The term psychodynamic perspective refers to the theories and therapies developed by Sigmund Freud and supported by his followers. In addition to Freud, others who researched and practiced the psychodynamic approach, based on Freudian principles, include AdlerErikson, and Jung.

Understanding the Psychodynamic Perspective

The basis of the psychodynamic perspective is to understand what is going on in the mind of an individual or “to get in the head” of a patient to see what is going on in the unconscious part of the mind. This will provide insight into how the patient views his relationships, experiences, and the world and how that affects his preferences, behaviors, and drives, and therefore personality.
It was Freud’s first major publication, The Interpretation of Dreams, that was the basis and establishment of the movement of psychoanalysis.
Some examples of assumptions that drive the psychodynamic approach are:

  • The unconscious is one of the most powerful affects on behavior and emotion.
  • No behavior is without cause and is therefore determined.
  • Childhood experiences greatly affect emotions and behavior as adults.
  • The id, ego, and super-ego make up personalty.
  • The drives behind behavior are a) the lift instinct and sex drive and b) death instinct and aggressive drive.
  • Various conflicts throughout childhood development shape overall personality.

The psychodynamic perspective asserts that in childhood certain incidents may occur that produce behaviors in adulthood. As children, defense mechanisms are utilized, then as adults behaviors manifest as a result.
Examples of defense mechanisms that may be used include:

  • Repression
  • Denial
  • Reaction formation
  • Sublimation
  • Projection
  • Displacement
  • Regression
  • Fantasy
  • Compensation
  • Intellectualization

Some examples of behaviors and their explanations using psychodynamic perspective include:

  • Obsessive hand washing could be linked to a trauma in childhood that now causes this behavior
  • Nail-biting may be caused by an anxiety inducing childhood event
  • A childhood event that caused fear in an open space may trigger agoraphobia in an adult
  • Hoarding behaviors could be a result of childhood trauma
  • Number aversion can be an obsessive behavior perhaps initiated by an incident in childhood development
  • Rituals of nervousness such as completing a task a certain number of times (such as opening and closing a cabinet) could be linked to a childhood situation
  • Skin picking is a compulsion that would be linked to a developmental trauma
  • Another compulsive behavior is hair plucking
  • Compulsively counting footsteps could be linked to an incident in childhood
  • Any irrational behaviors can be blamed on childhood instances of trauma or development
  • Neurotic behaviors can be linked to childhood development issues or interruptions
  • Sexual compulsions or related sexual behavioral issues are linked ot the sexual development stage using the psychodynamic perspective

So now you can see how the psychodynamic perspective works and how this theory can be used to explain behaviors and actions.

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