Psychodynamic approach


The psychodynamic approach

Basic assumptions:

The unconscious mind is the driving force behind our behaviour. The only way to sort out problematic behaviour is through the unconscious mind

Instincts motivate our behaviour. These insticts drive us through stages of development. E.g sexual instincts drive us through the psychosexual stages of development

Early childhood experiences make us who we are, the first five years are most crucial for shaping our adult personality

Key aspects of the approach:

  • The role of the unconscious
  • The structure of personality
  • Defence mechanisms
  • Psychosexual stages

The role of the unconscious:

Freud identified three parts of the mind: the conscious, the pre-conscious and the unconscious

  • The conscious mind is the part of the mind we can access; we are aware of the contents of this part of our minds
  • The pre-conscious mind is just below the surface of the conscious mind. It is made up of thoughts that may surface in the conscious mind at any point. Many of our memoris reside here, we are able to access them but they are not at the forefront of our thoughts
  • The unconscious mind is deeper. This holds thoughts that will not easily surface. It's role is to hold memories of unpleasant or traumatic events to protect us from the anxiety may occur if these become conscius. Our instincts also reside here. Despite not being aware of what resided here, they drive and motivate our behaviour

The sructure of personality

According to Freud, there are three parts to our personality- he 'tripartite' theory

  • The id- present from birth, so this is the primitive part of our personality. It operates according to the 'pleasure principle', the id is always seeking pleasure. The id contains our unconscious desires and instincts and tries hard to satisfy our selfish wishes
  • The ego- develops between 18 months and 3 years. It operates according to the 'reality principle'. It can intervene and delay the id's drive for pleasure. The ego is often referred to as the 'mediator' because it balances the id and superego, it does this through defence mechanisms
  • The superego- develops between 3 and 6 years. It operates according to the 'morality principle'. The superego…


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