Perspectives: Psychodynamic

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Because of the complexity of the brain, there are many different ways to approach mental illness. There are six major “perspectives”, each of which focus on different potential causes of mental illness. Thus, the treatment plans based on each perspective aim to heal a person in a slightly different way. However, most therapists today do not fall strictly into one category, but instead try to stay open minded and incorporate any perspective that seems to be the most beneficial for their client.


Today, we’re going to focus on one of the biggest hit of the 20th century – the psychodynamic model. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) masterminded this model, which kick-started talk therapy on a large scale. He formulated a structure that he claimed described all personalities – the id, the ego, and the superego.



The id is the “I want” part of a person. Freud described it as an inherent psychic energy that focusses on sexual and aggressive instincts, as these are the instincts of life (sex) and death (aggression). This is what causes a person to work for gratification and it is based on the pleasure principle – that you do what will give you the best and most instantaneous gratification. Often times, the id is considered to be the most immature and simplest aspect of personality.



The ego, on the other hand, is much more mature and is thought to control the majority of a person’s actions. It promotes reason, good sense, and rational self-control. Because it is based on the reality principle, it causes people to avoid behaviors that are not possible or acceptable. Thus, we don’t all steal food out of someone else’s hand just because we are hungry – we know that this is not acceptable. We can satisfy our impulses, but we must first consider the reality of the situation. This part of our personality develops when we are 6 to 8 months old.



The superego is the aspect of personality that revolves around idealism and the best thing we could possibly do. Thus, this is what makes up our conscience. It focusses on morality, social standards, and discipline. It allows us to establish our values and lives by the norms of our cultures and families.


Clearly, living in a world of people ruled by their id or superego would be far different than the world we actually live in. We would either hurt people without a care in order to obtain what we want, or we would feel so bad for every action or thought that is not completely pure that we would go insane. Therefore, the ego wins out in our day to day life.


STRENGTHS of Psychodynamic Therapy

First to apply talk therapy

Recognized role of early experiences and family in a person’s development

Recognized that abnormal functioning comes from the same processes as           normal functioning (the mentally ill aren’t that different from those who are             healthy)


WEAKNESSES of Psychodynamic Therapy

Ideas are unsupported and difficult to research, as they focus on the                     unconscious

Focusses too much on the person and too little on the situation and                     biological causes


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