A brief history of history We’ve looked at how patients with psychological disorders were treated in the past, and it wasn’t pretty: Starvation, Exorcism, Imprisonment, Lobotomies and more. This was essentially the norm until Philippe Pinel’s traitement moral sought to treat the mentally ill with compassion and a gentle touch, and Dorothea Dix and others pushed for reform in mental hospitals. Since the 1950s, further reform, as well as a push towards effective drug therapies and community-based treatment have closed the doors of most mental hospitals.
Therapy Today Today’s therapies can be classified into two main categories. In psychotherapy, a trained therapist uses psychological techniques to assist someone seeking to overcome difficulties or achieve personal growth. Biomedical therapy offers mediation or other biological treatments that act directly on a person’s physiology. Many therapists combine psychotherapy techniques in what is called an eclectic approach. First, we’ll be looking at what are sometimes called “talk therapies”, beginning with the most influential: psychodynamic therapy.
Psychodynamic Therapy Good ol’ Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis was the first of the psychological therapies. Psychoanalysis is based on the idea of releasing a patient’s previously repressed feelings, allowing the patient to gain self-insight. These repressed feelings are often threatening things, about ourselves or others, that we do not want to know.
After Freud discarded hypnotism as unreliable, he turned to free association, which we said was the practice of freely saying everything that comes to mind, from childhood memories to dreams. However, as patients do this, they find themselves editing out details they may consider trivial or embarrassing. Sometimes your mind might go blank, or you may joke to change the subject. These mental blocks are considered resistances by practitioners of psychoanalysis, which is the blocking from consciousness of anxiety-laden material. Once they psychoanalysis notes these resistances, they may offer interpretation, which is the analyst’s offering insight and possible explanation that prompts self-reflection in the patient.
Over many sessions and weeks with the psychoanalyst, a patient may find that they are developing feelings, either positive or negative, for the analyst. The analyst would suggest that the patient is transferring feelings, or moving feelings from a different relationship, like a painful one with their parents, onto the analyst. This provides more insight and self-reflection. Traditional psychoanalysis has become increasing less common. This is due to the lack of scientific evidence supporting the concept, as well as the long time (and cost) these sessions require. Instead, a newer approach, called psychodynamic theory, has evolved from psychoanalysis to address these problems.
Psychodynamic Therapy Psychodynamic Therapy is derived from psychoanalysis, but doesn’t talk about id, ego, and superego. Instead, it tries to help people understand their current symptoms. These meetings take place face to face with the psychologist (no couch). It is still based on gaining insight and facing difficult ideas, but it does not phrase it in ideas of “unconscious”.
Humanistic Therapies As review, the humanistic theory of psychology emphasizes people’s inherent potential for self-fulfillment. Like psychodynamic theories, they seek to reduce growth-impeding inner thoughts by providing insight. Because of this, psychodynamic and humanistic approaches are often referred to as insight therapies (a variety of therapies that aim to improve psychological well-being by creating awareness of underlying motives and defenses).
Concepts of Humanistic Theories • Humanistic therapy aims to boost people’s self-fulfillment by helping them grow in self-awareness and self-acceptance • Promoting this growth, not curing any “illness”, is the focus of therapy • The path to growth is taking immediate responsibility for one’s feelings and actions, rather than trying to uncover hidden determinants. • Conscious thoughts are more important than the unconscious. • The present and future are more important than the past.
Carl Rogers (we talked about him before) developed a widely used humanistic technique known as client-centered therapy, which uses techniques such as active listening within a genuine, accepting, empathic environment to facilitate clients’ growth. Active listening is when the listener echoes, restates, and clarifies statements and ideas made by the patient. The idea is to try to be a “mirror” of their feelings, although Rogers admitted that none one can be completely without opinion or interpretation. However, a humanistic psychologist’s most important job is to accept and understand the patient and to provide unconditional positive regard.
Ways to use Active Listening If you’d like to be a more active listener in your relationships, try these tips: • Paraphrase. Rather than saying “I know how you feel,”, check your understanding by summarizing their words with your own • Invite Clarification. “What might be an example of that?” may encourage someone to say more. • Reflect Feelings. “It sounds frustrating”.