Analysis: All Psychology Is Freudian
Despite what the name says there are actually several models of psychology, which include:
- Psychodynamic (these days based loosely on the works of Freud and contemporaries of his like Jung, Adler, and Erikson, and the premise that childhood experiences shape the adult human)
- Behavioral (pioneered by people like Watson and Skinner, based on the premise that every human is born as a blank slate and must develop their personality and behavior through their experiences)
- Humanistic (a field that grew out of a combination of behavioral and psychoanalytic psychology, which holds that the best way to help the patient is to build a trusting relationship with them)
- Cognitive (the study of how people think, learn, and remember)
- Biological (focusing on physiological causes of behavior and mental illness; most of the research into psychotropic drugs comes out of this field, but not much in the way of therapy)
- Evolutionary (focused on determining which aspects of human behavior are genetic, and then tries to determine how those genes were naturally selected—a research-only field, with minimal therepeutic applications)
- Sociocultural (focuses on how behavior is shaped by social and cultural influences—like evolutionary psych, is basically research-only)
- Systemic (not technically a paradigm of its own but rather a type of therapy, also known as "Family Therapy." It treats all behavior as "making sense in context" of the system they're part of, and draws heavily on an eclectic mix of psychodynamic, behavioral, and humanistic psychology)
- Transpersonal (the study of spiritual and mystical experience, including altered states of consciousness, and how they relate to our everyday lives and choices)
If a psychologist is asking about the patient's parents and childhood, sees sexual imagery in everything the patient says, and uses lots of projective tests like the Rorschach ink blot test or word association, you're probably looking at television's idea of Freudian psychology.
While Freudian concepts are still around in psychology, "classic" Freudian psychology is pretty much to the field as MS-DOS is to computing
. Some of Freud's theories turned out to be correct, like "The Talking Cure" (therapy) and the "Freudian Excuse
", but he was Right for the Wrong Reasons
; because of this, much of the basic therapy techniques that most people are familiar with looks like Freud's theories and treatment. Also, most intro to psychology textbooks begin with a history section that often starts with Freud, and history textbooks often focus on Freud when psychology is discussed. When added together, all of these things combine to give the layman a rather exaggerated view of Freud's significance to the field.
Interestingly, recent surveys by various psychological associations show that the vast majority of therapists favour a combined approach; for example, the vast majority of therapists use humanistic and systemic techniques, and most modern behaviourists (or "neo-behaviourists") blend cognitive and biological elements into their work, rather than treating the brain as an unknowable quantity and working only from visible actions, as their forerunners did.
There is also a tendency to use "psychology" and "psychiatry" interchangeably. The difference between the two is that psychiatrists are MDs, usually board-certified neurologists with two to six years' added training in psychology, who can provide therapy and prescribe medicationnote
. Psychologists, on the other hand, spend from two to six years in graduate studies before being certified. They receive a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree (one difference is the amount of statistical math required). They cannot prescribe medication—though most of them, if they feel it's necessary, will just write a referral for the client to a psychiatrist for a medication evaluationnote
, or sometimes just a note to the patient's GP recommending one drug or another.
Psychologists also do nearly all of the research in the field of psychology. Psychiatrists tend to view psychologists as "mumbo-jumbo mystics" while psychologists tend to view psychiatrists as "total quacks."note
Interestingly, both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were medical doctors (Freud trained as a neurologist, as did most early psychiatrists). Their methods of working and researching would probably count as psychology today, but back then psychology didn't really exist as its own field, belonging to philosophy instead (as in, having insights about human thinking and human nature; Nietzsche
often wrote about "psychology" in this sense, which is how his calling Dostevsky
"the only psychologist from whom I have anything to learn" makes any kind of sense).
Modern psychiatry actually began prior to Freud in the Spooky Seance
room with the study of mediums and experiments with hypnosis. That's another thing that today's mental health practitioners would like you to forget, although some professionals still use hypnosis to help clients relax.
Many of today's counselors are neither psychologists nor psychiatrists, but clinical social workers.
Note that some universities still take Freud seriously, which tends to create tensions between them and those considering him obsolete. Also note that some others, particularly in France and parts of South America, teach Lacan, whose work is mostly considered (and probably considered himself) as a Freud 2.0 (with whole new features!)
It's also a major part of why hard scientists consider psychology a pseudoscience.
That said, a lot of the problems with this concept stem from misunderstandings of Freud, whose body of work discussed a range of issues beyond the few stereotypes people still hold over him. Scientists such as Henri Laborit and Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel believe that Freud came closer than anyone to understand how the human mind works and consider him important in the field of neuroscience.
