Psychodynamic Approach

A complete overview of the Psychodynamic Approach including -

Little Hans (1909)

Bachrach et al (1991) - Effectiveness of Psychoanalysis & Therapies

Key Issue - The effectiveness of psychoanalysis in treating abnormal and normal clients.

(Practical NOT included)

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Definition & Basis

This Approach is based on 2 ideas about Human behaviour -
The importance of the unconscious mind as a motivator for our behaviour 
The importance of early childhood experience in the shaping of our personality and behaviour

Freud - ICEBURG MODEL = model of the Unconscious Mind

  • Conscious = consists of mental processes which we are fully aware of - motives/memories
  • Preconscious = consists of memories that can be recallled under particular circumstance 
  • Unconscious = material that can NEVER be recalled - in particular instincts (Libido & Thanatos - Death instinct) 

 Freud also said that personality consisted of the ID, EGO & SuperEgo

  • ID - Present at birth - operates on pleasure principles = wants everything instantly
  • EGO - 2nd component to develop - acts as a REFEREE between the ID & SuperEgo - operates according to Reality Principles (takes account of what is practical as well as urges)
  • SuperEgo - emerges around the age of 4 - Consists of 2 parts: Ego-ideal - what we should be/do - & Conscience - what we should NOT be/do. - Operates accordingly to Morality Principles
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Definition & Basis

  • Neurotic Personality = overactive SuperEgo and an underactive ID 
  • Psychotic Personality = overactive ID and an underactive SuperEgo


  • Good Face Validity - it makes sense
  • 'Pulled in different directions' phrenomena 
  • Good practical applications - has lead to the development of therapies
  • Helps explain neurotic/psychotic disorders


  • Lacks reliability - almost impossible to test
  • Mainly unconscious = hard to prove (^ links)
  • Poor generalisability - case study evidence
  • Little biological evidence to support/prove theory
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Research Method - Case Studies

Detailed description of an indvidual based on careful oberservations and interviews
Case Studies produce a large amount of QUALITATIVE DATA
Freud used 'clinical interviews' which are lengthy interviews aimed to understand an individual's mental processes usually used for research or therapy.
Frued's case studies were clinical case studies = he researched the patient and then helped to treat them.

Freud used free association, dream/symbol analysis, Fruedian Slips and transference as tools to explore the unconscious mind = PSYCHOANALYSIS

  • Freud called dreams 'The Royal Road to the Unconscious' - developing 3 terms -
  • Manifest Content = the scenes and storyline that the dreamer is aware of.
  • Latent content = is the underlying wish shown by the dreamer 
  • Dream-work = the process whereby the underlying wish is translated into the manifest content. It also transforms latent content into a non-threatening form = reducing anxiety = peaceful sleep
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Research Method - Case Studies

Freud - Anna O (1985) 

Anna O was suffering from Hysteria - where her psychic energy had been converted into physical symptoms such as deafness and paralysis (due to built up energy which has not been released)

  • She underwent psychoanalysis therapy and experienced catharsis -
  • A technique used to relieve tension and anxiety by bringing up repressed feelings and fears to consciousness and releasing the fixated psychic energy.
  • After the therapy, Anna's symptoms were relieved and she claimed her treatment was the 'Talking Cure'.


  • Provide a great amount of detail
  • Allow a relationship between patient and researcher
  • Allow the patient to be studied by a variety of methods, giving a wider breadth of information about the reasons for the person's behaviour
  • Allow for the follow up of information that only presents itself during collection of data
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Methodology - Longitudinal & Cross-Sectional

Cross-Sectional Design - takes place at one specific moment in time and compares different groups of people at that time.
The participants are only tested ONCE - to trying and find a simple relationship between one variable and another.



  • Reasonbly cheap
  • Quick and practical - no follow up study
  • Lessical ethical considerations needed 
  • Participants are easier obtained 


  • Less indepth, detailed data collected 
  • Difficult to identify and analyse developmental trends 
  • Less reliable as results are not followed up and so has less credibility.
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Methodology - Longitudinal & Cross-Sectional

Longitudinal Design -
A study that follows one group of people over a long period of time.
Ranging in duration - usually lasts longer than a month
Uses the SAME PARTICIPANTS throughout study


  • Participant variables don't affect data
  • Effective method in identifying developmental trends
  • Same sample = better reliability/credibility = accurate results = valid.


