The Application of Psychodynamic Theories Based on the Frances Ashe Case Study

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Peryn Fenlon

The purpose of this essay is to identify some of the key concepts and provide an understanding of psychodynamic theory and its application. This will be done in relation to a case study and role play carried out on Frances Ashe, a middle aged woman who has been in therapy for five years. The key concepts of psychodynamic theory which will be explored further include stages of development, ego defences and past and present links.

Psychodynamic refers to the inner drives and conflicts of the mind. Psychodynamic counselling is derived from psychoanalytic traditions which originate from the work of Sigmund Freud (1856-1936) and later Klein (1882-1960), Winnicott (1896-1971), Bowlby (1907-1990) and others, and it works by identifying the links between the present and the past. Freud believed that talking was an effective way of helping patients to locate the causes of their problems. This belief in the value of the ‘talking cure’ became central to psychoanalysis and to all theoretical models which derive from it and became known as ‘free association.’ Although psychodynamic counselling aims at resolution of personal difficulties, it also values the client’s development of insight and ongoing reflection on their personal dynamics. Freud noted that during the ‘free association’ periods that many of his clients remembered unpleasant sexual experiences in childhood and by talking about the experiences they found it to be therapeutic. Freud’s finding’s led him to believe that the sexual Peryn Fenlon


energy, or libido, of the child develops and matures through a series of biologically focused stages of development.

During the first 18 months of life the baby experiences the ‘oral’ stage of with an almost erotic pleasure from the mouth, for example, sucking, biting and swallowing. From around the ages of 18 months - 3 years children reach the ‘anal’ stage of development whereby they get pleasure from defecating and micturating. Freud suggested that if a child’s potty training was too harsh the child may grow up finding it difficult to express emotions and with an obsession to keep everything in its place. On the other hand if potty training was too lenient the child may grow up without the capacity to keep things in order. Winnicott’s theory on becoming a ‘good enough mother’ – a mother whom responds quickly enough without being overprotective or smothering the child - presents as being very similar to Freud’s anal stage of development. The third stage of development Freud describes as the ‘phallic’ stage. This becomes apparent at the ages of 3 – 5/6 years. During this stage boys will usually work through the Oedipus complex and girls the Electra complex – each having a sexual fixation of the parent of the opposite sex. The latency stage of development occurs in children between the ages of 6 – 12 years.

Peryn Fenlon

Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson (1902-1994) researched eight more socially orientated stages of development covering the whole lifespan, trust, autonomy, initiative, industry, identity, intimacy, generativity and integrity. His first stage of development during the first 18 months of life was equivalent to that of Freud’s ‘oral’ stage. Erikson also stated that the early relationship between mother and child is psychologically significant. This leads into John Bowlby’s attachment theory where his work examines the experience of attachment and loss and how it can shape the person’s capacity for forming relationships in adult life.

Freud stated that not only do childhood experiences influence adult personality, but that these influences occur in the unconscious mind. Freud saw the human mind as divided into three. The id: this is governed by the ‘pleasure principle’ and is irrational, the ego: the conscious, rational part of the mind, and the superego: formed by introjections of parental values and restrictions.

Anna Freud (1895-1982), daughter of...
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