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The Unconscious, Ego Psychology

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1 The Unconscious, Ego Psychology
Theories of the Ego The Unconscious, Ego Psychology & coping with crises SSS 571

2 Psychodynamic theory Freud's biopsychosocial approach
Two Freudian models of the mind Ego Psychology and autonomous ego functions Coping and Adaptation Change Concepts

3 “Psychodynamic Theory” is NOT just one theory…
It is a set of theories Drive or structural theory Ego Psychology Object Relations Theory Self Psychology Relational Theory Our focus today: Classical theory (drive theory & ego psychology) Focus of advanced psychodynamic theory (SSS 723): Contemporary theories (object relations, self psychology, & relational theory)

4 What is psychodynamic theory?
It is a set of theories that describe... the changing inner energies that motivate, dominate, & control people’s behavior It provides a framework that examines... past experiences & present reality, as well as the internal & external forces that impact emotional development It looks from “the inside out & the outside in”

5 Freud's Path How did a medically trained neurologist come to describe this particular theory of the mind? Charcot & the state of art of psychological care in the 19th century Freudian problems in Victorian context






11 The Couch

12 Psychodynamic Commonalities
Personal history (particularly early childhood experiences) influence development. The psyche is formed at the intersection of internal and external forces. A dynamic unconscious (UCS) influences thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The “Talking cure” is influenced by transference.

13 Basic Premises of all Psychodynamic Theories
Internal & external forces—both conscious & unconscious, based on past experience & present reality—interact to motivate, dominate, & control human behavior, personality development, & social functioning The internal mind affects how we relate to the external environment & the external environment affects the internal mind in a dynamic interaction throughout the life span

14 Assumptions about human behavior
All biological, psychological, & social factors interact in a complex way to impact development & adaptation throughout life Humans learn to adapt to the external environment through relationships shaped by in-born genetic capacities , culture, & socio-historical context Early childhood experiences & relationships shape personality development & interact with present reality to shape adaptation in current life

15 Two Freudian Schemata The importance of theories of the mind-a framework in which to understand presenting problems. Topographic theory Structural theory Freud's theory developed and changed, but built on what had come before

16 Topographic Model Conscious (cs)‏-the part of the mind that interacts with the external world, and which can reflect on itself. Pre-conscious (pcs)-the part of the mind in which thoughts, feelings and ideas are being prepared for outward expression. Can be brought to attention.‏ Unconscious (ucs)-governed by the pleasure principle. The cauldron of wishes, desires and fears that make up the bulk of our mind.


18 “These wishes of our Unconscious, ever stirring, never dying—immortal, one might say— remind us of the legendary Titans whose shoulders from time immemorial bore the great mountain-masses laden upon them by the victorious gods, which even now still quake from time to time from the convulsions of their limbs…” (Int. of Dreams, 363, J. Crick, trans.)‏

19 Aspects of a Freudian Theory of the Mind:
The unconscious Disavowed wishes and dreams Controlled chaos and a mechanism of control Persistent (but moderately mutable) mental representations A personal history

20 Freudian Psychosexual Stages
Oral stage (First year of life)‏ Focus on primary gratification through oral means Anal stage (2-3 yrs)‏ Focus on primary gratification through holding on & letting go, corresponds with toilet training Phallic (Oedipal) stage (3-5 yrs)‏ Focus on primary gratification through genitals; awareness of erotic feelings for parents; emergence of triangular relationships Latency stage (5 or 6 through puberty)‏ Focus on repression of erotic feelings Genital stage (puberty through adulthood)‏ Focus on primary gratification though meeting adult sexual needs

21 The move to Structural Theory
Guilt, anxiety & self-loathing Drive theory's mechanism of change Observation informs theory

22 Structural Theory Id Superego Ego (Where did the ucs go?)‏
(A note on translation.)‏



25 The It (Id)‏ The home of our sexual and aggressive urges.
Fully unconscious, although the unconscious is not fully id. “the dark inaccessible part of our personality...We approach the id with analogies: we call it chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitation.”

26 The Over-me (Superego)‏
Both conscience and punisher. The seat of moral expectations and regulation of self-esteem associated with meeting those expectations. Identification & moral development

27 The I Conscious and unconscious
has an integrative function & provides psychological cohesion mediates between the Id and the Superego The (non-unitary) Executive.

