WJEC AS Psychology PY1 - Psychodynamic Approach

Notes for the Psychodynamic Approach including: assumptions, theory, therapy, methodology and evaluation of 2 strengths and 2 weaknesses.


Psychodynamic Approach - Assumptions

Assumption 1 - Tripartite Personality - id, ego, superego

- id: represents the greedy part of your personality; acts on the pleasure principle; if id dominant, you are selfish and known as ****** type

- ego: represents the rationalistic, realistic part of your personality; based on the reality principle, if ego dominant, you are self-obsessed and known as the narcissistic type

- superego:  begins to develop when child begins to internalise parent's values and beliefs especially same-sex parents; represents the moral part of your personality: gives you a conscience if superego dominant, you are obsessive and known as the obsessional type

a healthy personality = good ego strength

id and superego are in constant conflict; ego tries to balance conflict - for example, at an ATM, id desires £100 whereas superego desires £10 so ego tries to find a balance to please both parts of the tripartite personality.

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Psychodynamic Approach - Assumptions

Assumption 2 - Importance of the unconscious mind - shameful desires and wishes, real meanings of dreams, repressed memories located here which we are never aware of.

Occasional glimpses of the unconscious: in dreams, Freudian slips, defence mechanisms

Defence mechanisms: distort reality + stop unconscious desires reaching consciousness:

  • repression: where memories are distorted so there is no memory
  • denial: refusing to acknowledge something about yourself even if there is evidence for it to be true
  • displacement: feelings towards person/object passed onto another person/object
  • reaction formation: unacceptable thoughts unconsciously converted into something you're against e.g. homophobia
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Psychodynamic Approach - Theory

Theory - Freud's Theory of Psychosexual Development

Fixation:an obsession that is based on a trauma when a child; the trauma involves over/under gratification of psychosexual stages

Psychosexual Stages:

Oral (breastfed): too much: oral passive personality: unrealistically optimistic, cheerful, needs approval (personality) + compulsive talker (behaviour); too little: oral aggressive personality: pessimistic, envious (personality) + smoker, bite fingernails (behaviour)

Anal (potty training): excessively early/harsh: anal retentive personality: stingy, stubborn (personality) + obsessively tidy, punctual (behaviour); late/relaxed: anal expulsive personality: messy, rebellious (personality)

Other stages are: phallic, latent and genital phase

In the exam: role of tripartite, psychosexual stages + defence mechanisms.

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Psychodynamic Approach - Therapy

Therapy - Dream Analysis


REMEMBER LINK TO ASSUMPTION PARAGRAPH - identify potential unconscious conflict - therapist tries to establishes real cause of behaviour.

Dreams: provide an outlet for unconscious desires, where wishes can be fulfilled that can't be satisfied consciously; they can be done whilst protecting the sleeper from knowledge of the desires.


Dream Analysis: LATENT CONTENT (real content) > reversing the dreamwork through defence mechanismsMANIFEST CONTENT (remembered content)

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Psychodynamic Approach - Theory Continued

Theory Continued:

Defence mechanisms:

  •  displacement: emotions towards person/object passed onto    person/object
  •  condensation: two objects combined
  •  secondary elaboration: gives dream setting/coherence
  •  symbolism: where an object represents another

Example: DORA                        

Evidence: Solms (1999) PET scans, rational part of brain inactive (ego) motivating, memory part of brain active (id) biological evidence = unconscious active during sleep.

Advantages: no surgey, less dangerous, invasive, infection; gets to the heart of the problem, not just treats it.

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Psychodynamic Approach - Methodology

Methodology - Case Studies and Clinical Interviews

Case Studies: (example: DORA) involve studying individual for long time; idiographic; retrospective; notes written afterwards

  • Advantages: 1) build up a detailed profile; 2) establishes rich qualitative data
  • Disadvantages: 1) subjective; 2) no generalisation; 3) open to misinterpretation

Clinical Interviews: unstructured interview but there is some overall aim; Freud did dream analysis this way; can be within a case study

  • Advantages: 1) trusting relationship, detailed profile; 2) observe non-verbal communication; 3) detailed qualitative data
  • Disadvantages: 1) interviewer bias; 2) subjective; 3) no generalisation; 4) summarising data can be difficult
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Psychodynamic Approach - Strengths of Approach

Strengths of Psychodynamic Approach

Strength 1: Therapy

Explain, Elaborate + Example: involves reversing the dreamwork to resolve unconscious conflicts which is causing a problem (such as hysterical symptoms) strength because: 1) no surgery, infection, invasion, 2) treats the root of the problem; example: DORA

Strength 2: Interationist Approach

Explain, Elaborate + Example: that nature (id) and nurture (environment, psychosexual stages, ego + superego) interact and influence human nature; strength because other approaches like biological approach soley believe in nature or behaviourist approach believe in nurture is too simplistic as human behaviour is too complex; example: tripartite personality

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Psychodynamic Approach - Weaknesses

Weaknesses of the Psychodynamic Approach

Weakness 1: theory is unfalsifiable

Explain, Elaborate + Example: Freud's theories cannot be disproven (not scientific); for example, if same sex parent is absent, Freud believed criminality/homosexuality could result, and if they were absent but no homosexuality resulted, Freud could argue that they were, just unconsciously

Weakness 2: psychic determinism

Explain, Elaborate + Example: behaviour, thoughts, feelings are out of conscious control; everything we do is determined by unconscious; weakness because if behaviour is determined, we have no choice so we don't have free will... this contradicts principles of the justice system because punishment is unfair if we are not responsible for our actions and cannot control our behaviour.

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Former Member


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hannah hiddlestone


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Zoey Jowett


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