Contemporary psychology has been substantially influenced by different schools of thought, among the most important of which are Classical Freudian Psychotherapy or Psychodynamic Theory, Behaviourism, and Cognitive Psychology. In principle, each attributes the development of human psychological issues to entirely different mechanisms and processes. While none of them necessarily refutes the conceptual validity of the others, each school of psychological thought naturally focuses on very different issues as they relate to understanding healthy and abnormal human psychological development, education and learning theory, and child welfare.
In that regard, Freudian Psychodynamics emphasises the distinction between the conscious and unconscious mind and the significance of several universal impulses and frustrations that originate in human infancy. Their relative degree of successful resolution correspond to characteristic patterns within the subconscious mind that strongly influence subsequent psychological development and behaviour in predictable ways that are particular to the nature of those specific types of unconscious impulses and frustrations.
Meanwhile, Behaviourism takes an entirely different approach to understanding human psychology. Based largely on the concept of operant conditioning, Behaviourism stresses the significance of external environment and experience. In principle, behaviourists view psychological development as being substantially determined by the degree to which individuals are more likely to repeat behaviours associated with positive outcomes than those associated with negative outcomes.
Cognitive Psychology highlights the biological basis of human psychological development at the neurological level and the extent to which specific psychological stages of development associated with different regions of the brain are linked to chronological age. It regards the processes of perception, language acquisition, memory formation, conceptual understanding of complex thought and learning as functions.
Primarily of chronological age and of variations in neurologically-based cognitive determinants associated with specific types of perception and learning. In addition to other physiologically and chronologically based attributes of mind. The Psychodynamic Approach to Understanding Human Behaviour The classical psychotherapeutic school of psychology was founded by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). It is based on several fundamental propositions that all relate to the concept of the influence of the subconscious mind on perception and behaviour (Mitchell & Black, 1995).
More specifically, Freud suggested that the interrelationships between and among the id, ego, and superego, (all elements of the subconscious that he coined), are responsible for human psychological development. He taught that psychologically abnormal behaviours are caused by the latent unresolved conflicts suppressed by the conscious mind into the subconscious mind and their manifestation through various neuroses and compulsions of which the individual is entirely unaware on any conscious level (Mitchell & Black, 1995).
According to Freud, some of the more significant causal events in the development of these neuroses and compulsions are the oral and anal phases of infancy and early childhood and the inevitable frustrations associated with the quasi-romantic desires of children for their opposite-gender parent, to which he referred as the Oedipal and Electra Complexes (Simply Psychology, 2008).
Freud argued that unresolved subconscious issues in connection with sexual impulses and desires and related frustrations are the most dominant elements of abnormal human psychology. His first book, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), detailed the manner and extent to which Freud believed that subconscious issues are revealed in the symbolic imagery and thematic elements of dreams during sleep (Simply Psychology 2009).
Clinical Application of Freudian Psychodynamic Psychology In contemporary use, psychodynamic theory is not typically relied upon in the original formulation proposed by Freud. In principle, the concepts of subconscious repression, unresolved seminal conflicts, and their expression in various aspects of abnormal psychology are not substantially in doubt among the mainstream professionals in the clinical psychology field (Murdock, 2009).
However, the proposition that all manifestations of neuroses, compulsions, and other aspects of abnormal psychology all necessarily relate to the oral and anal stages of infancy and to sexual frustration are much less commonly adhered to, along with the supposed psychological significance of dreams (McWilliams, 2004). Nevertheless, Freudian theory often plays a valuable role in more limited applications, particularly where the specific manifestations of abnormal psychology relate to childhood abuse, sexual trauma, and issues of parental abandonment and attachment (McWilliams, 2004).
While of limited use in the educational context and in the acute health care-related treatment of non-psychological problems, Freudian concepts are potentially valuable, especially as an adjunctive diagnostic framework in clinical social work, owing to the frequency with which parental abuse, abandonment, and sexual trauma affect children in need of social services (McWilliams, 2004).
In the short term, psychodynamic therapy can help minimise the detrimental effects of abuse and neglect by providing a means of resolving those potential issues before they become suppressed into the subconscious and before they become the source of underlying compulsions and neuroses that manifest themselves through psychologically abnormal behaviours.
By helping patients process their experiences consciously, psychodynamically-inspired therapy can interrupt the process of repression and subsequent detrimental expression in the typical ways that significant negative experiences early in life can influence psychological health later (McWilliams, 2004). In the long term, psychodynamic therapy can be useful to treat children and adolescents, such as in social work or foster care settings.
In those who have previously experienced significant trauma that has already manifested itself in abnormal psychological behaviour in the format originally conceived by Freud: namely, to help resolve hidden conflicts and unmet foundational needs retrospectively to mitigate or, if possible, eliminate their continued influence on the psychology of the individual. The Behaviourism Approach to Understanding Human Behaviour The Behaviourist approach to understanding human behaviour was pioneered by Burrhus Frederic (B. F. ) Skinner (1904-1990).
In principle, it is based on the idea that the predominant influence on and determinant of human psychological development is the set of experiences to which the individual is regularly exposed in the environment. The most important element of behavioural psychology is the concept of operant conditioning, coined by Skinner, to describe the manner in which organisms develop patterned responses through the process of operating within their natural environment.
More specifically, Skinner conducted empirical experiments to establish the significance of both positive and negative reinforcement, reinforcement schedules, punishment and reward, shaping, and the gradual desensitisation to aversive stimuli (Berk, 2010). Typically, Skinner relied on laboratory rats that were taught to associate certain experiences with specific expectations corresponding to those types of experiences.