Other obsolete concepts/practices/theories that show up include:
- 90% of Your Brain : Early psychologists are prone to invoking analogies similar to this. A famous one is the Freudian "iceberg" analogy for the Unconscious Mind (in an iceberg, only a small part is in the surface, the rest is underwater). Today, psychologists take to refer to that larger-than-consciousness object called "the unconscious mind" not due to Freudian repression analogies or Psychic Powers, but for simply that larger part of our mind that is literally ignored by our own awareness (like how to process sensory information).
- All Behaviorism Is Pavlovian: The old behaviorist idea of psychology that thinks all learning, behavior, etc. is primarily founded on association of stimuli (reinforcement/reward and punishment), like for example Pavlov's dog learning to salivate when a bell paired with meat is rung, or Little Albert avoiding rabbits after being punished with loud noises. Said responses can then be exploited by dystopias for Mind Manipulation, as shown by A Clockwork Orange and Brave New World —while conditioning has been scientifically verified, and the Behaviorist movement did contribute to psychology's liberation from the Hard on Soft Science stigma, nowadays people acknowledge that conditioning does have its limits, the idea that "all behavior comes from reward and punishment" has been discredited (see also: Overjustification where, in sharp contrast to behaviorist experiments, rewards can actually kill intrinsic motivation), and neo-behaviorists are willing to accept neuroscience, cognitive science and humanist influences.
- Structuralist models of personality, like the Freudian Trio and Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs: There's no scientific evidence for them. The Hierarchy Of Needs is an idea that first we focus on the physical necessities like sleeping and pooping, then needs relating to safety, then love and friendship, then esteem and being respected, and finally "self-actualization" at the top (a term endlessly debated because Maslow didn't bother defining it very well). But even then, it's just a list of needs in an arbitrary order that Maslow happened to like. One of the primary reasons such models are still taught as truth in lots of places is mainly for practical purposes: such models can be used to help people organize their thoughts, feelings and priorities.
- Psycho Psychologists: Psychologists carrying out some unethical experiments, often involving Bedlam Houses, imprisonment, drugs, Electric Torture, Pavlovian fear conditioning, Mind Manipulation, etc. However, in fact, there is no way in hell a psychologist would be allowed to perform them. There are a LOT of checks in place to make sure there are no abuses of power.
- Sadly, this was Truth in Television when the science was in its infancy. See also: Bedlam House and the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment.
- Also, the Church of Scientology actually believed this one.
- Some such experiments do still take place—but they only involve low-level shocks (and this in the context of studying fear conditioning).
- It may also be related to the fake electrocutions done during Milgram's study of obedience. Participants thought they were delivering shocks to a helpless fellow test subject, but the target was an actor and nobody actually got shocked. Today, Milgram's experiment is used in psychology classes not only to demonstrate the power of authority, but also as a segue into professional ethics; ask any grad student, and you'll get a dozen reasons why you can't do today what Milgram did back then.
- It should be noted that, while the use of potentially hazardous electric shocks as part of an experiment is simply not done, ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) still remains a valid form of therapy. It's neither the most common nor preferred form of psychotherapy in this day and age, but a valid one nonetheless, even if only used with rather extreme cases. Much of the confusion surrounding unethical electrical experiments can be attributed to this. It should also be noted that real electro-shock therapy is nearly painless and not the torture and convulsion-inducing barbarism shown on TV and Winston's torture in 1984. Indeed, electro-shock therapy is now used only in severe cases of depression that are unresponsive to any other form of treatment. The patient is fully anesthetized before the treatment now, and every precaution is taken to ensure that the treatment is safe and humane. It works beautifully, but does have short-term memory loss as a potential side-effect, which is usually temporary but occasionally permanent; most patients with depression that is severe enough to need ECT consider this an acceptable trade off. Much of the controversy today concerns patients receiving ECT against their will.
- Brain Cells Cannot Regenerate: This one haunted even the earliest fields of neuroscience, in that you're born with all the neurons you'll ever have in your life, and once you lose a neuron, it's lost forever. Actually, neurogenesis has been shown to occur even in adults, albeit mostly in the hippocampus and at a very limited rate.
- Alcohol kills brain cells. It works on fetuses (the infamous Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) but it does not really work on adults; alcoholism mostly only damages dendrites which the adult can then restore with the appropriate lifestyle.
- The theory of the stages. Character X constantly smokes, drinks or eats lollipops? Uh-oh, seems something went wrong with his oral stage, and by that we mean that his mother didn't breastfeed him enough. Or too much, who knows. And better don't ask about anal-retentive or anal-expulsive characters. Then, there's also the phallic stage (what, no Distaff Counterpart?).