of projective tests are that of Rorschach ink blot and the Thematic Apperception Test; the client describes what they see in the ink blot or tell a story about the picture.

These techniques are used to uncover recurrent themes that may reveal unconscious needs and motives

Therapists claim that this will help depressed patients because they will become less dependent on others, cope with loss more effectively and make appropriate changes in their everyday lives.

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Types of Psychoanalysis

Ink blot test:

  • Describe what you see
  • Or tell a story around the picture
  • Uncover recurrent themes
  • Reveal unconscious themes 
  • Reveal unconscious needs/motives/desires

Thematic Apperception Test

  • Describe what you see
  • Psychologist will question you as well
  • Or tell a story around the picture
  • Uncover recurrent themes
  • Reveal unconscious themes 
  • Reveal unconscious needs/motives/desires

House Tree Person: You draw a house, a tree and a person and details such as size, branches, leaves etc are analysed.

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EYSENCK (1952) reviewed 2 studies one that focused on waiting list controls (patients not in therapy but waiting for it) and one of patients currently undergoing psychoanalysis.  He found that in the control group 66% improved spontaneously while only 44% of psychoanalysis patients recovered. (weakness)

BERGIN (1971) criticised this as after reviewing the data he found that in Eysenck's study some of the control group were hospitalised while the psychoanalysis group were being treated by their GP.  Also, when the criteria assessing improvement was changed the psychoanalysis group improved by 83% while the control group by only 30%. (strength)

SVARTBERG AND STILES (1991) conducted a meta-analysis on 19 studies comparing psychoanalysis with a control group and also found no significant difference in the improvement of the two groups. (weakness)

Corsini and Wedding found that depending on the criteria and definition of a cure, psychoanalysis success rate varies between 30-80%. (weakness)

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  • Time consuming, may take several months or even years to start to feel an improvemen

  • The therapy can cost from £80-100/ session


  • May not be suitable for depression as they are too passive, withdrawn and fatigued to take part in demanding sessions. They also become easily disheartened and may drop out.  Suicidal patients also need fast intervention.
  • Psychoanalysis is also only suitable for YAVIS:
  • Young, articulate, verbal, intelligent, successful.


  • May recall stressful and traumatic memories that will cause emotional harm to the person
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Appropriateness - Other

  • One difficulty in evaluating psychoanalysis involves deciding what counts as a ‘success’. Psychodynamic therapists are more concerned with the process which the patient has undergone, and the insight into the unconscious reasons for their behaviour which they have gained, than whether they are more or happy or less disturbed.
  • Support for psychoanalysis is usually based on carefully selected case studies. This is a problem because the samples are likely to be biased, and would result in valid data if the sample was random. They are more likely to select the successful ones.
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