Psychoanalytic Psychodynamic and Adlerian Theories
Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Theories
Psychoanalysis, developed by Sigmund Freud, is considered the bedrock of most modern counseling theories. Freud believed that human nature is determined by unconscious motivations, instinctual drives, biological drives, and irrational forces. His concept of the personality was that it consisted of three parts: the id, ego, and superego. Each part has specific tasks, which direct a person’s psychological functioning. Freud also contributed an understanding of consciousness and unconsciousness and how these levels of mind influence personality and problem behaviors. Ego-defense mechanisms were identified as particular, adaptive ways in which people managed anxiety in order to avoid overpowering the ego. Some ego-defense mechanisms include regression, repression, reaction formation, projection, denial, and displacement (Corey, 2013).
Freud also emphasized the significance of early childhood development, suggesting that a person’s personality was well defined by age six. Although a person will experience the psychosexual stages of development, the first three stages—oral, anal, and phallic—were most influential. They are the basis upon which subsequent personality development is built.
The main goals of psychoanalytic therapy are to bring the material in the unconscious mind to the conscious mind and to strengthen the ego. The most common interventions used in psychoanalysis are: free association, dream analysis, analysis of transference, analysis of resistance, and interpretation (Corey, 2013).
Although the traditional Freudian psychoanalytic approach is rarely used today, empirical evidence supports the use of psychodynamic therapy. Psychodynamic therapy refers to a range of treatments that focus on the exploration of thoughts and feelings that may have been avoided, identifying recurring themes and patterns, and discovering aspects of the self that are not fully known, particularly as they are brought to life in the therapeutic relationship (Shedler, 2010). Several contemporary theories have emerged from psychoanalysis, including object-relations theory, relational psychoanalysis, and brief psychodynamic therapy.
Alfred Adler was a collaborator with Freud in the development of psychoanalysis. After many years of working with Freud, Adler developed his own beliefs about human nature, personality development, and theory. He developed the theory of individual psychology, based on the premise that people have specific concerns and needs for social interest. Adlerian counselors tend to have a phenomenological approach to therapy, and they emphasize holism and collaboration. Adler emphasized the importance of ordinal family positions and the role socialization and encouragement played during one’s childhood. The fundamental principles of Adlerian psychology are purposiveness, social interest, and holism. Adler found that client problems revolve around work, friendship, and family; the goal of counseling is to help clients find a sense of belonging. The primary interventions in Adlerian counseling are lifestyle analysis and encouragement from the counselor. Adlerian approaches are widely practiced in schools and mental health settings. The theory tends to be flexible and is effective with individuals, groups, and families (Capuzzi & Gross, 2003).
Capuzzi, D., & Gross, D. (2003). Counseling and psychotherapy: Theories and interventions (3rd ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Corey, G. (2013). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (9th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Cengage-Brooks/Cole.
Shedler, J. (2010). The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 65(2), 98–109.
To successfully complete this learning unit, you will be expected to:
- Evaluate Adlerian and psychodynamic theories in practice.
- Evaluate the concepts, principles, and assumptions of Adlerian and psychodynamic theories.
- Apply psychodynamic or Adlerian theory to the given case study.