Samples Psychology Psychodynamic Perspective: Strengths and Weaknesses

Psychodynamic Perspective: Strengths and Weaknesses

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In the 19th century, there were numerous suppositions about what exactly caused mental illness, and psychologists attributed it to a myriad of causes, ranging from physical illness to demons. Freud employed a different approach, where he likened our minds to an iceberg. We are only consciously of the tip, while the rest was stored in the subconscious. As such, Freud believed that a person’s psyche could be affected by events in the past, events that the individual might not even remember, or think are significant. This postulation resulted in the development of the psychodynamic perspective, where psychological issues are deemed to spring from repressed events and emotions 1. However, like any other psychological perspective, psychodynamics has its strengths and weaknesses, which will be the basis of discussion.

One of the key strengths of the psychodynamic perspective is how it is able to discern how past behavior, especially from ones childhood, affects current behavior. Before Freud, psychologists did not believe that childhood occurrences could have a large influence on a person, but today, it is an undisputed belief by psychologists that past events do indeed have a telling impact. For example, an alcoholic always wakes up not remembering the events of the previous day, and feels lonely and sad when they do not drink. Upon visiting a psychologist, they are able to determine that the mother was an alcoholic and, during their childhood, she only showed love and affection after drinking. This ends up creating a subconscious connection between alcohol and love.

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Another strength exhibited by the psychodynamic perspective is how it recognizes the existence of a subconscious and how it affects behavior. Whereas other psychological perspectives only focus on the thoughts and behaviors on the surface, with the healing process aimed at curing symptoms rather than causes, Freud’s perspective digs to the very deepest parts of a person’s subconscious and attempts to identify the cause of a problem. This enables a patient to identify emotions that may be troubling. For instance, using the alcoholic’s example given above, the individual could not identify the cause of their loneliness when sober, until a psychologist digs into the subconscious levels and identifies the connection between childhood events and current behavior.

With the belief that psychological issues primarily result from subconscious level, the psychodynamic perspective places a strong emphasis on interpersonal relationships and experiences. Most human emotions and events involve fellow people who end up influencing us. In most cases, psychological issues occur because of our relationship with others, or something that happens to someone we care about. For example, in the alcoholic’s scenario given above, the individual’s relationship with his mother results in his future psychological issues. Events such as death of a loved one could also leave deep psychological scars, making interpersonal relationships an area of interest for the psychodynamic perspective.

Despite these apparent strengths, the psychodynamic perspective also exhibits a number of glaring weaknesses. One such weakness is its tendency to ignore biological components that might cause psychological problems. Psychological disorders such as schizophrenia and depression could be because of biological factors such as genetic composition, and the psychodynamic perspective fails to take into account such biological and genetic causes. For instance, in the example of the alcoholic given above, the mother could have passed a genetic combination to the offspring that made him predisposed to addiction. This means that the perspective could fail to identify the exact causative agent of a psychological problem, resulting in a patient not getting the help he or she needs.

Another weakness of the psychodynamic model is that it is dependent on the interpretation of the therapist. A therapist listens to a patient and depending on their reasoning, picks a certain event and decides it is the causative agent. This makes it possible to have multiple different prognoses from different psychologists for the same psychological problem. This makes it easy for a psychologist to be wrong in their inference. For example, in the alcoholic’s case described above, the therapist listens in and decides that the mother’s behavior affected the patient, yet the alcoholism could have resulted from other factors such as peer pressure. The therapist might also focus on past events, ignoring current occurrences that might actually be the cause of the problem. For example, the alcoholic could have a job where drinking is part of the job or a roommate who is constantly encouraging them to drink. Such factors could have a greater impact than any past event that the psychologist decides is the cause.

In the end, the psychodynamic approach’s biggest weakness is its lack of scientific methodology. While some approaches to psychology can be verified through scientific tests and studies, the psychodynamic model is inherently untestable. It is impossible to measure a person’s subconscious as there are no tools with which to look into an individual’s mind and examine their subconscious thoughts. It is also difficult to debunk this perspective, as its arguments can be justified in any situation. For instance, though the alcoholism can be attributed to a number of factors, a psychologist could pick any and justify it.

Regardless of the strengths and weaknesses displayed by the psychodynamic perspective, it has brought with it a number of gains to psychology. Presently, psychologists also take into consideration past events or subconscious level activities that might be affecting a person. This perspective could also be used in tandem with other perspectives to create a multi perspective approach that is more accurate as compared to when the perspectives are used individually.

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