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Uncommon Ideas for Therapists

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Psychotherapy - Part 1

Development - Part 2

Sigmund Freud - Part 3

Client Centred - Part 4

Insight Therapy - Part 5

Solution Focused - Part 6

Psychological Problems - Part 7

Research - Part 8

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Freud's belief System

Freud's belief system held sway over much 20th century thinking. Many complaints, such as closed head injury and concussion were attributed by Freud to 'hysteria' and treated psychologically rather than physically. Sexual significance was attributed to much of everyday life. Most people today still think they actually have and 'ego' and an 'id'!

Freud correctly ascertained that the human brain works metaphorically but sought to assign the same metaphors to everybody (namely those from the ancient Greek tradition). Perhaps most damagingly, he denied the existence of child sexual abuse instead assigning this to 'childhood sexual fantasy'.

Indeed because of his legacy some therapists as recently as the 1960s and 70s were still taught that paedophilia did not exist except in the minds of children!

Another terrible legacy of Freud's is his idea about repressed memory. After examining a man who had been knocked over by a horse and cart in Paris, Freud concluded that because the man could not remember anything, his unconscious mind was shielding the memory from his conscious and called it repressed memory.

Nowadays, an informed physician would attribute this loss of memory to concussion or state-dependant memory, but ideas about repressed memory are still rife among the therapeutic fraternity.

The Rise of Behaviourism

Perhaps as a backlash to the rather absurd and potentially dangerous practices of psychoanalysis, behaviourism developed the theory that mind or mental processes didn't exist (the first of several cases within psychotherapy of throwing the baby out with the bath water).

The useful insight here, promulgated by the likes of B.F. Skinner, was that encouraging healthy behaviours made people feel better, which is borne out by modern research (and common sense). So for example, physical exercise such as running will lead to an increase in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain connected to a sense of wellbeing.(2)

Behavioural therapy also sometimes included giving people electric shocks in conjunction with, say, drinking alcohol so that drinking would be associated with pain. However behaviourism as an exclusive approach can be questioned. The 'pure' behaviourists believed that there was 'no such thing as mind or consciousness', only behaviour.

Next, Client Centred Therapy

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Mark Tyrrell
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