Psychology / Psychoanalytic Approach Vs. Humanistic Approach

Psychoanalytic Approach Vs. Humanistic Approach

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Autor:  anton  02 October 2010
Tags:  Psychoanalytic,  Approach,  Humanistic,  Approach
Words: 991   |   Pages: 4
Views: 1042

Mental disorders are dismissed by people today because they are internal. When a person has a cold they cough, when a person has sunburn they turn red or peel, but when a person has a mental disorder they… and that’s where the debate begins. Do mental disorders truly exist? What are the causes? As a result of mental disorders some people exhibit a change in behavior or do things outside of what is status quo. That leads me to my topic - the psychoanalytic approach vs. the humanistic approach. One supports and provides reasoning for mental disorders and specific behavior, while the other states that behavior is based off of personal decisions. Although both the psychoanalytic and the humanistic approaches are well developed theories it is conclusive that the psychoanalytic approach is more useful and instrumental in treating mental disorders.

Both approaches defined:

The psychoanalytic approach, proposed by Sigmund Freud, is based on the idea that childhood experiences significantly influence the development of later personality traits and psychological problems. In addition, psychoanalysis emphasizes the influence of unconscious fears, desires and motivations on thoughts and behaviors. The humanistic approach, presented by Abraham Maslow, emphasizes self actualization and free-will. It is based on the belief that each person has freedom in directing his or her future.

The theorists:

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian psychoanalyst in the twentieth century whose studies and interests were focused on psychosexual behavior, psychosocial behavior, and the unconscious. He blames incestual desires and acts on neurosis and believes neurotics were victimized and molested in their youth. Congruently, this is his explanation for sexual urges in children. He watched psychiatrists fail at inventions of electrical and chemical treatments for mental disorders, only for them to turn to treatments that followed concepts of psychoanalysis. Even though drugs diminish symptoms of suffering he believed psychoanalytic or talking therapy would truly restore a patient’s self-esteem and welfare. As quoted by Ernst G. Beier:

In order for neurotic patients to recover from pain and discover a life of purpose, I believe that they must regain their continuity with their earliest experiences. Early imprinting not only creates ego and superego, it also creates the conflicts that produce neurotic adjustments. An individual has to lift these early experiences into consciousness to mold a new life of purpose. (Kimble et. al pg 46)

In summation, the psychoanalytic approach delves into a person’s past and life experiences to provide reasons for current behavior and allow them to overcome their issues. With understanding and confrontation of the past one can then meaningfully and positively face their future.

Abraham Maslow is a noted psychologist whose interests of study included abnormal psychology, human motivation, and personality. His ideas and research were greatly influenced by scholars who were behaviourists. In 1954 he wrote a book called Motivation and Personality. The theories presented focused on lower (deficiency) and higher (growth) needs. He is most infamous for his pyramid detailing a hierarchy of needs including: physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization. People opt to satisfy lower needs over higher needs. Although lower needs are necessary for survival and physical health, one can maximize their psychological health and growth through satifying higher needs. He also states that our needs influence our values and our values, consequently, tend to determine our cognitive activities: attention, perception, learning, remembering, forgetting, and thinking. In Maslow's perception, people determine their fate by deciding to fulfill their needs when they want to fulfill them. Their behavior is self-motivated and reflects values of their life.

Advantages and disadvantages:

The psychoanalytic approach and humanistic approach share the same advantage and disadvantage. Each approach presents a solid framework for the investigation and discovery of differences amongst individuals. The disadvantage is that they are only theories and many psychologists find them to be inexplicit and untestable. However, the psychoanalytic approach is widely accepted in many ways. The words repression, regression, egofunction, rationalization, and defensive behavior all alude to the concept of psychoanalysis. These are words commonly used by people today that offer reasoning for behavior. In addition, America's court system has a system of rehabilitation. Basically, they assess the situation with the individuals involved and generally offer a solution wich, through time, alters their behavior. Prison programs and other institutions have been established for people in these situations. So when it comes down to selecting which approach is more instrumental in society it would have to be the psychoanalytic approach.

In conclusion, the psychoanalytic approach, introduced by Sigmund Freud, is utilized by acknowledging one's childhood experiences, unconscious

fears, and desires to explain the development of later personality traits and psychological problems. On the other hand, the humanistic approach, introduced by Abraham Maslow, states that individuals have the freedom and capacity to direct his or her own future. Although it is a theory, it is apparent

that the psychoanalytic approach is accepted in our society through observations of our speech and procedures of our criminal justice system. As a result, it is conclusive that it is more instrumental in the treatment of mental disorders.


Boneau, C. A., Kimble, G. A., and Wertheimer, M. (1996) Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology, Volume II. Washington D.C. and Mahwah, NJ: American Psychological Association & Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Chapman, A. J., Conroy, W., and Sheehy, N. (1997) Biographical Dictionary of Psychology: London & New York: Routledge.

Keil, F. C. and Wilson, R. A. (1999) The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: The MIT Press

Kimble, G. A., Wertheimer, M., and White, C. L. (1991) Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology, Volume I. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Zusne, Leonard. (1984) Biographical Dictionary of Psychology. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

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