Psychodynamic Approach

Overview of the Psychodynamic Approach - Edexcel AS Psychology

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  • Created on: 26-05-12 20:31

Key Assumptions of the Approach

1, The importance of the first five years of life. - Freud believed that the first five years of life were the most important years and that anything that happened in this time could seriously affect you in later life.

2, The importance of the unconscious mind. - Freud believed that 3/4 of our behaviour was caused by the unconscious mind, which is the part of the mind we cannot access without therapy. The unconscious mind is also the home of our hidden wants and desires and also the home repressed and distressing memories.

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Freud's Five Stages of Psychosexual Development

1, Oral

  • Starts from birth and lasts untill around 18 months.
  • The baby is all id (part of the personality, explained later).
  • The focus of pleasure is on the mouth because the baby is being breast or bottle fed.
  • Baby can be over indulged (fed whenever they want, with no limits) or under indulged (not fed enough) and this can lead to fixation at this stage.
  • Fixation at this stage can cause an adult character that has an obsession with stimulating the mouth, e.g. smoking or nail-biting, or a sarcastic and pessimistic character. 
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Freud's Five Stages of Psychosexual Development

2, Anal

  • Lasts from 18 months to around 3 years.
  • The ego (part of the personality, explained later) starts to develop at this stage.
  • The focus of pleasure is on the **** as potty training is just beginning.
  • Parents being too strict (under indulging) or too leniant (over indulging) can lead to fixation at this stage.
  • Fixation at this stage can lead to one of two characters.
  • Children that are over indulged develop an anally expulsive adult character, meaning they are messy and often have messy hobbies, such as painting.
  • Children that are under indulged develop anally retentive adult characters, meaning they are stubborn and obsessively clean.
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Freud's Five Stages of Psychosexual Development

3, Phallic

  • Lasts from around 3-5 years.
  • The superego (part of the personality, explained later) starts to develop at this stage.
  • The focus of pleasure is on the genitals.
  • Boys go through the oedipus complex and girls go through the electra complex (both explained later).
  • If they don't successfully pass through these complexes they become fixated at this stage.
  • Fixation at this stage can lead to an adult character that is vain, reckless, self-assured and incapable of loving someone. It will also lead to inappropriate learning of gender behaviour.
  • Freud also believed that fixation at this stage led to homosexuality.
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Freud's Five Stages of Psychosexual Development

4, Latency Period

  • Not really a stage.
  • This is because there is no focus of pleasure.
  • There is also no psychosexual development.
  • There is development, though.
  • Children make same sex friends.
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Freud's Five Stages of Psychosexual Development

5, Genital

  • Starts around puberty.
  • The focus of pleasure is on the genitals, again.
  • Children start to form relationships with members of the opposite sex.
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Freud's Five Stages of Psychosexual Development

Fixation - This means not resolving issues in one of the stages, causing energy to be held back and the personality to be unbalanced.

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Three Parts of the Personality

1, Id

  • The first to develop, from birth.
  • The demanding selfish part of the personality.
  • It works on the pleasure principle.
  • Think of it as the little devil on your shoulder, trying to persuade you to do what you want, regardless of what it is.
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Three Parts of the Personality

2, Ego

  • Next to develop, at around 18 months.
  • The rational part of the personality.
  • Acts as a mediator and balances the demands of the id and the superego.
  • Also protects you from psychological harm.
  • It does this by using defence mechanisms (e.g. repression, denial) to protect you from painful memories.
  • It is also the home of the censor, which turns the latent content of a dream (the true meaning) into the manifest content (what we remember).
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Three Parts of the Personality

3, Superego

  • Last to develop, at around 4 years.
  • Moral part of the personality.
  • Contains social norms and rules, which are learnt from your parents.
  • Consists of the conscience and ego ideal.
  • It is the selfless part.
  • Think of it like the little angel on your other shoulder, trying to convince you to do what's right, despite what you want.
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Three Parts of the Mind

1, The unconscious - The part of the mind you can't access without therapy. Repressed desires and all the issues we haven't dealt with are held here.

2, The preconscious - Contains the memories we can access with ease but aren't in the forefront of our mind all the time. For example, phone numbers.

