Psychodynamic Approach

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  • Created by: Sam
  • Created on: 14-04-14 15:30

Psychodynamic Approach - Assumptions


  • The tripartite personality: ID (primal instinct, pleasure principle), EGO (conscious, rational balances id and superego), SUPEREGO (sense of right and wrong and ideal self)


3 types of consciousness: 

  • CONSCIOUS MIND - thoughts which we are aware of, logical manner. (EGO)
  • PRECONSCIOUS MIND:- potentially accessable, but normally contents are beyond awareness. 
  • UNCONSCIOUS MIND- Cannot be directly accessed, ruled by pleasure seeking, lacks logic.


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Psychodynamic Approach - Freud's Theory

Freus proposed that the adult personality is developed out of an interaction between innate drives and early life experiences. 

Psychosexual Stages: 

  • Oral: 0-1 1/2 years - focus on mouth- pleasure from eating and sucking. 
  • Anal: 1 1/2 -3 years- focus on anus - pleasure from expelling and/or withholding faeces.
  • Phallic: 3-6 years- foucus on genitals- boys (Oedipus complex, Little Hans), girls resolve penis envy. 
  • Latency 6-12 years- nothing happens in this stage of psychosexual development. 
  • Genital 12-16- focus on genitals - development of independance. 
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Psychodynamic Approach - Freud's Theory

Psychosexual stages + Adult Personality:

Normal experiences = psychologically healthy outcome. Bad treatment= fixation on the stage. 

  • Oral: healthy= can enjoy affection+ food. Frustration= oral aggressive (suspicious, aggressive). Indulgent= oral receptive (gullable, dependant)
  • Anal: healthy= can deal with authority, be organised. Frustration= anal retentive (orderly, stingy) Indulgent= anal retentive character (messy generous)
  • Phallic: healthy = good morality. Frustration + Indulgent = phallic character (reckless, over confident, problems with sexual identity) 
  • Genital: healthy= development of well adjusted adult. 

Ego Defense Mechanisms: 

Conflict between id, ego +superego = anxiety. Ego protects from anxiety using these: 

  • normal ego defences don't influence adult personality- suppression 
  • abnormal mechansims = mental disoreders e.g. denial, distortion, repression 
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Psychodynamic Approach - Dream Analysis

Links to Assumptions: 

  •  Mental disorders caused by unconscious thoughts and wishes. 
  • Thoughts have been repressed into the unconscious , still affects behaviour. 


To recover unconscious thoughts unconscious thoughts+ emotions that are expressed in dreams.Unconscious can recovered in to conscious and be dealt with. 

Understanding Dreams: 

  • Primary process thought-  dreams expression of wishes in id . Not organised, emotion driven, visual and irrational. This type of thought isn't accpetbale by ego so repressed in to unconscious. 
  • Wish fulfilment- our uncoenscious wishes/desires can only be expressed in dreams. Freud : without the dreams built up of repressed thought lead to insanity. 
  • Larent and Manifest Content- Real meaning of dream= latent content. Transformed into less harmful- manifest content. Then it is allowed by the censor into a conscious dream. The dreamer is aware of the manifest content. 
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Psychodynamic Approach - Dream Analysis


Latent content transformed into manifest content through process of dreamwork. 

  • Condensation- dream thoughts rich detail- but condensed into brief images where 1 image = several associations + ideas. 
  • Displacemnt- emotional significance of dream object separated from real meaning, attactched to a completely different one so censoring doesn't happen. 
  • Representation- Thought translated into visual images. 
  • Symbolism- symbol replaces thought, action, person, idea to fool censor. 
  • Secondary elaboration- unconsious mind collects all the different images and links them all together to form a logical story- disguises latent content. 

Dream Analysis as a Therapy: 

Largerly consists if reversin dreamwork, putting manifest content back to latent content. Process of free association can be used. E.g. content of dream can be discussed, ideas that occur to patient while discussing also. A psychoanalyst doesn't just give 1 interpretation of the dream, allows patient to select most likely intepretation that makes sense. 

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Psychodynamic Approach - Strengths and Weaknesses


  • Nature+nurture: takes both sides of debate into account- how both have influence on adult personalty. Freud: innate mind - nature- id, ego, superego, conflict with these are nurture. 
  • Reflects how complex human behaviour is: rich accounts of life experience- through stages of development. E.g. psychoanalysis shows understanding behaviour is a long process. Approach avoids over simplification. 


  • Determinist: Freud saw infant behaviour as cuased by innate forces+ adult experiences from childhood experiences. Implies we have no free will. 
  • Claims cannot be proven wrong: Freud's theory is difficult to falsify. E.g during dream analysis a client who denies homosexuality maybe told they are repressing it. 
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Psychodynamic Approach - Methodology


Links to Assumptions: CS show a lot about human behaviour. Idiogrpahic approach. E.g Little Hans.


  • Rich picture- qualitative data. More valid conclusions. 
  • True to life- true insight in to behaviour, rather than snapshot like lab studies. 
  • Values Uniqueness of Individuals- idiographic research values this. 


  • Generalisation- can''t be done. 
  • Subjectivity- Danger results are interpreted in way interviewer wants. 
  • Representation- Individulas studied by Freud not representative of whole polulation. Gender, (women), culture, (middle class) and historical bias (Viennese, 19th century)
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Psychodynamic Approach - Methodology

2. Clinical Interviews

Links to Assuptions: Approach assumes anxiety like thoughts, repressed into unconscious, brought back by dream analysis, free association, types of clinical interview. 


  • Facilitates communication- Unstructured method of questioning- client more likely to open up honestly. 
  • Rich qualitative date- easier to understand reasons for person's behaviour. 


  • Analysis of data- produces qualitative data- difficult to summarise- or see trends/patterns- hard to produce generalisations. 
  • Subjectvity- Therapist may guide interview- leading questions. 
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