Discuss the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Three Main Theories Covered in This Module.

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Discuss the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Three Main Theories covered in this Module.

This essay will attempt to highlight and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the three main theories of counselling within the module covered this term. The three approaches in discussion are psychodynamics, cognitive behavioural and humanistic.

The psychodynamic theory originated from Sigmund Freud, a medical doctor and philosopher (1856 - 1939) founded in the 1900s. Freud developed his ideas whilst working as a psychiatrist in Vienna, collecting information from his patients such as feelings, thoughts and early childhood experiences.

The psychodynamic theory focuses on the unconscious mind. Freud’s credence is that different mental forces operate in the mind. The unconscious mind can be described as being like an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg represents the part of the mind that is conscious, everyday thoughts. The iceberg just below the water’s surface represents the pre conscious, thoughts and information that can be retrieved easily. And finally the base of the iceberg is the unconscious part of the mind where fears, traumas and bad experiences are contained, almost impossible to retrieve.

Freud argued that slips of the tongue are repressed expressions made by the person unknowingly. The term used for this is a Freudian slip.

Freud emphasized that early childhood experiences are important to the development of the adult personality, proposing that childhood development took place over five stages; oral, anal. Phallic, latent and genital. The phallic stage is the most important stage which contains the Oedipus complex. This is where the child (age 4 - 6 yrs) posses the opposite sex parent and wants rid of the same sex parent (Pennington, 2002). Freud argued that if the conflict is not resolved in childhood then it could cause trauma in adult life.

Another assumption of the psychodynamic theory is that the mind is divided into three parts; ID, EGO and SUPER-EGO. The Id is the unconscious state of mind; it is responsible for our voluptuous and immediate satisfaction. It is our basic drives such as life instincts (Eros) and death instincts (Thantos); it is also responsible for our libido (sexual instinct). The Ego is the conscious state, the rational mind which organises our thoughts and makes sense of them. This develops during the first two years of life. The Super Ego aims for perfection, it works in contradiction to the Id. It controls our sense of right and wrong. Part of Freud’s theory was that the Id, Ego and Super Ego were in constant conflict with each other. It involves the Id wanting immediate satisfaction and the super ego who wants the id/person to behave leaving the ego constantly trying to resolve the issue (Gross, 2005 pg 602). The Ego uses a number of defence mechanisms to protect itself; these mechanisms are designed to reduce anxiety and stress. Some defence mechanisms include; repression, displacement, projection, denial and intellectualisation.

Techniques used by Psychodynamic therapists consist of; dream therapy (making sense of dreams and interpretation into reasons behind them), hypnosis and free association Malan, 1979).

While most psychodynamic theories did not rely on experimental research the methods and theories of psychodynamic thinking contributed to experimental psychology. Psychodynamic Therapy was the first therapy used in attempting to explain mental illness and has had great influence on the understanding and treatment of mental disorders.

Strength of the psychodynamic approach is that it takes into account both sides of the nature-nurture debate. Freud claimed that adult personality is the product of innate drives (nature), and childhood experiences ( nurture). Therefore the theory has the influence of both.

Freud’s theories have also been subjected to criticisms such as his generalization on his case studies; most of his research was done on white, middle class...
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