28 Post-Freudian Ego Psychology
Anna Freud elaborated the mechanisms that the ego uses to maintain homeostatis, and mediate the impingements from inside (the id, the ucs ego, the superego) and outside (unacceptable reality). Heinz Hartmann developed a theory of the mechanisms of the ego that are independent of psychodynamics, and inherent in the mental structure from birth.

29 How does the ego develop?
Ego development occurs as result of: meeting basic needs identification with others learning mastery of developmental tasks effective problem-solving successful coping The ego develops capacities to function in the world, known as “ego functions” Enable people to function in coherent, organized manner

30 Hartmann's ego functions
Some ego functions are inborn & hereditary & function autonomously, i.e., “conflict-free” At birth, we are “preadapted” to an “average expectable environment” Some functions (perception, memory, intelligence, thought processes, motor activity, reality testing) are separate from the drives

31 Bellack's list of ego functions:
Reality testing Judgment Sense of reality of the world & the self Modulating & controlling drives, affects, & impulses Object or interpersonal relations Thought processes Adaptive regression in the service of the ego Defensive functioning Stimulus barrier Autonomous functioning Mastery-competence Synthetic-integrative function

32 Ego Defenses “The defensive methods so far discovered by analysis all serve a single purpose—that of assisting the ego in its struggle with its instinctual life. They are motivated by the three principle types of anxiety to which the ego is exposed—instinctual anxiety, objective anxiety and anxiety of conscience. In addition, the mere struggle of conflicting impulses suffices to set the defence-mechanisms in motion.”--Anna Freud, The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence

33 How defenses operate: Defense mechanisms operate out of conscious awareness, while coping mechanisms are conscious Defenses protect individuals from intolerable or unacceptable impulses Effective defenses enable optimal functioning without undue anxiety, while maladaptive defenses distort reality & impair overall ego functioning


35 Anna Freudian Ego Defenses
Repression Reaction formation Projection Isolation Undoing Regression Introjection (internalization)‏ Turning against the self Reversal Sublimation Displacement

36 Other Defenses Denial Intellectualization Humor Splitting Altruism
Asceticism Dissociation

37 Eriksonian Ego Psychology
The work of Erikson not only grew out of a critique of Freud's psychsexual stages, it also integrated observations from post-Freudian ego psychology.

38 Erickson’s Eight Stages of Man
Epigenetic Stages Ages Virtues Basic trust vs. mistrust (0-18 mo) Autonomy vs. shame & doubt (18-3 yr) Initiative vs. guilty (3-6 yr) Industry vs. inferiority (6-11 yr) Identity vs. confusion (11-18 yr) Intimacy vs. isolation (young adulthood) Generativity vs. stagnation (middle adulthood) Integrity vs. despair (old age) Hope Will Sense of purpose Competence Personal identity Love Care Wisdom

39 What is a crisis? An upset in psychological equilibrium triggered by:
outside harm or threat from the environment internal developmental or biological changes interpersonal challenges, conflicts, or losses Symptoms may include anxiety, guilt, shame, sadness, envy, disgust, fear “Traumatic stress”—actual or threatened severe injury or death of oneself or significant others

40 Diathesis/stress model of mental illness
“Diathesis”—a predisposition to develop disease or morbid condition “Diathesis/stress model”—an interaction of life experiences with biological variables (genetics, neurochemistry, neuroanatomy) Each person has a unique vulnerability to stress

41 Coping and Adaptation Our efforts to manage stress & meet new challenges Biological coping (demands on nervous & hormonal systems)‏ “fight-or-flight” “tend-and-befriend” Psychological coping Defense mechanisms (internal, unconscious traits)‏ Coping styles or capacities (fluid states, changeable)‏ Problem-focused—change environment Emotion-focused—change internal self

42 Individual's ability to cope with stress is influenced by:
Capacity to adapt & restore equilibrium Interpersonal relationships Current environmental supports & resources “social supports”—resources that provide material, emotional, & instrumental support personal supports perhaps salient—affirm identity, compensate for deficits


