Psychodynamic theory is predicated on many basic assumptions: Every action has an underlying reason. The origins of a person's conduct can be found in their unconscious. Different components of a person's unconscious conflict with one another. Only through understanding this conflict and working through it can the person achieve psychological health.
Key features of psychodynamic theory include: explanation of behavior in terms of motives; emphasis on early experience as cause of personality; concept of unconscious mental processes; treatment focused on the patient's conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings.
Psychodynamics was developed by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) as an extension of his work on neurophysiology and psychoanalysis. It focuses on the unconscious mind and its role in human behavior. Psychodynamic therapy is a form of talk therapy that includes behavioral elements aimed at changing thought patterns and emotional responses that are believed to be causing harm to oneself or others.
It was first published in 1920 and has been widely used since then. However, recent studies have shown that it is also being used today for people who have not been treated by Freud himself. This shows that the technique is still effective even after more than 100 years.
Psychodynamics is based on the idea that everyone acts according to reasons they understand from their own point of view. These reasons may be logical but often have little to do with reality.
Today's psychodynamic theories range from Freudian theory and from one another, but they all place a focus on unconscious mental processes. These events generate unconscious ideas and feelings, which eventually manifest as habitual patterns, conflicts, and frequently self-defeating behavior. The goal of therapy is to bring these hidden parts of the mind into the light of day so that they can be understood and worked with.
Psychodynamic theories arose in the early 20th century in response to the need for more effective treatments for mental illness. These theories emphasize the importance of understanding past experiences that shape current behaviors and attitudes. As such, they are called "history-centered" theories because the therapist seeks to understand what is happening in the present by looking back at earlier experiences.
As opposed to psychoanalysis, which focuses on treating patients who have already been diagnosed with a disorder, contemporary psychodynamic theories are useful in helping identify problems that may not be apparent to others. They also allow therapists to study how people react to stressful situations and help them develop coping strategies to deal with these challenges in the future.
Furthermore, modern psychodynamic theories focus on the role that unconscious factors play in determining human behavior. Unlike behavioral theories, which aim to explain actions by identifying their causes and effects, psychological theories seek to explore why someone might act a certain way even though they are aware of the consequences of their action.
Psychodynamic theory is also challenged for being unscientific and unfalsifiable—that is, it is difficult to prove the theory untrue. Many of Freud's hypotheses were based on single examples seen in treatment and are difficult to evaluate today. There is no possible, for example, to do scientific studies on the unconscious mind.
Freud's theories can never be proven true or false because they are not testable. The scientific method requires that theories be testable; if they aren't, then they can't be used to make predictions or be changed or improved upon.
For example, Freud hypothesized that dreams reflect the unconscious desires of the individual. This hypothesis cannot be tested scientifically because there is no way to control what people want or don't want. If a person wants to cheat on an exam but doesn't tell anyone about their dream, does this mean they wanted to cheat in their life? Maybe, maybe not. It could be that they just have a bad memory or they are afraid of getting caught.
Another problem with psychodynamic theories is that they are subjective. What one person sees as a sign of acceptance, another person may see as a sign of rejection. For example, one patient may think that when someone interrupts them while they're talking, this shows that the listener doesn't find them interesting. But another patient may see this as a sign that someone is interested in what they have to say. Subjectivity like this makes it difficult to compare results between patients.
Psychodynamic theory is most closely connected with the work of Sigmund Freud and with psychoanalysis, a style of psychotherapy in which the patient's unconscious ideas and feelings are explored in order for the individual to better understand himself or herself. Freud proposed that all people have an innate need to satisfy three primary desires: the desire for pleasure, the desire for self-preservation, and the desire to avoid pain. He believed that any behavior used by humans to meet these needs was a product of cultural influence and not inherent in human nature.
Other major figures in the development of modern psychology who were influenced by psychodynamic thinking include Harry Harlow, John Bowlby, and Erich Fromm. Harlow is best known for his experiments with rhesus monkeys which demonstrated the importance of maternal care in shaping infant behavior. Bowlby developed the concept of attachment parenting, which focuses on how early relationships impact later emotional connections.
Fromm is recognized for his analysis of the psychological effects of capitalism. In his book The Fear of Freedom, he argues that many people are afraid of freedom because it means losing control over their lives. Thus, they choose to remain slaves to their desires instead of embracing life responsibility.
Modern psychologists continue to build upon the work of these important thinkers. Today's psychologists use a range of methods to explore the mind including cognitive psychology, behavioral psychology, clinical psychology, and social psychology.