  • Participants may withdraw which will disrupt the study 
  • Can be expensive
  • Lengthy/time consuming
  • More Ethical considerations involved
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Methodology - Qualitative Data

  • Quantitative Data - numerical data E.G. a Frequency, Percentage etc.
  • Qualitative Data - descriptive data - ideas, opinions and behaviours 


  • More Valid
  • Allows people to explain their answers fully and more clearly
  • Provides an insight into people's thoughts which Quantitative data doesn't
  • Allows trends/themes to be identified across a more detailed set of data
  • Reliability established


  • Difficulties with analysis
  • Wide breadth of responses = researchers interpretation can be SUBJECTIVE
  • Difficult to generalise findings to a representative population
  • Time consuming = Expensive 
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Methodology - Correlational Methods

POSITIVE CORRELATION - both variable increase or decrease
NEGATIVE CORRELATION - where ONE variable increases and the other decreases

The easiest way to show correlations is to plot data obtained on a graph, usually a scatter graph. The line of the best fit is drawn to help show if there is a correlation or not.

CORRELATION COEFFICIENT - the strength of the correlation - the closer to 1 or -1 the number is the stronger the correlation


  • Easy way of showing relationships between 2 variables = easily analysed 
  • Establishing correlations can be useful - it can tell us highly anal people are generally more conservative


  • Doesn't tell us cause, only relationships = a 3rd variable could influence the other 2 studied.
  • Time consuming to collect data and draw graphs
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Defence Mechanisms - REPRESSION & DENIAL

Freud suggested that the 3 parts of the personality are often in conflict and in order for the ego to balance the ID and SuperEgo, DEFENCE MECHANISMS are needed.

DMs (unconscious) distort or deny reality - when defence mechanisms are used in excess, they are symptomatic of mental disorders - DMs are triggered when anxiety occurs.

Repression - The preventing of particular desires/emotions etc, from becoming conscious = this may cause emotional difficulties and causing behaviours that we are unaware of.
Walker et al (1997) - found there was better recall of happy memories than unhappy memories. 

Denial - Refusal to admit unplesant facts E.G. Terminally ill patients denying their illness
Willick (1995) - study a women who thought her recently deceased husband was still alive

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Freud - PsychoSexual Stages of Development

  • Freud believed that personality developed in a fixed series of 5 STAGES - during each stage Freud claimed that the child would HAVE to encounter a conflict in order to progress/develop further. 
  • He suggested that if the child did not OVERCOME the CONFLICT they would become FIXATED within that stage and so develop characteristics accordingly in adulthood
  • He also thought that the LIBIDO focuses on different parts of the body at each stage


  • 0-2 years of age 
  • The mouth is the focus of the libido in the oral stage 
  • Satisfaction is achieved by sucking, biting and eating
  • During this stage only the ID is present 
  • The task is overcoming weaning - moving onto solid foods.
  • OPP = Releaving tension through eating/drinking/smoking/biting-nails- passive/needy/sensitive
  • OAP = Hostile & verbually abusive to others - Mouth-based - cause by  too early weaning 
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Freud - PsychoSexual Stages of Development


  • 2-4 Years of Age
  • Libido is directed to the anal region
  • DEVELOPMENTAL TASK = Overcoming Potty Training 
  • EGO begins to develop
  • Too early potty-training = ANAL RETENTIVE PERSONALITY
  • ARP = Self-controlled, perfectionist, obsessive, stubborn and often mean
  • AEP = Careless, messy and disorganised with a lack of self-control

THE PHALLIC STAGE - Gender Development Stage

  • 4-6 Years of Age
  • Libido focus on Genitalia 
  • The child wishes to own/be with the parent of opposite sex & get rid of the same-sex parent
  • Children start to have genital sexual feelings towards their opposite sex-parent
  • Feelings of jealously/lust are difficult for children and causes great anxiety
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Freud - PsychoSexual Stages of Development


