Criticisms of Psychoanalysis

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Psychoanalytic approaches have received a great deal of criticism-this after an extended period during which psychoanalysis was almost the only approach to therapy available. Some of the criticisms are about the scientific status of the underlying theory. Most research-trained psychologists are disturbed by the relative lack of research evidence supporting psychoanalytic theory. Others are at a loss to say exactly what sort of evidence would count as scientific support. Today, many years after the initiation of psychoanalysis that debate continues (Greenbaum, 1984). Similar criticisms can be made about psychoanalysis in practice. Perhaps you thought of this when you read about resistance earlier. If the patient accepts an interpretation by the analyst then the interpretation is true. If the patient does not accept the interpretation then this indicates resistance and therefore the interpretation is true.

Other critics accept that psychoanalysis may be an effective treatment but argue that it simply takes too long and costs too much money for most people. Still others point out that the techniques and complexities of psychoanalysis make it helpful only to people who are in touch with reality and who possess verbal ablllttes and verbal interaction skills Schofeld summarized this critique be remarking that the typical analytic client must be a Yavis-a young, adult verbally skilled intelligent, sophisticate.

The requirement of coherence is particularly troubling when it comes to treating people whose major symptom is a lack of coherence. It ls not surprising, therefore that psychoanalytic approaches have been regularly applied to problems of anxiety and depression, where the person is intellectual ability is intact and less often to cases of psychosis such as schizophrenia. Many psychoanalysts including Freud have admitted that psychoanalysis is not an effective therapy for schizophrenia. Beyond the issue of coherence and reality testing, one of the major problems with the psychoanalytic approach is the necessity for establishing a bond of trust between therapist and patient. This can be discouragingly difficult to achieve with certain classes of the mentally disturbed and further restricts the applicability of psychoanalysis.

Finally, there is the criticism that psychoanalysis may be a good way to get at the source of the patient’s problem but not necessarily to solve it. It may be that the quickest and most effective way to solve present problems is to focus on the problems themselves rather than on what caused them. That, at least, is the viewpoint behind many of the recent developments that have taken place in therapy.

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