3, The conscious - Conatains the thoughts and feelings we have complete access to. What we are thinking and feeling at any one time.

Think of the mind as being like an iceberg. The majority of an iceberg lies under the waterline. This is the unconscious and is the biggest part. Just below the waterline is the preconscious, which is much smaller than the unconscious and the part of the iceberg that lies above the waterline is the conscious. It's the part of iceberg we can see ans the part of the mind we always have access to.

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Defence Mechanisms

  • Anna Freud came up with the idea of these, suggesting they help the ego keep peace between the id and the superego.
  • Repression - Pushing thoughts into the unconscious and not allowing them into the conscious mind.
  • For example, if you witnessed a distressing event you may repress the memories so you do not have to deal with the trauma.
  • Denial - Refusing to accept a known fact. Refusing to accept something that has happened or something that is true.
  • This again can help protect the mind from traumatic events.
  • For example, if you saw a family member committ a serious crime you may slip into denial in order to protect yourself from the distress caused by seeing it.
  • Both of these are not conscious processes.
  • There are more defence mechanisms, but it is only necessary to know two for the exam.
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Gender Development According to Freud

  • In the phallic stage, as well as developing the superego, children develop gender specific behaviour.
  • They identify with their same sex parent after passing through either the Oedipus or the Electra complex
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Gender Development According to Freud

The Oedipus Complex

  • Freud believed that boys around the age of 5 had unconscious sexual feelings towards their mother.
  • This led to feeling of hatred towards their father, who they wanted to replace.
  • However, these feelings of hatred also led to feelings of fear and guilt - Fear of their father and guilt because they wanted to replace him.
  • The fear is called Castration Fear (the boys feared their father would take their penis away).
  • The fear and guilt are hard to reconcile and there is conflict between the id and the superego.
  • The boy resolves this by identifying with his father and becoming like him.
  • Consequently, the boy takes on and learns the gender behaviour his father displays.
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Gender Development According to Freud

The Electra Complex

  • This is not as clear as the Oedipus complex, Freud had a bit of a gender bias.
  • He stated that girls had feelings for their father.
  • They also had Penis Envy (which isn't as strong a feeling as Castration Fear) and believe by focusing on their father he will give them one.
  • The girl feels guilty for wanting her father and resolves the demands of the id and superego by indentifying with her mother.
  • The girl then takes on female norms and values.
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Evaluation of Freuds Theories

Strengths

  • They allowed treatment for mental illnesses that could not be treated at the time.
  • The use of case studies leads to valid in-depth analysis.

Weaknesses

  • Hard to generalise - data is drawn from individuals and so is specific to them.
  • Methods are not scientific.
  • Method requires interpretation, so it is difficult to obtain objectivity. There could be bias.
  • The theory is limited - it stops at adolescence and only focuses on psychosexual development.
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Freud's Case Study of Little Hans (1909)

Aims

  • To follow the development of young children, which would provide support for Freud's theories or allow him to ammend them.
  • To help Hans with his phobia of horses.
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Freud's Case Study of Little Hans (1909)

Case Background

  • Data came from messages from Hans father and Hans sent messages to Freud through them.
  • Freud analsyed Hans' dreams and what he said.
  • He also analysed the circumstances of Hans' phobia and how it developed.
  • Freud said he was careful to only use information from Hans and not the parents interpretations.
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Freud's Case Study of Little Hans (1909)

Case Description

  • Hans' father was away a lot and Hans wanted it to stay that way.
  • It appears he wanted his father dead - Freud saw this as significant.
  • Hans slept in his mothers bed when his father was away.
  • Hans had a fear horses would come into his room and bite him.
  • Particularly a white horse with a black mouth and black things over its eyes.
  • He had a dream that he sat on a crumpled giraffe and another giraffe stood near.
  • He also had a dream about 'widdlers' (what Hans called penises)
  • One time, whilst playing with a family of dolls, he said he was the doll father, his mother was the doll mother and his father was the doll grandfather.
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Freud's Case Study of Little Hans (1909)

Case Analysis (All Freuds Thoughts and Interpretations)