  • Anxiety occurs as the father is bigger, stronger and has the power to CASTRATE them - CASTRATION ANXIETY
  • This causes conflict which can only be RESOLVED by accpeting the father's AUTHORITY & IDENTIFY with him - IDENTIFICATION leads to the boy playing father-like roles = SUPEREGO emerges.
  • ELECTRA COMPLEX - girls blame their mothers for their gender and so feel inadequate as they don't have a penis - PENIS ENVY 
  • FIXATION leads to development of opposite gender characteristics e.g. boy's wearing makeup, girls being 'tomboys'. 
  • Freud claims this is what CAUSES HOMOSEXUALIITY 
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Freud - PsychoSexual Stages of Development


  • 6 Years to Puberty
  • Focus is on school and sport
  • During this stage children's sexuality lays dorminant & show NO INTEREST in the opp-gender


  • Puberty onwards
  • Libido is directed towards GENTIALS & Sexual Intercourse
  • Freud suggested not EVERYONE reaches this stage - paedophiles, homosexuals
  • Freud believed that oral or anal stimulation, masturbation and homosexuality activity all represented pre-genital fixation & immature forms of sexuality. 
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Freud - PS-D - Evaluation


  • All psychologists agree that early family relationships and traumatic exps shape development - this is the essential idea behind Psychosexual Stages of Development
  • O'Neil (1992) found a positive correlation between anality and enjoyment of toliet humor, linking anal-characteristics to associated behaviour
  • Little Hans - evidence to support PSD 


  • Operates unconsciously = extremely difficult to study scientifically
  • Little evidence for the Oedipus Complex - GOLOMBOK (1991) - provided evidence to contradict the idea that homosexuality is caused by FIXATION as it doesn't consider that not all homosexual children were raised in families were the father was present. (SINGLE-PARENT)
  • DATED Theory - ^^ 
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Gender Development

Freud believed that gender differences and gender identity can result from biological differences but it is the INDIVIDUAL'S REACTION to those differences that are crucial.


  • Good Face Validity - explains Daddy's Girl & Mummy's Boy
  • Little Hans (1909) - provides strong evidence for gender development theory
  • Freud aimed to be rigid and intrepreted data from own ideas instead of being 'open-minded' - an objective intrepretation 
  • Unique methods and designed specifically for his own purpose - which they were well suited - helped to uncover the unscious mind.


  • Sexist & Homophobic theory - feminists outraged 
  • The concept of penis envy are difficult to investigate scientifically = little credibility 
  • Lack of evidence that could be called scientific - subjective interpretation
  • Methods involved Case studies = hard to show reliability as case studies cannot be generalised
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Little Hans (1909) - Case Study

Aim -
To understand a 5 year old boy's phobia of horses and try to treat it
Attain evidence of the Psycho-sexual Stage of Development 


  • Freud gathered info about Hans from his Father (he only met Hans 2x)
  • Little Hans had an interest in his penis, he dreamt about 'widdlers' 
  • Hans wanted his father to go away on business and when the family moved house (meaning his father was home more often) Hans wanted him DEAD
  • Hans was jealous of the attention his BABY Sister got from his MOTHER - he wished to drown her
  • Hans had previously seen a horse carriage fall over - an uncomfortable event to observe for a child
  • Hans dreamt about a plumber fitting him with a BIGGER WIDDLER
  • Hans also mentioned having children/a-family with his MOTHER 
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Little Hans (1909) - Case Study


  • Freud suggested that Hans was in Denial - pushing unwanted desires to his unscious
  • Wanting his father/sister to go away so he can have his mum's attention = OEDIPAL ISSUES
  • Han's fear of horses represented to his fear of his FATHER (castration anxiety) - the moustache represented the black part on the horses face.
  • The situation with the dolls was said to be Hans overcoming the Oedipus Complex


  • Freud thought that his study of Little Hans offered evidence for his psychosexual stages of development and his theory of how gender develops.
  • According to Freud, as Hans' fears and fantasies were made known to him. Hans was able to resolve them and pass into adult life with no apparent serious problems
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Little Hans (1909) - Case Study


