How useful is the psychoanalytic perspective on psychopathology? Does it explain everything or nothing?
The psychoanalytic perspective is a branch of many different perspectives, models or paradigms in the field of psychopathology. If we take the definition of psychopathology, psychopathology is the study of mental disorders from all aspects (The Macmillan dictionary of psychology), it defines psychopathology as a study of mental disorders from all aspects. What other aspects or perspectives are there?
The four main perspectives or paradigms are as follows. The biological paradigm, this focuses on the concept that disorders are caused by aberrant somatic, biological or bodily process, it is also referred to as the medical or diseases modal. Secondly is the learning or behaviour paradigm, this view focuses on the way that abnormal behaviour is learnt in the same way as human behaviour. Thirdly is the cognitive paradigm, cognition defined as an individuals thoughts, knowledge, interpretation, understanding or ideas and this paradigm focuses on how a persons past experience stored in memory, relates to their current experiences together with how they structure and make sense of them.
Lastly is the psychoanalytical. This will be reviewed in greater depth later. There are many others paradigms in the field of psychopathology such as, conspirational model, sociotherapeutic, family interaction, moral and psychedelic models.
There are many different psychoanalytic techniques, which would take a whole essay solely reviewing them. This is why in this essay I will be concentrating on the fundamental theories created by Sigmund Freud of which all psychoanalytic techniques have their fundamental basis in.
Freuds classical psychoanalytic theory viewed the structure of the minds’ psyche in three major parts, the id, ego and super ego. Which he termed as the Mental Apparatus. These parts together became the persons whole.
The id is the basic animal instincts of the person. Because it has its own source of energy it has no need for external influences, therefore it exists for instinct gratification of itself. Freud termed this as the pleasure principle. These urges consisted of the need for food, water, elimination, warmth, affection and sex. Freud called this energy the libido of which, we are not meant to be aware of.
The mental apparatus responsible for dealing with reality is the ego. The Ego attempts to meet the needs of the ids pleasure principle while avoiding anxiety provoking situations or situations that is not effective in its quest to maintain life, Freud termed this as the reality principle.
The superego is the best thought as, forming the conscience. It develops through interacting with its emotional surroundings, usually the parents. While the ego tries to meet the demands of the id, the superego rewards and punishes the ego for its ability to avoid anxieties surfacing from the subconscious.
There will be inevitable conflicts between the id and the superego of which, the conflicts unresolved-able by the ego be placed into the unconsciousness. When the unresolved conflict is sent to the unconsciousness, it causes anxieties which it do not disappear but take on another form. This can lead the person to develop certain psychopathologies. But firstly we have to review Freuds theory on personality development termed the psychosexual stages.
Freud believed that there were four stages to the development of the personality. At different parts of these stages, a different part of the body is most sensitive to sexual excitement and is therefore that particular stage is most capable of providing the most satisfaction to the id. These stages are the oral stage which occurs from birth to about eighteen months. The id gains satisfaction form feeding, sucking and biting. From eighteen months to three years the person reaches the anal stage, where the childs id is satisfied from passing and retaining faeces. The phallic stage is between the period of three to five and the id is most satisfied through genital stimulation. Between the age of six to twelve the child goes through the latency period, the fourth stage where motivational behaviour is not majorly effected by the id. The last stage is the genital stage which is the adult stage where normal adult heterosexual exist.
Therefore psychoanalytic theory does not explain everything, but it does explain some the bedrock
Is psychoanalytic theory useful? There are many critiques and supporters on the question of whether psychoanalytic theory is useful. Especially how Freud came to the conclusions that he did.
One of the main criticisms about Freud was that during the sessions with his patients, the evidence that was collected was collected was anecdotal. Therefore the evidence collected was not scientific due to the lack of objectivity.
Another criticism was that the theory was based on a very small sample of the total population. His patients were mostly rich, well-educated Viennese. Any theory developed on such a small sample size has limitations.
There is also experimenter bias due to Freud, he may have directed his patients to do look at certain topics that interested him. This may have caused the patient to overlook some important situations in their life.
Freuds case notes were another issue, this was due to the fact that he never wrote detailed notes during his sessions. So when he did recall events, his own perceptions and what exactly did happen could some into perception.
However a lot of his work has laid and is the foundations of the modern day psychoanalytic perspective. He gave light to the concept of an underlying cause and not to take behaviours at face value. He also gave light to anxiety/stress coping techniques through the use defence mechanisms. One of his more famous theories was adult personality being shaped through child hood experiences with particular reference to the psychosexual stages. However the psychosexual stages are barely focused on. Lastly is his work on the unconscious. This theory is about how people are not aware of their behaviour and how the unconscious influences it.
In conclusion modern psychoanalytic theories are a useful use full perspective on psychopathology because it helps the person get into the core of the problem. Although the theory does explain a lot about the persons thoughts and why they may behave in a certain way, it certainly does not explain everything.
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