Working within a psychodynamic context the therapist looks at the client’s past and sees how this influences their present situation to find what is at the basis of their presenting issue(s). A purely Freudian approach maintains that despite the fact an individual might repress early memories the “Id” does not. However this strategy is not accepted by all exponents of psychodynamic therapy. All psychodynamic approaches do however work in reference to the client’s personality and their personal history.
An individual’s physical and mental wellbeing can be influenced by several different factors that will impact on the individual’s growth, development and sense of self, either in a positive or negative way. The impact on the individual might be of a physical, emotional, socio-economic and environmental nature.
The therapist needs to know of these factors in order to understand the effect they have on the physical, intellectual, emotional and social development of the individual and how this has contributed to the individual’s self-concept and behaviour.
Parental separation has a significant impact on a child’s behaviour. However the way the child reacts may vary considerably, depending on the child’s age at the time of separation (Amato, 2000). Family dynamics connected to divorce, such as the extent of parental strife, modifications in parenting, the estrangement of a parent and changes in family finances contribute significantly to the child’s development and long-term adjustment. As Hetherington & Arasteh (1988) suggest parental separation changes the child’s positive view of the world.
The breakdown of the family unit and the subsequent re-structuring of family life instigated by divorce or a separation creates a process whereby modifications to a child’s lifestyle especially regarding primary attachment can be detrimental to the child’s development. Evidence suggests that the nature of the separation can impact negatively on a child’s educational, emotional, psychological and educational arenas. These outcomes can continue into adulthood. Research conducted by Ross and Mirokovsky (1999) indicates that individuals who had experienced divorce as a child had a much higher tendency to marry at a younger age, divorce or separate and marry again, experience long-term emotional problems associated to attachments and relationships. Evidence provided by Ross and Mirowsky also suggests that children of divorced parents tended to be less successful educationally, socioeconomically, and showed higher levels of depression.
It has been suggested that this may be the result of a delay in social development, associated to the emotional intensity of parental separation. Moreover children and teenagers of estranged parents are more likely to experience greater economic, social and health difficulties through childhood, their teenage years and early adulthood and have a higher tendency to use alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs; become sexually active at a younger age and have unwanted pregnancies. Haiman (1994) has concluded “When children experience the separation or divorce of their parents, it is common for them to develop problems and lose behavioural gains […] Well-behaved children may show anger and aggression […] Children who used to think clearly and understand easily may become confused and find it hard to communicate rationally. Once happy children may become morose and depressed […] It is common for young children to manifest one or a combination of these problems in various degrees of severity in response to the separation and divorce of their parents.
Alfred Adler’s contribution to psychoanalysis is predominately phenomenological and goal oriented. Adler is essentially inspired by a social approach to psychology and therefore highlights the individual’s value system that underpins their beliefs and perceptions, in this way it is very close to Constructivism.
Adler’s teleological approach allowed him unburden himself of Freudian determinism and the cause and effect dyad preferred by the canonical psycho analytical approach cultivated by Freud, in so doing Adler empowered the individual, making the individual responsible for their own fate and their own choices and not the victims of quasi biological deterministic drives preferred by Freud. It is at this point that Adler shows himself as being phenomenological in approach primarily influenced by philosophers Vaihinger and Husserl the phenomenological approach is also shared by the existentialist, person centered and Gestalt approaches.
The Adlerian approach is concerned with the individuals “creative self” a process by which the individual is able to work upon their background and environment and establish themselves in society, this approach is diametrically the opposite of Freud’s determinism and can also be found in Gestalt psychotherapy. Adler, unshackled from the Freudian deterministic drives, perceives the individual as an essentially social creature who wishes to live harmoniously with his fellow man. According to Adler we all have an innate “social interest”, however it is not always cultivated or realized. Adler’s theory of social interest was to influence approaches as diverse Erich Fromm, Viktor Frankl and William Glasser. Adler suggests that if an individual consummates their innate social interest they will be emotionally successful individuals. Adler suggests individuals face three major obstacles during their life- times that require a well -developed social interest, these include occupational tasks, where the individual contributes to society, societal tasks, which includes working together with other people to benefit mankind and love and marriage which requires emotional commitment and cohabitation as a family unit. Social interest is essentially a process by which the individual is able to integrate into society. Adler’s influence therefore is clearly evident in the work of William Glasser, despite the latter being predominately cognitive-behavioural in approach. It is also visible in the neo Adlerian Erich Fromm who developed his own theories which he defined as assimilation and socialization.
Adler’s definition of “social interest” has its roots in Marxist social theory which appealed to Adler’s egalitarian approach. Adler’s theory of social interest is intrinsically connected to an individual’s style of life in that an individual’s identity evolves from their choice of life style. An individual’s life style in turn influences how the individual solves life’s problems and what aspirations they wish to achieve. A healthy style of life allows the individual to be an integrated member of society whereas a poor choice of life style usually inspired by an internalized inherent inferiority complex or by a superiority complex is according to Adler doomed to fail. This aspect of Adler’s theory was later developed by William Glasser and can also be seen in the work of Carl Rogers.
