In what ways might psychoanalytic theory impact your personal clinical identity as a therapist or social worker? Think specifically about the role(s) you could take on as an MSW (case manager, therapist, child protection worker, supervisor etc.). Consider the aspects of psychoanalytic work that feel authentic to you, comparing and contrasting this with other theories you might use. Lastly, give thought to how you could maximize psychoanalytic theory through integration with other modalities.
In my career psychoanalytical theories and the concepts of development has played a signifcant role not only in my treatment approaches but also in understanding my own journey as a therapist and person. I do feel that when my own clients are struggling a great deal with their identity it is very difficult not to utilize the concepts of theory to guide us towards an understanding of who we are, why we act as we do and our interaction with others. Certainly the stages of development, the conscious and unconscious thought process and the defense mechanisms have played a significant role in my work. The core of psychoanalysis is the belief that all people possess unconscious thoughts, feelings, desires, and memories. As a clinician this theory has helped me explain aspects of many of the foundations to the disorders that my clients experience including:
- eating disorders
- substance abuse
Psychoanalysis suggests that people can experience catharsis and gain insight into their current state of mind by bringing the content of the unconscious into conscious awareness.This is the foundation of the theory. Many elements are part of this process and the most important concept is to be aware of these components. Through this process, a person can find relief from psychological distress.
Psychoanalysis also suggests that:
- A person’s behavior is influenced by their unconscious drives.
- Emotional and psychological problems such as depression and anxiety are often rooted in conflicts between the conscious and unconscious mind.
- Personality development is heavily influenced by the events of early childhood
- People use defense mechanisms to protect themselves from information contained in the unconscious.
Skilled analysts can help a person bring certain aspects of their unconscious mind into their conscious awareness by using psychoanalytic strategies such as dream analysis and free association.
Erik Erikson is another theorist associated with psychoanalysis. Erikson expanded on Freud’s theories and stressed the importance of growth throughout the lifespan. Erikson’s psychosocial stage theory of personality remains influential today in our understanding of human development.