‘Evaluate the Extent to Which Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Development Can Help Us to Understand a Client’s Presenting Issue?’

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Module Two Essay Title:

‘Evaluate the extent to which Freud’s theory of psychosexual development can help us to understand a client’s presenting issue?’


The main aim of this essay is to demonstrate an understanding of Freud’s theory of psychosexual development and how this theory may help us to explain and identify adult neurotic behaviour. I shall be evaluating the pros and cons of psychosexual theory and the extent to which it helps us to understand a client’s presenting issue. I shall also define and consider the relationship between the Id, Ego and Superego and the way in which these constructs of our psyche are in many ways representative of earlier experiences and of those early situations and conflicts we had faced. Lastly, I will examine some of the criticisms that have been leveled at Freudian theory in order to evaluate it.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was a Viennese physician, trained in neurology and the founder of psychoanalytic theory. He created an entirely new perspective on the study of human behavior, focusing on the unconscious instinct and urges rather than the conscious. The psychoanalytic view holds that there are inner forces outside of our awareness that are directing our behavior. Freud postulated that human nature was focused mainly on desire rather than reason and that it was ones past experiences that determined ones future behavior and personality development.

While his theories were considered shocking at the time and continue to create debate and controversy, his work had a profound influence on a number of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, literature, and art. The term psychoanalysis is used to refer to many aspects of Freud’s work and research, including Freudian therapy and the research methodology he used to develop his theories. Freud relied heavily upon his observations and case studies of his patients when he formed his theory of personality development. The main themes of Freud’s work were centred on the significance of the first few years of a child’s life, in the subsequent development of personality; psychosexual development. Freud believed that children experience emotional conflicts, and their future adjustment depends on how well these conflicts are resolved.

Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Development
Freud published ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and other Works’ in 1905, one of those essays was titled’ Infantile Sexuality’; in this essay Freud puts forward his theory of psychosexual development. Freud's theory of psychosexual development is one of the best known, but also one of the most controversial. He believed that in order to understand a client’s presenting issue one would need to look into their childhood to find out why the client was suffering neurosis. According to Freud, personality is mostly established by the age of five and early experiences play a large role in personality development and continue to influence behavior later in life.

According to the theory, personality develops through a series of childhood stages during which the pleasure seeking energies of the Id become focused in certain erogenous zones.

The five stages are: Oral stage, anal stage, phallic stage, latency stage, and genital stage. All the stages have two things in common: each one has their own comfort and pleasure source and is involved in particular conflicts that must be resolved before moving on to the next stage of development. This psychosexual energy, or libido, was described as the driving force behind behavior. He asserted that sexuality is more than just genital copulation between adults and his work is the background to his theory on infantile sexuality. Freud believed that babies were polymorphously perverse, i.e. any part of the body could be used by the libido. Freud’s theory of infantile sexuality and its psychological affects centres around the concepts of fixation,...
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