Adler suggested four types of individual according to the way they associate to social interest. These included the dominant type, who wishes to dominate others, the leaning type who expects everything from others, the avoiding type, those who fear failure and therefore do not act and finally the socially useful type a well- integrated, who is able to live in harmony with others, contributes to society and lives a productive life. Karen Horney a neo Adlerian developed this theory further by suggesting ten neurotic needs that can be manifested in the individual. By 1945, Karen Horney was able to identify ten neurotic needs in three categories in her book Our Inner Conflicts. Horney proposed a series of strategies used by neurotics to cope with other people “Horney saw these three neurotic “solutions” to basic anxiety and hostility as ideal types. As concepts, each one forms a pure configuration of motives, feelings, and behaviours uncontaminated by the others. The dependent and domineering types, for example, are diametric opposites, and the detached type opposes them both. As extremes they represent analytical concepts, not actual people, who display greater variety, complexity, and intermeshing of characteristics than the types suggest. But the analytic purity of the types permits greater theoretical insight and development” (Westkott: 1986:81). Horney like Adler also believed that the root of tension was sociocultural and not sexual as it had been for Freud. (Myers, 2007). Karen Horney in turn influenced Erich Fromm who also developed a similar theory which he developed in several works including Man for Himself and later To Have or to Be? The personality types developed by Adler and his followers prove especially interesting when viewed within the Adlerian holistic dynamic.
The term Individual Psychology (Adler, 1932) is often misinterpreted. Adler’s theory highlights the holistic nature of the individual. As such Adler employed the term “individual” to highlight the integrity of the individual when others like Freud, were promoting the fragmented and conflictual nature of the individual in the form of id, ego and superego. Adler postulated a holistic theory that proposed the individual as a product of their family unit and cultural up-bringing that influences the goal that an individual works towards (Ferguson, 2000a). With Adler we begin to notice a move from the intrapsychic (within the psyche) to the interpsychic (interpersonal) relations.
Theorists such as Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget developed
ideas that focussed primarily on the cognitive development of the individual. Vygotsky
and Piaget were to heavily influence later theories in particular, Information
Processing and Constructivism.
Lev Vygotsky’s theory can be succinctly summed up in his own words as he believed that:
“Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of ideas. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals” (Vygotsky, 1978:57).
Vygotsky’s approach is essentially sociocultural in that he believed individuals evolve by accommodating and responding to the culture that surrounds them, in this way children learn from elders in particular parents and family members. Vygotsky's theories underscore the basic role of social interaction in the development of cognition (Vygotsky, 1978), Vygotsky felt that the community plays a significant aspect in what he described as "making meaning." Piaget conversely suggested that a child’s development anticipated learning but Vygotsky inverted the process and argued, "learning is a necessary and universal aspect of the process of developing culturally organized, specifically human psychological function" (1978: 90). Therefore according to Vygotsky social learning anticipates development.
Writing in post-revolutionary Russia, Vygotsky was essentially a Marxist and this is reflected in his theory of human development. As a Marxist, Vygotsky believed strongly in the concepts of collective co-operation. Vygotsky suggested that an individual’s development evolved directly from the culture they were born in, an idea essentially distilled from the Marxist theory of history and the concept of dialectical materialism, Vygotsky suggested “To study something historically means to study it in the process of change; that is the dialectical method's basic demand. To encompass in research the process of a given thing's development in all its phases and changes—from birth to death—fundamentally means to discover its nature, its essence, for it is only in movement that a body shows what it is. Thus the historical study of behaviour is not an auxiliary aspect of theoretical study, but rather forms its very base”. (1978:64–65). A parent’s behaviour therefore can be seen as distilling thousands of years of culture in the way the child is reared, a similar approach is echoed by Bowlby.
Vygotsky´s theory concentrates primarily on how thought and
reasoning evolve. Vygotsky
suggested that these skills evolve as a result of social interactions with other
individuals, especially parents and to a lesser extent peers. Vygotsky
suggested that a child’s parents reify the surrounding culture.
Vygotsky (1978) maintains that the parent/pedagogue teaches behaviours and provides verbal guidance for the child, Vygotsky defines this as a co-operative or collaborative dialogue. The child therefore seeks to comprehend the data that the parent/pedagogue provides, processing the information in order to qualify their own behaviour. Vygotsky suggested “Learning awakens a variety of internal developmental processes that are able to operate only when the child is interacting with people in his environment and with his peers […] learning is not development; however, properly organized learning results in mental development and sets in motion a variety of developmental processes that would be impossible apart from learning. Thus learning is a necessary and universal aspect of the process of developing culturally organized, specifically human, psychological functions.” (1978: 90)
Vygotsky suggested that human development is intrinsically linked its sociocultural dimension. Vygotsky maintains “The child begins to practice with respect to himself the same forms of behaviour that others formerly practiced with respect to him […] Hence, we may say that we become ourselves through others and that this rule applies not only to the personality as a whole, but also to the history of every individual function” (1966:39-43).
If we consider that Vygotsky’s theory is essentially concerned with psychological development within a cultural and a cognitive matrix, Vygotsky can be considered amongst the founders of cultural psychology as his approach is essentially sociocultural.