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Psychotherapy – A brief background

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People in emotional distress have always turned to others for support. Teachers, gurus, priests and shamans have long been sought out for purposes in some ways comparable to those found in present day psychotherapy.

Sigmund Freud’s development of psychoanalysis was just one of the three key influences on the evolution of counselling as is understood today.

The others are the Californian personal and humanistic psychology movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Within which Carl Rogers had the most influence on counselling practice, and mainstream psychology which has contributed a variety of behavioural and cognitive approaches.

Naturally, such diverse origins have produced an ongoing debate amongst practitioners of counselling as to the best or most effective theoretical and practical approaches.Emotional Masks psychotherapy

Rogers deliberately popularised the term ‘counselling’ as a strategy to prevent the medical and psychiatric establishments from monopolising the professional provision of helping relationships.

Various attempts continue to be made to produce an integrative model of counselling which combines the best elements from various approaches.

The start of Psychotherapy – Sigmund Freud

Born in 1856, the eldest of eight children, Sigmund Freud was a hard working individual who knew several languages and read widely; with particular interest in classical Greek literature, and Shakespeare and Goethe. His imagination was enlivened by ancient heroes such as Moses and Hannibal.

In 1896 he married Martha Bernays, they had six children. Their daughter Anna became one of her father’s most dedicated professional psychotherapy - Sigmund Freudfollowers.

At the age of 67 Freud contracted cancer of the jaw. Which required many surgical operations which finally left him with impaired speech and hearing.

As a result of the occupation of Vienna by Nazi Germany, Freud reluctantly left the town where he had lived and enjoyed 78 years of his life. He died in London in 1939, aged 83.

Pioneering work

Freud was the pioneer of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. It is from his work where other theorists began their own. Such as Alfred Adler, Carl Gustav Jung, Erik Erikson, Donald Winnicott & John Bowlby. With women practitioners such as Melanie Klein, Karen Horney, Helene Deutsch, Joan Riviere, Margaret Mahler, Enid Balint, Esther Harding and others.

His work ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ (1900) created the slow awakening of popular interest.

Although psychoanalysis began with Freud’s self analysis and with a theory based on male experience. Important and significant theoretical contributions by women practitioners have been central from the start. Freud himself acknowledged in his last discussion of women’s identity in the 1933 essay ‘New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis’

The Psychodynamic Approach

As a result of Freud’s work Psychodynamic Practice began, the purpose of which is to help the client make sense of their current situation. Their feelings and thoughts evoked by this situation and of the memories associated with the present experience.

By analysing feelings, images and dreams the patient gains deeper understanding of how they relate to themselves and others.

How Psychotherapy (Psychodynamic Counselling) works

Links are established between the present and the past:

  • and between the external and internal worlds of the patient
  • with examination of relationships with others and relationships within the psyche (inner person)
  • with what is happening outside the counselling and patient relationship and what takes place between the patient and the counsellor

Human behaviour results not only from conscious choices but also from unconscious feelings and motivations. Unconscious forces influence relationships with others, as well as various parts of the self.

The early environment (childhood experiences & upbringing) creates the foundation for later personality strengths or weaknesses. The early perceptions of the child are gradually modified, but are never totally lost. So adults can see others or the world through the eyes of the child within, particularly in times of stress when regression to a child like state occurs.

The vulnerable ego of the child creates many defences to protect the self. These help the person to survive but may distort the reality of the situation.

Many terms are used in psychodynamic practice such as Transference, Counter-transference, Trial Identification and Projective Identification.

Psychotherapy and you

These terms can be discussed and explained with any client, should they decide to enter into therapeutic counselling, the client will benefit from highly skilled professionals within the organisation, offering the same results – a person free from fear with an opportunity to lead a more productive lifestyle.




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