Contributions to Society

Psychodynamic Approach

The use of psychoanalysis as a therapy

  • According to the psychodynamic approach, mental disorders are caused by unconscious conflicts from childhood

  • Therefore, the aim of psychoanalysis is to access the unconscious mind and deal with the conflicts (catharsis). To access the unconscious, Freud proposed four ways:

    • Dream analysis

    • Freudian slip: revealing what is really on our mind by saying something we didn’t mean to

    • Free association: therapist reads a word and patient responds with first word they can think of

    • Transference: recreating conflicts/feelings from ones life and transferring it to the therapist

  • The therapy of psychoanalysis was developed by Freud using his ideas from the psychodynamic approach, including his ‘iceberg’ model (psychosexual model) and has since been used widely as a therapy for a variety of patients.

  • The contribution to society is that it can be used to help treat certain mental health disorders, creating a healthier individual who will contribute to a more economically-productive society.


  • Concepts such as dream analysis and symbol analysis are very subjective, and so Freud’s methods are not scientifically measurable (the same patient visiting two different psychoanalysts would get two very different interpretations – how successful can this therapy be?
  • Masson suggested that the extent to which this is a contribution is questionable, as it could actually be more of a problem, due to the amount of power the psychoanalysts wield over their analysand – which can have adverse consequences
  • The therapy is expensive and time consuming because the client is required to attend analysis frequently during the week over many weeks.

  • There is evidence from studies- e.g. a meta analysis by Bachrach that was evaluating the effectiveness of psychoanalytic therapies found patients deemed suitable for therapy benefitted the most. This shows that psychoanalysis does in fact work with some people, such as those who can reflect on their actions and feelings with insight.
  • The therapy is in-depth and thorough as it takes time to explore the analysands background and goals so in a sense it is seen as holistic.


Dream analysis

The psychodynamic approach explains that unconscious wishes and desires can be uncovered through dream analysis

Freud thought that the manifest content of dreams hides a latent content. Latent content is hidden in symbols in the manifest content, this can be decoded to give information about unconscious wishes and desires. Once uncovered, such unconscious thoughts become conscious and lose power to influence a person's behaviour and guide their neurosis.

The psychodynamic approach considers dreams to have significant importance in treating mental, personality and anxiety disorders. These ideas are implemented in the psychoanalysis therapy which are currently used to treat mental disorders.


  • Alternative explanation to the psychodynamic approach is the Activation Synthesis Theory. This theory suggests that dreaming takes place during the periods of rapid eye movements (REM). During dreaming the brain receives no sensory data or movement data to absorb but it is still active. The active brain attempts to make sense of random thoughts in the brain. This theory are used to treat sleep disorders.
  • The concepts of the psychodynamic approach are not measurable. The data collected are not empirical and involves ideas such as the unconscious mind, id, ego and superego which are not scientific. Therefore many of the findings are highly affected by Freud's interpretation and subjectivity.
  • Freud used case studies such as Little Hans to develop his ideas. Case studies allow in-depth, detailed and valid data of the research area as it uses multiple research methods such as interviews, observations and more. However, there was interpretation involved when analysing the data collected therefore information is likely to be subjective. Moreover Freud collected data through Little Hans's father, during this process, Little Hans's father may have selected information which he felt was relevant. This is researcher bias as there is input from the researcher and the father which may have affected the findings. Moreover case studies are focused on an unique individual therefore it is difficult to generalise.
  • This contributed to developing the psychoanalysis and dream analysis therapy which is currently used to treat patients with mental disorders such as depression.