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Psychoanalytic Theory

The counselling theories provide a framework for counsellors and therapists to interpret a patient’s behaviour, feelings, and thoughts and help them in counselling through their history of diagnosis and post-treatment (American Psychological Association, 2022). The theories of counselling act as a road map and can provide direction and help to ensure the clients that they will be effective (Sperry & Sperry, 2020). This paper will discuss the psychoanalytic theory of counselling. The paper will throw a light on the applications of counselling theory by using three journal articles, further, it will give a personal response about the theory and its application if counselling oneself.

Psychoanalytic theory is a personality organization theory that guides the psychoanalysis through the dynamics of personality development. This theory was first given by Sigmund Freud in the late 19th century. Since then, this theory has gone through many changes. The primary belief of this theory is that all individuals have unconscious thoughts, feelings, memories and desires. This theory aims to release the repressed experience and emotions to make the unconscious feelings, thoughts and ideas conscious. This theory suggests that having a cathartic experience can help the person in healing.

Psychoanalytic theory has evolved since it has started around a century ago, there are various psychoanalytic traditions. The journal of lancet journal outlines the ideas of winning the modern mental health practices that adapt the applications of psychoanalytic concepts. This scholarly article states that Freud's vision was ambitious. Psychoanalysis is a way of treatment as well as a metapsychology. The unconscious is the dynamic that includes the fantasies, shifting, desires and memories that motivate the individual's conscious thoughts and provoke the behaviour that is imposed through the window of the dream but is kept repressed due to the unacceptably of their social, ethical values, and moral values. However, the theories of Freud were not always unified. The practice and psychoanalytic theory have evolved subsequently into various traditions and schools. Nowadays In the United Kingdom, many schools have included ego psychology, inspired by Anna Freud. Based on object relations theory, Freud's theory was expanded by Donald Winnicott and Melanie Klein. Further, a French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan developed the early theories of Freud. Psychoanalysis conceptualises the process of human psychological behaviour (Yakeley, 2018). The psychoanalytical theories have informed applications to specific practice and thinking within mental health services. The psychoanalytic studies involved in the empirical research are giving increased evidence to validate some psychoanalytic concepts and their effectiveness. Findings ensure that psychoanalysis applications, insights and treatment can survive in today's changing technological society. The journal of philosophy of education shared the view that this theory enables a good understanding of the biological and social dynamics of the consciousness (Huhtala, 2016). The straightness of this theory is that even if the hard data is absent still this model will be useful in engaging the clinician’s interest in their patients. This form of therapy considers the patient’s illness and uses concepts of countertransference and transference. Modern medicine’s person-centred psychoanalytic viewpoint embraces the subjectivity and finds the meaning in the behaviour and symptom of the illness and also tolerates the uncertainty, and ambiguity and gives information as well as inspiration and hopefulness.

Applications of Psychoanalytic Theory

The psychoanalytic review journal has examined the implications of the conceptual critiques and various conceptions of the unconscious process. Psychoanalysis therapy uses techniques of catharsis, resistance interpretation, dreams and confrontation along with various interventions to help the client in relieving their tensions. The first step is to establish a strong bond with the client therefore, the clinician or the therapist firstly establishes a good and strong bond with their clients in order to build trust. This therapy includes transference as a technique that can transfer the individual’s emotions to the present time which according to the clients is very much more satisfying than their past and elevates them (Eagle, 2013).

This theory was developed during the late 19th century and it was based on Breuer’s discovery, a person who studied a person’s childhood trauma that affected his adult life. Through this research, it was discovered that the individual has someone’s else personality that was related to his childhood experiences. Freud in a mechanical way states that through various stages of an individual’s development a person releases some mental energy and they change their character. The psychoanalytical theory is the most famous in the field of counselling and personality (Tummala-Narra, 2016). Freud claims that a family plays an important role in any individual’s life, especially in their sexual drive. However, it also influences non-sexual development. Freud claims that there are other effects that affect an individual’s thoughts (Winter, Brunner, Lohl, & Schwietrig, 2013).

The motivation and thoughts that all the people have around themselves are factors that affect the way a person acts and does things. Freud stated that the main motivators of an individual are related sexual drives and aggressiveness. This theory also explains that the problem that is faced by an individual is the result of conflicts and traumas that are related to their childhood experiences. The theory further states that childhood issues and traumas can become problematic in future. This theory breaks the process of childhood growth because of the psychosexual motivators, the stages of growth show the various level of growth when a person is developing, it shows that many motivators shape a person’s behaviour and it keeps changing as an individual moves at the next stage of psychosexual growth. Some kind of fault in growth or unhealthy passage during the stages can cause life conflicts that eventually define a personality of a person ( American Psychoanalytic Association, 2022).

Psychoanalytic theory has assumptions just like some other theories. One assumption states that humans have urges in their brain that is unconscious and this unconscious mind sometimes desires to do things that a person cannot do as the desires are limited by society and cannot be fulfilled. Another assumption is that Psychic determination says that everything that goes around people’s minds is a result of an identifiable element, however, the things like miracles are accidents are excluded. One assumption is that there are several parts in a human brain that always compete against each other. Freud has inclined his theory toward the conscious and unconscious. Freud states that the preconscious of the brain contains information and the unconscious mind reserves thoughts, ideas and memories that an individual is not aware of (McLeod, Psychoanalysis, 2019). This information gets interpreted through anxiety and pain. This feeling is hidden in the unconscious and people are unaware of it but it is evident that this unconscious feeling is involved in controlling people’s behaviour and thoughts (Britannica, 2022).

History of Psychoanalytic Theory

Freud highlighted three elements that are present within a person that is the superego, ego and Id. He claimed that these three elements affect an individual’s personality and behaviour. When a person is born, there is an Id personality in them, this element is unconscious and consists of primitive and instinctive behaviour of an individual. The Id is fulfilled by finding the solution that is present in the real world. The superego comprises other aspects of a person that is gained through family or society. Through this, a person learns about right and wrong. From the guidelines, judgement is developed and the superego is broken into two parts - the ideal ego and conscience. The ideal ego is inclusive and it considers good behaviour that is done by the society when a person follows the rules according to his society then he feels accomplished and as a result feels pride. Conscience is engaging in actions that are not defined as a right by parents and society, when a person is unable to follow the customised rules, he feels guilty. These feelings are different among all the individuals, in order to live a healthy life, it is concluded that a balance of these three elements is attained. One must have an ego strength that fights the competition, people who have good ego strength can balance the forces and people who have weak ego strength get succumbed to the pleasure. According to the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, this therapy should be taken for one or more than one years to make a person effective (McLeod, 2021).

This theory has a free association in measuring personality in humans, the free association consist of patients speaking out about certain subjects, then an analysis is done based on things that the client says. A conclusion is derived after doing the analysis.

While giving this therapy Freud would ask the patients to lie on the couch and tell them to be relaxed. He would sit next to them; he took notes while his patients told him about their dreams and memories of their childhood. The process of Psychoanalysis would be a long process that involved various sessions with the psychoanalyst. This approach states that reduction in symptoms is relatively inconsequential if the conflict is not resolved and more neurotic symptom is substituted (Tsikandilakis, M, Bali, Derrfuss, & Chapman, 2019). Psychoanalyst therapy uses several techniques to see inside the client’s behaviour. Through the inkblots, free association, interpretation, parapraxes, transference analysis and resistance analysis (Cherry, What Is Psychoanalytic Therapy?, 2021).

It is depended on the different perspectives of the people, as different people perceive different things depending on their unconscious connection. This test is also known as a projective test, in this test patient projects information through their unconscious mind to interpret this inkblot (, 2022). However, B.F Skinner has criticized this test by calling this method unscientific and subjective (McLeod, 2019).

This test states that the unconscious feelings and thoughts could be transferred to the unconscious mind through Freudian slips and slips of the tongue which means parapraxes. It reveals the things from a person’s mind by saying something that they did not mean to. Sigmund Freud believed that slipping of the tongue gives an insight into the unconscious mind and all the behaviours are significant (Cherry, 2021).

Assumptions of Psychoanalytic Theory

This practice involves patients talking about whatever comes into their minds. In this practice, a word is given by the therapist and the patient is told to respond fastly with the first word that comes into their mind. It is believed that the repressed thoughts are revealed through the course of free association and provide an insight into the unconscious mind. However, this test may not be effective as it may not be useful if the patient shows resistance or is reluctant to say anything that they are thinking. The resistance can be seen if there is a long pause, through this the therapist can get an idea that the patient is repressing an important idea in their thinking. Freud states that this test makes the patient’s experience emotionally intense and by regaining their repressed memories they relive those moments. Patients often experience that stress and anxiety again, they feel like it is happening again, this is called abreaction. This intense emotional experience provided by Freud gives valuable insight into the client’s problems (American Psychological Association, 2022).

Freud states that dream analysis is the royal passage to the unconscious. He claimed that when people are asleep, their mind are less vigilant and their conscious mind act as a sensor. As a result, the repressed thoughts come to the surface when people are dreaming, however, the latent content and the manifest content of the dream are important to be distinguished. Freud claimed that the dream has a sexual significance and according to his theory of sexual symbolism he finds the hidden meaning through common dreams (Zhang & Guo, 2018).

Psychoanalysis is an example of global therapy that aims to help the clients in order to bring a change in their perspective of life. Disorders such as anxiety, depression, phobias, OCD, panic attacks and PTSD can be cured through psychoanalysis theory. This theory aims to assist the patient through their id impulses that help in recognizing the origin of anxiety in their childhood that is being relived in adulthood. DiClemente and Prochaska had given evidence that psychoanalysis is effective. Salzman in 1980 suggested that this therapy can help only in specific anxiety disorders like OCD or phobias, he also pointed out a concern that psychoanalysis may increase the OCD symptoms because often the clients have a tendency to be an over-concern with their actions (Cherry, 2020).

The Psychoanalytic approach can be useful in treating depression to some extent as it relates the depression back to the early experience when a person started experiencing the symptoms. The treatments involve encouraging the patient to recall their past experiences to fix the problems that were made a long time ago. Emde and Shapiro have reported that psychodynamics has been successful (Peebles, 2018).

I choose this theory because psychoanalytic therapies and theories help in understanding a unique phenomenology of a person. It tells the value and meaning of a person’s unconscious thought. As people live in society and they have to follow certain standards and rules made by the society to live, by birth socialization gets started and people start to adapt to the social demand of the society. For mental health, it is important to require conformity when perceiving personal integrity. This integrity expects the people to respect diversity in various forms such as religion, ethnicity, sex etc while balancing the need for social connection psychoanalytic therapies have kept the existential considerations in the mission to advance human understanding and growing personally (McLeod, 2019).

The history and its different methods of interpreting inner thoughts made me interested to write about this particular theory. It leads to better self-awareness, as the person’s repressed thoughts mean a lot of things that a person is unaware of. I would like to be counselled by using this approach because it would be interesting to know what my dream and unconscious thoughts mean. Through this therapy, I would be able to explore my past and understand their effect on the future. This therapy can help me in shedding the experience to live fully in the present. If I were a client then I would apply client centred therapy, I would discuss my past with the therapist so that he would relate my disorder from my past and provide me with a valuable solution for it. As this theory helps in finding the meaning in little events of life, I would use it in counselling myself.


This paper discussed the psychoanalytic theory. It discussed the history of the theory and its application. This theory is a famous theory that was given by Sigmund Freud. Further, it discussed how the theory has evolved through the years. Like any other theory, this theory also had assumptions and it was majorly based on a person’s conscious and unconscious mind. The paper has thrown a light on how unconscious minds can be read by different tests such as Rorschach inkblots, free association, dream analysis, Freudian slip and some therapies. Through this paper, the advantages of psychoanalytic therapy were given as it helps the patients to know the hidden meaning of their repressed thoughts and ideas however some critics like B.F skinner has believed that this theory is unscientific. This therapy consumes a lot of time for a person to heal but it is effective for the patients who are suffering from disorders like anxiety, phobias and depression.


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Cherry, K. (2020, October 06). The Influence of Psychoanalysis on the Field of Psychology.

Cherry, K. (2021, July 13). What Is Psychoanalytic Therapy?

Cherry, K. (2021, August 03). What's Really Happening When You Have a Freudian Slip.

Eagle, M. N. (2013). The Implications of Conceptual Critiques and Empirical Research on Unconscious Processes for Psychoanalytic Theory. The Psychoanalytic Review, 811-917. doi:

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Sperry, J., & Sperry, L. (2020, December). Case conceptualization: Key to highly effective counselling.

Tsikandilakis, M, Bali, P., Derrfuss, J., & Chapman, P. (2019). The unconscious mind: From classical theoretical controversy to controversial contemporary research and a practical illustration of the “error of our ways”. Consciousness and Cognition. doi:

Tummala-Narra, P. (2016). Psychoanalytic theory and cultural competence in psychotherapy. American Psychological Association.

Winter, S., Brunner, M., Lohl, J., & Schwietrig, M. (2013). Critical psychoanalytic social psychology in the German-speaking countries. Annual Review for critical psychology(10).

Yakeley, J. (2018). Psychoanalysis in modern mental health practice. The Lancet Psychiatry, 443-450. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30052-X

Zhang, W., & Guo, B. (2018). Freud's Dream Interpretation: A Different Perspective Based on the Self-Organization Theory of Dreaming. Frontiers In Psychology. doi:

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