  • Provides a detailed description of the events in childhood that might result in the development of a phobia
  • There is a large amount of evidence that the horse represented the father
  • It provides insight into the minds of children and into the underlying causes of their behaviour
  • Freud successfully completed his aims, Little Hans experience catharsis and was therefore treated


  • Freud stated that Hans was a normal boy, however Ross (2007) found evidence that Han's sister committed suicide, his mum had mental health issues and his parents divorced. This reduces the validity of the study.
  • Likely to be some subjectivity and bias from freud as he was looking to prove his phallic stage of development.
  • The concepts are not measurable, so it isn't scientific and isn't testable
  • Little Hans is a single case study and so the results can't be generalised to other people
  • Parents followed Freud's teachings so may be bias
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Bachrach Et Al (1991) - The Effectiveness of Psych


To review the findings of existing studies of the effectiveness of psychoanalysis and reach overall conclusions about its effectiveness.


  • Studies were selected for inclusion in the review based on a set of criteria - the therapy studied was psychoanalysis, the therapists involved were qualified and experienced, appropraite conditions were being treated and whatever variables were studied were defined and measured adequately. 
  • 7 Studies met this criteria, making a combined sample size 1700 patients and 450 analysis 
  • Conclusions were drawn from the combined findings of the 7-studies
  • Meta analysis method was used
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Bachrach Et Al (1991) - The Effectiveness of Psych

  • Results -
  • Between 60-90% of patients improved SIGNIFICANTLY during psychoanalysis, depending on how improvement was measured.
  • It is impossible to predict based on itial assessments which patients will benefit from psychoanalysis

Conclusion - Overall, psychoanalysis is of substantial benefit to majority of patients 


  • Reliability is shown as similar results are given in different studies.
  • They evaluated the studies they used and were able to make informed conclusions.
  • More recent studies have reached similar conclusions that promote the effectiveness of psychoanalysis.
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Bachrach Et Al (1991) - The Effectiveness of Psych


  • The meta-analysis provided strong evidence for the effectiveness of psychoanalysis = used to apply therapy to more patients.


  • Many of the analysts were students who may not have conducted appropriate/successful psychoanalysis.
  • The studies analysed took place up to 30 years previously and the validity of the meta-analysis is therefore questionable as the results may be out-dated.
  •  It can be said to have low validity as the different studies operationalised terms differently, therefore it is more difficult to compare them.
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Key Issues -

The Effectiveness of Psychoanalysis in Treating Abnormal and Normal Clients -

  • A key issue is a topic of theory that affects scoiety and people's lives - it's application of ideas onto the real world
  • The major application of the psychodynamic approach is in providing psychological theory to help people suffering mental health problems or life difficulties.
  • The most intensive and long-term type of psychodynamic therapy is psychoanalysis. This takes place 4-5 times a week for several years - it involves the patient free-associating, talking about dreams and childhood and the analyst analysing the relationship formed between the patient and them
  • Slightly less intense therapy takes place 1-3 times a week for a year or two
  • There are other short-term varities of psychodynamic therapy.
  • Play therapy also helps children - Dibs, Axline (1947) - found that by helping children who have school/home problems by using P-A helps them to reach catharsis.
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Key Issue -

Benefits of Analysis -

  • Loosen the hold childhood experience have on us
  • Trauma can be remembered, re-experienced and worked through in the safety of the therapy room - this lead to catharsis
  • In therapy, there is a tendency to play out the nature of our relationships with key people. This helps them to see where they're going wrong in their relationships and can help to improve them.

Downsides of Analysis -

  • It's expensive and time consuming
  • It can prove disruptive to patient's lives
  • The process of dredging up painful memories can be upsetting for the client
  • Relationship can be broken down
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Key Issue -



  • Lots of evidence: Little Hans, Anna O, Dibbs & Bachrach et al
  • Considerable amount of research that supports the idea that mental health problems are rooted in traumatic childhood experiences
  • Psychodynamic therapy had an enlightening effect an attitudes


  • Can't generalise from case studies
  • Can cause poo family relationships due to blaming parents for a bad childhood
  • Evidence that genes can predispose people to suffer certain disorders
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Caitlin x


Really good notes just bad that I'm using different studies!

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