There are many orientations when it comes to psychotherapy. The psychotherapist’s approach to therapy depends on several factors to include the counsellor’s personality, the main orientation and training of the university attended and any specialization in their professional development over their time of practice. As psychology has matured, the number of orientations has increased but here we will articulate regarding two commonly identified psychotherapeutic approaches: psychodynamics and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Psychodynamics was originated by Sigmund Freud, father of modern psychology and further developed by Carl Jung and Alfred Adler. The primary focus is to reveal the unconscious content of a client’s psyche in an effort to alleviate psychic tension. It is usually a long-term approach to therapy, processing and identifying how maladaptive and unconscious conflicts originating in childhood experiences lead to current psychopathological behavior and thoughts. Major techniques used by psychodynamic therapists include free association, recognizing resistance and transference, working through painful memories and difficult issues, catharsis, and building a strong therapeutic alliance.
There are strengths and criticisms associated with the psychodynamic approach. The criticisms include that it is a time consuming orientation, it is expensive and often ineffective. The strengths include that the psychotherapist offers an empathetic and nonjudgmental environment where the client can feel safe in revealing emotions or behavior that have led to current stress or tension.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a practical approach that seeks to define concrete goals and use specific techniques. It looks at patterns of thinking and behavior and how these patterns are reinforced and maintained by the person within his or her environment. Historically, CBT has its roots in the work of behaviorists such as Ivan Pavlov, John Watson and B.F. Skinner. Behavior therapy is based on operant conditioning which views the consequences of behavior as shaping future behavior. Cognitive therapy was led by Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis who viewed emotional reactions as resulting from cognitions, rather than understanding emotion within the abstract psychoanalytic framework. Beginning in the 1980’s, cognitive and behavioral techniques were merged into cognitive behavioral therapy as a result of the successful development of merging treatment for panic disorder. The major techniques often used by CBT are relaxation training, mindfulness, systematic desensitization, assertiveness training and social skills training.
The strength associated with cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy is that it is highly effective when dealing with specific problems such as anxiety, mood disorders and insomnia. The critics say it is limited when dealing with unknown causes of psychological suffering.
- Etchegoyen, Horacio (2005). The Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique. London: Karnac Books.
- Sundberg, Norman (2001). Clinical Psychology: Evolving Theory, Practice, and Research. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.
- Rachman, S (1997). The Evolution of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy”. In Clark, D., Fairburn, CG & Gelder, MG. Science and Practice of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp. 1-26.
- Ellis, Albert (1975). A New Guide to Rational Living. Prentice Hall.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA