Compare and Contrast Psychodynamic and Humanistic

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Compare and contrast how the psychodynamic and person-centred approaches to counselling understand the person, and how these two approaches explain psychological distress experienced by individuals. In part 2 reflect on and write about which of the two models appeals most to you and why?


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...
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