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Biyang Wang

on 5 March 2015

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Relational/ Psychodynamic Theory
Historical Context
Key Concepts
General History
Key Early Theorists
Historical Influences
Psychodynamic theories were dominant in the social work profession between the 1920s and then 1970s.
Freud is known as the Founding Father
Ego Psychology:
Object Relations:
This school of thought emphasized the influence of the unconscious mind on behavior.
Freud believed that the human mind was composed of three elements: the id, the ego, and the superego
Ego Psychology
Ego psychologists enhance client's inner capacities through ego development and the confrontation of maladaptive defenses.
Specifically, this is done through the exploration of unconscious ego defenses, used to ward off anxiety, and to protect the self from harm, and unwanted impulses.
Object Relations
It is a developmental theory that stems from early attachments.
Humans have basic and profound needs to be connected or attached to others (known as "objects")
All psychodynamic theories emphasize psychosocial development and unconscious mental processes.
Psychodynamic theory is a developmental theory that emphasizes the importance of early attachments to caregivers.
Social work practitioners should engage in relational interventions by helping the client to see others as distinct, rather than repetitions of others from the past.
Nothing in the life of the mind is random, but, rather, is part of a web of complex associations.
As a social worker trained in psychodynamic theory, you should be able to identify and apply the following key concepts:
1. Transference/Countertransference
2. Defense mechanisms
3. Creation of relational context (Mutual empathy; mutual empowerment)
4. Attachment Theory
: Clients unconsciously project thoughts feelings, and desires onto the clinician, who comes to be seen as a person from the client's past, such as a parent, relative, or other significant other.
: The effects of the clinician's conscious and unconscious needs and wishes on his or her understanding and interpretation of the client.
Defenses are unconscious, automatic responses that enable us to minimize perceived threats or keep them out of awareness entirely.
They are coping mechanisms used by all people to protect themselves against becoming overwhelmed by anxiety.
Common examples include: denial, projection, regression, and repression.
Therapists can only encourage clients to move out of disconnection with negative past experiences when the therapist develops an empathic and responsive relational context.
Developmental Reflection
All children seek close proximity to their parents / caregivers, and they develop attachment styles suited to the types of parenting they encounter.
Relational elements of a person's early environments appear to alter the development of the central nervous system structures that govern physiological and psychological responses to stress.
4 Types of Attachment Styles:
1. Secure
2. Anxious-Ambivalent
3. Avoidant
4. Disorganized
An exploration of the client's past experiences and unconscious processes.
Used when clients experience maladaptive patterns of functioning.
Nature of Humanity
Human have the capacity to adapt to their environment both physiologically and psychologically
Social influences play a role in our psychological functioning
Human Problems
What does the theory tell us about...
Problems in psychological functioning can occur in any developmental stage.
No matter how random our problems seem, they all have meaning within the context of an individual's life.
Our behaviors serve as adaptive measures to help deal with unresolved past experiences
Human Change
All humans have the capacity for change
In order for change to occur, one must be made aware of their unconscious thought processes, which affects the way they perceive and interact with the external world.
Human Motivation
Object Relations: We have a deep desire to connect with others
Ego Psychology: The innate human drive is to seek mastery over one's ability to influence their environment as well as develop competency in that ability.
Advantages of Psychodynamic Practices
Theoretical Limitations
Limited focus on race, ethnicity, culture, and sexuality
Limited evidence-based practices
If long-term, unsuitable for low-come clients and those in managed care environments (i.e. Medicaid recipients).
A lack of concrete techniques, and leans toward abstract ideas.
Emphasize the importance of the therapeutic alliance
Allows for a greater appreciation of the unconscious mind and the underlying neural processes
Explores past relationships in order to create healthy attachments in the here-and-now
Supplies therapists with wide range of therapeutic concepts applicable to other therpeutic orientations
Donald Winnicott & Margaret Mahler
Eric Erikson, Anna Freud & Heinz Hartmann
Sigmund Freud and Jung
Analytic Theory: Carl Jung
Post WWI, there is an emphasis on the concept of the individual and their emotions
Theories originally described the mind consisting of three components: Id, Ego, Superego
Proponents assert that psychodynamic practice appreciates the complexities of human behavior
It is often criticized as being abstract unstructured, and impractical
psychoanalysis was established in the American Psychiatric Association, and was considered to be a
Medical Model.

Gordon Hamilton
was the first social work scholar to practice the psychoanalytic theory, stressing how the environment shapes the structure and dynamics of personality: "
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