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How do differing psychoanalytic models approach the causal factors of mental disorder and what are the strengths and weaknesses of each approach?

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Introduction

Abnormal Psychology - Best Practice How do differing psychoanalytic models approach the causal factors of mental disorder and what are the strengths and weaknesses of each approach? Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is world renown as the father of psychoanalysis and when he put forward his theory in the 1890's desires and fantasies of a sexual nature were not culturally acceptable. Therefore, these yearnings and flights of fancy were ethnically discouraged, much less talked about, and were repressed by the individuals experiencing them. However, after discussion with individuals exhibiting neurotic and/or hysterical symptoms, Freud concluded that their problems stemmed from these unconscious desires. He claimed that most of humankind's mental activity is essentially unconscious; that is, the unconscious is a hidden reservoir filled with drives and impulses that govern an individual's behaviour (www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm). Freud's theory is based on the principle that the personality is made up of three sections - the id, the ego and the superego. He claimed that the id is responsible for inherited biological instincts such as hunger, sex and aggression. Freud's supposition was that the id is demanding and unreasonable and its instincts and impulses must be satisfied, regardless of how inconvenient these demands may be (Davies and Houghton, 2000). ...read more.

Middle

Therefore, whilst Jung and Freud agreed that the unconscious existed, Jung claimed that Freud's theory did not explain the common images present in the unconscious mind of every human being (Atkinson et al, 2000). Jung would explain mental disorder as an individual's psychological inability to make sense and meaning of the universe and their imagination, or to put it another way, to understand their archetypes (www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/jung.html). Alfred Adler (1870-1937) was the first dissenter from Freud's school of thought and became known worldwide as the founder of what he called "individual psychology". He claimed that the motivating forces were not organic impulses, as Freud believed, but social relationships. He believed that every human being's primary motivation is a "will to power" (Gross, 2000). His theory is founded upon his notion of the common requirement of children to be reliant upon adults. Adler claimed that this dependence brings about impressions of failure and weakness which he asserted that each individual must endeavour to conquer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Adler). Adler stressed the unity of the personality and saw any behaviour as a result of the behaviours and learning of worldly experiences. His way of thinking differs from that of both Freud and Jung in that the process frameworks he devised were related more to socio-cultural and environmental influences than biological or primordial effects. ...read more.

Conclusion

Psychoanalysis lays great emphasis on early experiences and any present conflicts can be overlooked. Depending upon the individual receiving therapy, this could be considered to be either best or worst practice. The long road back to those early experiences can be a cathartic experience for some individuals (best practice) but could also reveal issues that have to be dealt with as additional "problems" (best or worst practice). The theories and models on which psychoanalysis are based are complex and contradictory, which could also be considered to be worst practice. In conclusion, the notion of "cure" is extremely convoluted, particularly in the case of psychoanalysis where a cure cannot be characterised in terms of the removal of symptoms because the real issue is a fundamental struggle and not the symptoms themselves. As a result, if the underlying conflict is not effectively taken care of other symptoms will replace those that have been removed (Gross, 2000), yet this occurs comparatively rarely. It would appear that what Smith et al (1980), quoted in Oatley (1984), stated about psychotherapy in general could just as easily be applied purely in the case of psychoanalysis: (It) may not educate as well as schools; it may not produce goods and services as well as management science; it may not cure illnesses as well as medicine; but it reaches a part of life that nothing else touches as well. ...read more.

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