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9) Psychological Therapies – Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is based upon the psychodynamic model of abnormality. This states that abnormality is caused by repressed memories and thoughts in the subconscious. So in order to cure the abnormality, psychoanalysis aims to identify the repressed memory, and then by removing it from your subconscious, resolving the abnormality. There are three main stages of psychoanalysis; free association, therapist interpretation and working through.

Free association and other techniques

This is where the patient is asked to explain to a therapist every single detail and emotion of certain experiences, even if they may seem irrelevant. The logic behind this is that a few of the pieces of detail will uncover the subconscious reason for the abnormality. There are alternative techniques, for example the Rorschach inkblot test in which a patient tells a therapist what they see when they look at a blot of ink. There is also Freud’s dream analysis. Freud said that dreams where the “royal road to the unconscious”. The therapist would examine the dreams a patient explains to them, and this again would help to uncover any repressed memories.

Therapist Interpretation

Therapists listen as the patients talk, looking for clues as to what repressed memories could be causing the abnormality. Once the therapist has this information they must move onto “working through”

Working through”

Psychoanalysis takes a long time! Patients will meet will therapists 4 or 5 times a week. Over time, sometimes years, it should become clear what the repressed memories are, and just the act of removing the memory from the subconscious is usually enough to remove the abnormality.



+ Effectiveness Bergin found that out of 10,000 patients around 80% benefited from psychoanalysis.

+ Length – Tschuschke et al found that the longer psychotherapeutic treatments took, the better the outcomes


Dependence on Freud’s theory – Psychoanalysis is based completely on the psychodynamic model of abnormality, if that is proved incorrect then this whole treatment is invalid.

– False memories – Psychoanalysis is based on the assumption that the patient can completely recall suppressed memories. However, research by Loftus shows that few people can completely recall memories accurately. This could be by accident, or because they don’t want to expose secrets to the therapist.

– Needs therapist present – unlike other therapies, such as chemotherapy, a highly trained, expensive therapist is needed at all times throughout the therapy.

– Length of time – This therapy could take up to years to show any benefits, so for many people this is useful, and certainly not in the short-term



About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


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