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Psychology Essay on Theories of Personal Change

Published by at January 19th, 2024 , Revised On March 20, 2024

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Theories of Personal Change

The psychodynamic and humanistic theories are among the most significant approaches to therapeutic changes applied in advanced counselling and psychotherapy. Therapeutic changes include letting go of adverse behavioural aspects or dysfunctional patterns based on irrational beliefs and self-sabotaging traits.

These dysfunctional relationship patterns are then replaced by more advanced and positive behaviours that are conscious and enormously proactive models leading to achieving well-being, behavioural prosperity, and greater happiness. Two main primary psychology theories are linked with therapeutic and personality; the Humanistic (Rogerian) and Psychodynamic (Freudian) approaches.

Carl Rogers established one of the most vital approach to therapeutic change and personal development in the 1940s by introducing the Humanistic psychology model. In his Humanistic Theory of Personality, Carl Rogers argued that individuals are intrinsically good with an inner drive to better themselves.

From a Psychodynamic perspective, we study how various psychological forces found in human behaviors, emotions, or feelings concerning the early experience of an individual’s life (Willmott, et al., 2018).

The humanistic principle and the Psychodynamic theory show various similarities when applied to therapeutic changes. The two models base their experience and argument on looking and studying individuals to understand personal traits.

The two models of therapeutic changes argue that the environment plays a vital role in determining one’s behavior since it can improve or hinder one’s progression through various development stages. Although there are clear differences between the two theories, they both show acknowledgment of sex in human development.

The two theories argue that individuals are fundamental aspects of development since personality development depends on how individuals achieve their wants and needs. Therefore, the Humanistic principle and the Psychodynamic theory do not base their argument on external occurrence only but primarily on the individual level.

Nevertheless, the two theories have been greatly criticized due to the lack of clarity and strong evidence in their research. The psychodynamic theory has been greatly criticized due to the absence of empirical research (Allen, 2020).

In its earliest forms of development and analysis, there was not much detailed and prior research for reference regarding personality changes. In the Humanistic approach to criticism, most scholars have argued that the theory depicts redundancy or ambiguity.

This makes the theory lack specific objectives since it bases its argument on the matters that are challenging in identifying whether an individual has achieved a need or not.

As introduced by Sigmund Freud, psychodynamic perspectives are based on psychological forces and drives within individuals, responsible for explaining and evaluating human behaviors and personality.

This theory originated from the psychoanalysis approach by Sigmund Freud, which mainly focused on the unconscious state of our brains or minds as the central source of dysfunctional attitudes and psychological distress.

This theory is significant in dealing with depression and enhancing human personalities since it focuses on identifying the underlying unconscious issues and laying down relevant defense mechanisms. The psychodynamic perspective proposed therapeutic changes to bring the unresolved matters that individuals developed in childhood.

Nevertheless, it resolves the repressed trauma, anger, anxiety and irrational fear hidden in the unconscious mind causing depression. Therefore, the psychodynamic perspective advocates for revealing these dysfunctional aspects by bringing them to a conscious state to help clients address the psychological distress and existing underlying problems.

According to Freud, he identified that individuals’ unconscious motives intrinsically underpin their own behaviors and personality (Learning, 2020). Childhood experience and predicaments are viewed as critical in developing traits, personality, and psychological reasoning of all individuals later in their lives.

Moreover, Freud explained the psychodynamic perspective by drawing his argument from three main states of beings, id, ego and the superego. These three states are vital in understanding the human mind and the role of the unconscious state.

The id is the unconscious state seeking self-fulfillment and instigates instincts. At the same time, the superego is the conscious aspect based on moral reasoning according to individual moral values and community norms. Subsequently, the ego acts as the primary mediator for the id and superego, thus aiming at decision-making based on instincts, moral values and self-gratification.

In response to depression for therapeutic changes, psychodynamic theory dwells on defense mechanisms and transference. Defense mechanism refers to the well-organized tools responding to the unconscious mind to inhibit anxiety and trauma caused by unresolved and dysfunctional issues.

The mechanism is critical in manipulating or distorting the existing reality, thus protecting oneself by distancing them from reality. Common defense mechanisms include denial, repression, projection, disassociation, acting out and displacement. In denial, most people use this defense mechanism to escape trauma or depression, which acts as a therapeutic approach to change and conscious stability.

Denial refers to the conscious state of mind rejecting reality or failing to believe that painful and depressing facts exist in one’s life. For instance, after losing a childhood friend or a close relative, one might end up getting intoxicated or drunk to deal with the harsh reality.

However, one will deny that they have fallen alcohol victim or have substance abuse disorder because they believe they are still functioning normally and attending their duties each day, claiming to be doing fine (Willmott, et al., 2018).

Therefore, denial is a defense mechanism that is most common to people as they try to run from the harsh reality and console themselves as if nothing has happened to avoid depression.

The core assumptions of psychodynamic perspectives are generally simple and create unique approaches to the therapeutic change framework. The psychodynamic theory believes that mental or psychological processes occur beyond our awareness or out of the conscious state.

The psyche, which refers to all mind activities, is presumed to be extensively unconscious. According to different researches, individuals’ motives, memory, feelings, attitudes, or emotions are greatly inaccessible to consciousness.

Additionally, the psychodynamic perspective offers a critical approach to therapeutic changes in individuals’ experiences or depression. This approach offers critical importance of early life or experiences where childhood events are vital in shaping individuals’ behaviors and personalities.

