Psychodynamic Family Therapy

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Ron Pinson
Psychology 643
Intro to Marriage & Family Therapy
Autumn 2011
Professor Katrin Sanford, MS, LMFT
Anna Maria College


The Beginnings of Psychoanalysis
Sigmund Freud was the discoverer and inventor of psychoanalysis and coined the term in 1896 after publishing studies on Hysteria with Joseph Breuer in 1895. Psychoanalysis still remains unsurpassed in its approach to understanding human motivation, character development, and psychopathology. Freud’s insights and analyses of psychic determinism, early childhood sexual development, and unconscious processes have left an indelible mark on psychology (Korchin, 1983). The terms psychoanalyses, psychoanalytic theory, and pertinent to this paper is psychodynamic therapy, are terms that are often used interchangeably to refer to a specific set of therapeutic assumptions and techniques first developed through the writings of Sigmund Freud. These 3 approaches of psychotherapy view the client’s symptoms as a result of interplay of conflict among mental forces, namely: motives, desires, and impulses. These factors regulate and channel our behaviors. An understanding of the client’s childhood, especially his or her early relationships with their parents, helps both the counselor and the client to identify central themes in the client’s life as they apply to current relationships and attitudes toward family, school, and work (Usher, 1993) Psychodynamic therapy is distinguished from psychoanalysis in several particulars, including the fact that psychodynamic therapy need not include all analytic techniques and is not conducted by psychoanalytically trained analysts. Psychodynamic therapy is also conducted over a shorter period of time and with less frequency than psychoanalysis.

Psychodynamic therapy, also known as Insight-Oriented therapy, focuses on unconscious processes as they are manifested in a person’s present behavior. The goals of psychodynamic therapy are a client’s self-awareness and understanding of the influence of the past on present behavior. In its brief form, a psychodynamic approach enables the client to examine unresolved conflicts and symptoms that arise from past dysfunctional relationships and manifest themselves in the need and desire to abuse substances, causing conflict within a family system, and/ or other psychological, emotional, or social disorders. (Good & Beitman) 1954 As a theory of human behavior, psychoanalysis rest on two fundamental hypotheses; 1) psychic determinism – all mental events are caused, nothing happens by chance; and 2) a dynamic unconscious – many basic needs, wishes, and impulses lie outside of a persons awareness (Brennar, 1973). The goal of psychoanalysis, whether it be for individuals, couples, groups or in this case a family unit is to assist in the fulfillment of the their development by making the unconscious conscious and thereby strengthening the organization of the psychic structures, or ego, and interact with reality, especially in the world of interpersonal relations (Greenson, 1967) Several different approaches to Family Psychodynamic Psychotherapy have evolved from psychoanalytic theory and have been applied to Marriage and Family Therapy settings. There is a body of research that generally supports the efficacy of these approaches. Psychodynamic therapy is the oldest of the modern therapies. (Freud’s psychoanalysis is a specific form and subset of psychodynamic therapy.) History of Psychodynamic Therapy

The theory supporting psychodynamic therapy originated in and is informed by psychoanalytic theory. The fundamental tenets of psychoanalysis can be gleaned from two of Sigmund Freud’s earliest writings: Interpretation of dreams (1900) and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905). Together these two works summarize the mainstay of psychoanalytic theory, namely: 1) that a dream is the disguised fulfillment of a...
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