He also experimented on his own infant daughter by recording her responses to various (benign) parental experiences that were controversial and that would be absolutely prohibited by contemporary ethical guidelines that govern all human psychological experimentation (Overskeid, G. 2007). Clinical Application of Behaviourist Psychology Unlike psychodynamic psychological therapy, behavioural therapy is extremely applicable to the educational environment, both in connection with classroom learning and also in applications designed to address behavioural conduct issues (Gross, 2010).
In principle, behaviourism involves the exposure of subjects to conditions and choices that regularly correspond to outcomes that are predictable and that are perceived either positively or negatively by the subject (Doherty & Hughes, 2009). It rewards desired behaviours and discourages undesirable behaviours, typically through various forms of praise or earned privileges in the educational environment.
In the broadest sense, behavioural psychology allows teachers and educational administrators to establish high rates of participation in classroom activities and compliance with institutional rules by providing predictable incentives for good behaviour and disincentives for bad behaviour. In the classroom setting, that approach emphasises repetition, praise, and immediate correction (Gross, 2010). Behaviourism has been demonstrated to be particularly useful in connection with language though audio-lingual techniques such as repetitive (group) expression of key phrases and elements of linguistic dialogue (Berk, 2010).
Similarly, behaviourism is equally useful within the framework of problem-based learning, because it applies mechanisms of positive reinforcement for engagement with peers and for participating in educational activities among students who have exhibited reluctance in that regard or problems in those areas. Within the social work and foster care settings, behaviourism provides useful mechanisms for undoing previously-established patterns of expectations and behaviour, such as in connection with child abuse and neglect.
By repetitively reinforcing positive experiences and associations, the behaviourist approach can change existing negative patterns and replace them with positive patterns and expectations (Gross, 2010). Within the health care setting, behaviourism can be invaluable in addressing problems such as in connection with patients who have had previous negative experiences with health care services and providers.
For example, it can allow practitioners to restore trust in patients who have suffered from poor treatment or whose exposure to foreign health care systems, and, in particular, psychological health services in nations where punitive functions are euphemistically referred to as “psychological” services. The Cognitive Approach to Understanding Human Behaviour Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was the pioneer of the modern school of cognitive psychology.
He developed the underlying theories primarily by studying the different types of responses elicited from children of different ages to the same types of questions (Simply Psychology 2009). That work led him to postulate that specific mental processes and capabilities develop at particular stages of development associated most closely with chronological age. This view was radically different from, although not necessarily contradictory of the behaviourist perspective that emphasized the significance of experience rather than innate or organic influences.
In principle, Piaget established that human beings develop the ability to perceive and understand various abstract concepts and complex thought processes at specific age ranges, and substantially irrespective of their individual environmental experiences (Gross, 2010). In other respects, cognitive psychology is compatible with behaviourism because it recognises the importance of experience in connection with the development of specific regions of the brain responsible for perceiving, processing, and modulating different types of sensory input.
For this reason, contemporary psychological therapeutic modalities include a hybridised version of behaviourism and cognitive psychology known as cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT (Bailey & Shooter, 2009). In that regard, CBT provides a means of incorporating the physiological components actually responsible for operant conditioning and learning (and other mental processes) because it addresses the neurological and neuro-chemical mechanisms responsible for the outward manifestations of conditioning and learning (Westbrook, D & Kirk, J. 005).
Clinical Application of Cognitive Psychology Cognitive psychology is extremely useful in early childhood education, because it provides an outline for educators to understand what types of learning experiences are optimally conducive to learning in children of specific ages and at corresponding stages of intellectual and psychological development (Gross, 2010).
It is especially helpful in connection with curriculum and lesson planning in pre-school, precisely because it allows educators to test individual learners and to identify those learners who can benefit from certain lessons and those who are not yet at the developmental stage where those lessons would be productive, irrespective of the efforts of teachers.
Beyond pre-school, cognitive psychology is also useful in educational applications that incorporate behaviourism (i. e. CBT), because they provide a means of recognising the specific brain-based differences among and between individual learners with respect to the types of lesson presentation and study that is most conducive to effective learning in each case (Bailey & Shooter, 2009). In the realm of health care, social work, and foster care settings alike, cognitive psychology is valuable in both the short and long term, because it addresses the underlying physiological mechanisms through which various psychological conditions become manifest.
For example, cognitive psychology identifies the brain regions affected by stress and traumatic experiences and provides approaches to address the consequences of those experiences by conditioning at the brain-based (rather than at the experiential) level, such as in connection with using light therapy to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related conditions (Westbrook, D & Kirk, J. 2005).
That approach is especially useful in the social work and foster care settings in connection with children who exhibit symptoms of depression or PTSD as a function of abuse or neglect in their previous family environments. Conclusion In the history of modern psychology, Freudian psychotherapy provides foundational concepts that are invaluable for understanding and addressing those forms of abnormal psychology that relate to the concepts of the subconscious mind first introduced by Freud.
Behavioural psychology allows psychologists to incorporate the influence of environmental experience in the formation of patterned responses linked to those experiences. Cognitive psychology outlines the types of mental processes and capabilities associated with and dependent on chronological age in early development. Freudian psychology is infrequently relied upon in its original formulation as is not particularly useful in educational applications.
Behaviourism is extremely useful in addressing and correcting psychological problems caused by negative environmental experiences and provides valuable tools to better understand how different learners benefit from different types of approaches to learning. Cognitive psychology allows educators to design educational curricula and lesson plans that are most conducive to learning for children at different ages and to address certain psychological issues in adults by targeting the underlying brain mechanisms involved in perception and thought processing.
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