  • Hans wanted his father dead so he could take his place and be with his mother.
  • The fear of horses, especially with the black bits, was thought to be a fear of his father, who had glasses and a moustache.
  • The giraffe dream was thought to be a sex scene in which Hans wanted to partake.
  • All of this was thought to be proof of the Oedipus Complex taking place.
  • When Hans was playing with the dolls it showed him resolving the Oedipus Complex.
  • Freud said after this he would get over his phobia.
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Freud's Case Study of Little Hans (1909)

Conclusions

  • Freud used Hans case study as evidence for his theory.
  • Dreams and the symbols that appeared in the dreams were analysed. Freud believed this was evidence of the importance of dreams and of dreams being 'the royal road to the unconscious'
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Freud's Case Study of Little Hans (1909)

Evaluation

Strengths

  • The study has is detailed and gathered qualitative data, which can be re-analysed. This suggests validity.
  • No other method could have gathered the data.

Weaknesses

  • Subjectivity in interpretation, the parents were followers of Freud so may have only told him appropriate things. Freud was also already looking for certain things, so may have only picked up on the things that supported his theory.
  • There are other possible explanations - e.g. Hans' fear of horses could have been learnt through Social Learning Theory (from the learning approach)
  • The concepts are not measurable so it is not scientific.
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Axline's Case Study of Dibs (1964)

Aim

  • To use play therapy to help Dibs fulfill his potential, interact with others and 'unlock' his problems.
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Axline's Case Study of Dibs (1964)

Case Background

  • Axline (a clinical psychologist) was called in by the school to help Dibs, who appeared to have learning difficulties but was thought to be secretly very bright.
  • The study is mainly made up of Axlines story of her sessions with Dibs and meetings with parents.
  • She quotes Dibs and provides a lot of detail, but does not provide an analysis of Dibs using psychoanalytic concepts. 
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Axline's Case Study of Dibs (1964)

Case Description

  • 5 year old Dibs lived with his younger sister and clever, proffesional parents, who had not wanted children.
  • Dibs' behaviour was difficult for his parents and the school, he spoke rarely, was uncooperative, did not want to go home from school, did not interact with other children, hid under desks and did not want to join in with activities.
  • Dibs' speech, writing and reading abilities were well above average.
  • Dibs was brought to Axline once a week and was able to play and speak freely (play therapy).
  • She asked him no questions, only reflected back what he said to her and tried not to interpret what he was saying and doing - so that everything came from him.
  • Axline found out from the parents that his mother tested him from a young age and expected him to get everything right and his father appeared not to love him, criticising him and telling him not to be stupid.

 

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Axline's Case Study of Dibs (1964)

Case Description Cont.

  • Dibs played with toy soldiers and named one 'papa'. Sometimes he locked 'papa' away.
  • He talked about not liking being locked away and seemed as if he had once been locked away.
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Axline's Case Study of Dibs (1964)

Case Analysis

  • Axline made comments on the case study but did not relate them directly to the psychodynamic approach.
  • It seems Dibs worked through his anger using play and symbols (the 'papa' soldier).
  • This links to Freuds theory of how fixation and unconscious issues can be released and understood through the use of symbols.
  • Dibs' behaviour could have been down to the id's demands. An overcontrolling superego caused by his parents expectations could have repressed the id and it needed to be released.
  • Dibs allowed his personality to guide him and achieved balance.
  • As Dibs was 5, the study could present evidence for the Oedipus Comples, although Axline did not refer to this in her analysis.
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Axline's Case Study of Dibs (1964)

Conclusions

  • Shows how there can be problems if the three parts of the personality are not balanced.
  • Shows that if problems are acted out they can be released and balance achieved.
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Axline's Case Study of Dibs (1964)

Evaluation

Strengths

  • Qulitative, detailed, rich, in-depth data was gathered, including Dibs' actual words.
  • Used many different methods - interviews, observations and play therapy, so it is likely to be valid.

Weaknesses

  • Difficult to test for reliability as Dibs will never be the same again, so the study cannot be repeated.
  • It is difficult to apply theory to the study, although there are links to some psychodynamic theories.
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