44 Psychopathology, according to classical theory
Unresolved “conflicts of the mind” between id, ego, & superego or between ego & external environment: May cause “fixation” at developmental stages May cause weak ego functioning , leading to difficulties with adaptation May cause inadequate defensive functioning leading to symptoms Symptoms of unresolved conflict (e.g., anxiety, depression, compulsions, or sociopathy) are: Efforts to overcome or work through conflicts Efforts to compensate for conflicts

45 Transference—a key to all dynamic treatments
Transference defined as: The feelings & wishes from past experiences placed onto another in the present The central component of the “talking cure” A means for viewing client’s unresolved conflicts by the interaction with the clinician Countertransference defined as: The clinician’s feelings about the client in treatment Through understanding transference, clients may develop insight & self-understanding, leading to change

Treatment based on ego psychology EGO-MODIFYING TREATMENT EGO-SUPPORTIVE TREATMENT Focus: past & present; conscious, unconscious, & preconscious Nature of change: insight & conflict resolution Curative process: make unconscious conscious through interpretation Use of relationship: use & understand positive & negative transference Focus: current behavior, conscious thoughts/feelings; limit past focus Nature of change: ego mastery, increased understanding, better person-in- environment fit Curative process: strengthen ego, shore up defenses, promote adaptation Use of relationship: real relationship, positive transference, corrective relationship

Interventions & treatment populations EGO-MODIFYING TREATMENT EGO-SUPPORTIVE TREATMENT Types of interventions: Nondirective, reflective, interpretive; “free association;” work with environment not emphasized but may be used; usually long-term tx. Appropriate clients: Persons with good ego strengths, but maladaptive functioning Types of interventions: Direction, support, education, structure, some reflection; environmental modification; provision & mobilization of resources; short- or long-term tx. Appropriate clients: Persons encountering crises, life transitions, extreme stress; with low tolerance & impulse control

48 SSS 571: Susanne Bennett, Ph.D.
10/05/2009 “…a knowledge of psychodynamic forces can illuminate what is going on in any human interaction or communication, no matter how brief it is.” --Berzoff, J., Flanagan, L., & Hertz, P. (Eds.). (2008). Inside out and outside in (2nd ed.). NY: Jason Aaronson, p. 2. 48 Psychodynamic Theory 48

49 Ego Psychology’s use in social work practice

50 Social Work’s long history with ego psychology
Ego psychology was very influential in early social work Mary Richmond ( ), wrote Social Diagnosis (1917) Backlash emerged in s due to civil rights movements, war on poverty Founding of Clinical Social Work Journal (1972) & Federation of Societies for Clinical Social Work (1971) re-emphasized social work’s psychodynamic roots

51 Well-known MSW psychodynamic scholars
Howard Parad, wrote Crisis Intervention, Ego-oriented Casework Eda Goldstein, wrote Ego Psychology & Social Work Practice, Short- term Treatment in Social Work: An Integrative Perspective, Self- Psychology and Object Relations Theory in Social Work Practice Jerald Brandell, wrote Psychodynamic Social Work Joan Berzoff, wrote Inside Out and Outside In: Psychodynamic Clinical theory and Psychopathology in Contemporary Multicultural Contexts

52 Psychodynamic theory in current SW practice
Ego psychology is used as underpinning for supportive treatment Ego-supportive treatment takes a “strengths-based approach” Focuses on adaptation, restoring equilibrium, & building social supports Especially useful in work with clients who are severely mentally ill, homeless, in crisis, recently traumatized, in nursing homes Contemporary psychodynamic practice is embraced by current practitioners in brief & long term treatment Especially in work with individual clients with personality disorders or complex trauma; or in working with couples

53 Freudian Controversies
Universality Oedipus conflict, penis envy, and the politics of gender Homosexuality Fantasy and reality

54 Critiques of Freud Biology and mental illness.
The problem of repression. Too many sexual urges, not enough positive influences. Freud & Einstein...human nature and hope.

55 Critiques of Ego Psychology
Freudian theory foregrounds the importance of the unconscious, while post-Freudian ego psychology tends to give primacy to the (more or less conscious) ego. When mastery and “proper” ego functioning are the focus of treatment, the therapist may become the model of normalcy. Cultural factors often ignored.

56 Evaluating Freudian Theory
Evidence Application Usefulness Inclusiveness


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