Psychodynamic and person-centred approaches to counselling have many differences in the way they understand the person and explain psychological distress. Part one below reviews both approaches separately, followed by a comparison of the main similarities and differences. Part two explains why I feel psychodynamic therapy appeals to me most.
Psychodynamic counselling has its roots in the work of Sigmund Freud, widely regarded as the founder of modern psychology. Freud developed a technique called psychoanalysis. He believed that behaviours are not generally under ones conscious control, and instead stem from events that have occurred in the past. He believed that issues from our early years would continue to have an effect on behaviour patterns in adult life, and psychological distress is caused by childhood issues which are yet to be dealt with. He felt that human beings do not act out of free-will and that behaviour is controlled by the unconscious.
Freud’s belief was that the mind operates on three basic levels, the conscious (what is mentally present), the pre-conscious (similar to long term memory, can be retrieved) and the sub-conscious (not accessible to the conscious at all). Furthermore he believed the human mind is subdivided into 3 regions, the ‘id’, the ‘ego’ and the ‘superego’. The id, present from birth is driven purely by the ‘pleasure’ principle, requiring immediate gratification of all it desires, resulting in anxiety if this is not achieved. The ego deals with reality and functions on conscious, pre-conscious and subconscious levels. It takes the desires of the id, and deals them in a way which is socially acceptable. The superego holds the standards and beliefs of right and wrong which we have gained from our parents, and society itself. Freud believed these three regions are all driven by instinct, which stems from two main forces, sex (Eros / Life Force) and aggression (Thanatos / Death Force). The ego constantly has to work to balance the needs of the id and the superego, and it is this conflict which causes anxiety and tension. The key to a healthy personality is having the correct balance between the id, the ego and the superego. Should a comfortable balance be reached, the personal will be mentally healthy and able to satisfy their own desires without taking advantage of or hurting other people.
When it becomes difficult for this healthy balance to be reached and the ego is unable to cope with the pressure, Freud believed defence mechanisms come into play. For example, the mechanism of repression which enables the person to suppress memories of a difficult situation to avoid painful emotions. There are many other defence mechanisms, such as denial and regression.
Freud’s explained personality development using stages of psychosexual development. He believed that should a person complete these stages in the correct sequence they would develop a healthy personality. As McLeod (2008) states however Freud also felt that “if a person has an unsatisfactory experience at one stage, they will continue to try to deal with this developmental issue for the rest of their lives (or until they gain some insight into it). (p. 129)” Freud explained these stages as oral, anal, phallic, latent and genital.
Psychodynamic theory also explains that people have an innate need for constant emotional attachments and if these are disturbed during the early years, issues may arise in later life when forming new attachments.
The person centred approach was founded by Carl Rogers. The approach is non-directive, allowing clients to reach...