Therefore, the theory shows uniqueness in emphasizing how childhood experiences are determinants of personality growth and dynamics. The third core assumption derived from the psychodynamic perspective is based on psychic casualty, arguing that nothing happens by chance in psychological life.

Psychic casualty argues that random thought, behaviors, feelings, or motived do not exist in the conscious world (Starkstein, 2018). From the psychodynamic perspective, the therapist acts as an interpreter of the client, linking current problems to the past experience where a client lacks control over how these mechanisms work.

In his Humanistic perspective, Carl Rogers depicts his theory as a person-centered approach that requires self-actualization to overcome trauma or depressing situations. In his experience as a counselor, Rogers believed that an open and trusting relationship is important in helping clients grow psychologically and cope with challenges effectively.

Humanistic approach advocates for empathy, where one must understand and acknowledge the client’s perspective by allowing them to live in their world. Therefore, as developed by Carl Rogers, the person-centered theory based its argument on Actualizing Tendency.

The outlook states that each individual has an innate need for wholeness, thus creating a natural desire for personal growth where one will be responsible for their actions.

Nonetheless, self-concept is a critical approach to therapeutic change in person centered counseling. This approach relates to how individuals view themselves on life experiences or from important people they interacted with while young.

This creates a hierarchy of needs that acts as a critical motivation and inspiration for humans, creating a sense of psychological development (Joseph, 2020). These needs include biological or physiological needs like oxygen, water and food, which are the most critical from a Humanitarian perspective.

These are the first needs that individuals would search for satisfaction in case of deprivation, followed by other needs like safety, affection needs and esteem. In the Humanitarian theory, as Maslow argued, one needs to do what they were born to do by exercising behaviors encouraging the development of confidence and proficiency through self-actualization.

One must keep trying new experiences, take responsibility, develop trust and challenge oneself to become a truly capable individual.

Therefore, the core concept of the Humanistic approach is based on the fulfillment model, where the root framework of the Humanitarian paradigm is growth. An individual is depicted as striving to progress or meet significant achievements that will hinder challenges that may lead to trauma or depressing situations.

Humanistic theory makes sense of its framework through experience, process, actualization, awareness and reflexivity. Humanistic counselors and psychotherapists use these approaches in therapeutic change to actively seek the meaning and actualization of their clients.

In the case of depression, awareness is a fundamental attribute since individual works with their here-and-now situation, which depicts individual awareness or consciousness. Fully-functioning individuals are always open to experiences, while people dealing with depression or any challenging situation try to distort their awareness and manipulate the great self to escape frightening and traumatizing situations.

This creates the unconscious fantasy similarly to the psychodynamic perspectives where the client may exclude existing conscious awareness during counseling to resolve whatever life challenges they might be experiencing.

During a therapeutic change session, Humanistic therapist believes that an individual has an extensive degree of choice over their own attention or awareness. For instance, one might decide to apply the Gestalt technique of welcoming and engaging the client during psychotherapy where the use of direct language is much emphasized, like saying, “I always feel,” rather than “it feels.”

This client’s exploration gives the counselor enough details through a robust phenomenological approach aiming at becoming sensitive to most of the client’s horizons to gain extensive experience of the client’s experimental world stance (Maurer & Daukantaitė 2020).

Therefore, humanistic perspective advocates for free will, satisfaction, holistic outlook, self-actualization, empathy and goodness of all individuals.

In conclusion, Humanistic perspective depicts humans as having innate goodness, thus having the ability to better themselves and others. It argues positive intentions are the driving force of behaviors though individuals might deviate from their innate optimism when facing challenges.

Since individuals are motivated to self-actualize, this helps in therapeutic change and handling depression by seeking growth, satisfaction, fulfillment and awareness. Nevertheless, Humanistic perspective enhances the conscious experience rather than focusing on unconscious rewards and punishments as attributed by psychodynamic theory.

The basic assumption of humanistic perspective is individuals’ conscious subjects like free will, while the psychodynamic perspective assumption is based on primary unconsciousness, psychic causality and childhood experience.

According to Humanistic theories, there is a likelihood of changing in later life, while psychodynamic theory believes personality change cannot be achieved after reaching adulthood.

Freud argued that the unconscious state affects individuals’ behavior and how they feel, while Humanistic approach believes that human experience is the one responsible for people’s personality. Both psychodynamic and humanistic perspective plays vital roles in therapeutic changes and personality development through behavioral modification and offering strategies towards therapeutic processes.

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Allen, C. (2020). Sigmund Freud, Karen Horney, Nancy Chodorow: Viewpoints on Psychodynamic Theory. The Balance of Personality.

Joseph, S. (2020). Why we need a more humanistic positive organizational scholarship: Carl Rogers’ person-centered approach as a challenge to neoliberalism. The Humanistic Psychologist48(3), 271.

Learning, L. (2020). Psychodynamic Theories. Lifespan Development.

Maurer, M. M., & Daukantaitė, D. (2020). Revisiting the organismic valuing process theory of personal growth: A theoretical review of rogers and its connection to positive psychology. Frontiers in Psychology11, 1706.

Starkstein, S. (2018). Sigmund Freud and the psychoanalytical concept of fear and anxiety. In A Conceptual and Therapeutic Analysis of Fear (pp. 231-257). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Willmott, D., Ryan, S., Sherretts, N., Woodfield, R., & McDermott, D. (2018). Motivation: A critical consideration of Freud and Rogers’ seminal conceptualisations. Polish Psychological Bulletin49(2), 229-234.

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