Analysis of Two Theoretical Approaches to Psychology: Psychoanalytic and Humanistic

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About this sample


Words: 1762 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: May 24, 2022

Words: 1762|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: May 24, 2022

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind. There are many theorists that believe there are different approaches to psychology, this essay will be focusing on two of those. The two theoretical approaches that this essay will be looking at are the Psychoanalytic approach and the Humanistic approach. It will be focusing on their strengths and weaknesses and will be reviewing the support that they had during the time, it will also be viewing how each perspective was studied during the time.

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The Psychoanalytic approach is one made by a man called Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Freud was a Viennese doctor and he believed that the mind had an unconscious and a conscious part of the mind. He thought that the unconscious part of the mind was being controlled by the ‘id’, which is a part of the mind that only lives for ‘pleasure and gratification’ also known as ‘the pleasure principle’. He focused on how the mind can be changed during a child’s life and how their development can be altered.

The second area of the mind is known as the ‘ego’, which Freud saw as the part of the mind that is in contact with the outside world and controls the conscious part of the mind. It is also the area that thinks of the consequences of an action. The third part is the ‘superego’, this area is aware of the rules and conventions of society. It also feels guilt and anxiety when something goes wrong or if someone does something wrong. It helps us learn the acceptable behaviour of society.

The ‘ego’ is seen as the part of the mind that is in the middle of the ‘id’ and the ‘superego’, it has to choose which one is more acceptable to use in society, Freud believed that all humans are unhappy and in order to feel happiness, they need pleasure, so the mind needs to use either the ‘id’ or the ‘superego’ to pursue its happiness and is in constant confrontation with the ‘id’ and the ‘superego’.

Freud used one theory to support his argument on psychoanalysis, this was the Oedipal Conflict, it is a story about a boy who falls in love with his mother and is jealous of the affection that she shows his father, as a result of this, the young boy murders his own father and marries his mother. This supports Freud’s argument of the need for sexual gratification and the ways that someone can succeed in receiving this, Freud believed in a fixation on a certain thing, for example, the young boy became fixated on winning more affection from his mother than his father did, this proves that he did anything he could so that he could achieve what he wanted and the boy did not care what he needed to do to succeed in this.

This approach is seen to take an individual through five different stages, that will affect an individual’s body as each stage focuses on one specific part of the body, the five stages are the oral (0-1), anal (1-3), phallic (3-5/6), latency (5-6) and genital (puberty and onwards). Freud believed that if an individual was to have a problem during one of these stages, it could fixate development and the individual could end up having future problems on their personality.

Looking at the psychosexual stages of development, when the young boy reached his Phallic stage, he became fixated on his own mother, continuing through the Latency and Genital stages to win her affection. When the young boy should have moved on to making friendships and hobbies, to later find a partner, he seemed to have stayed in the Phallic stage. Although this theory may be quite an odd one, it did argue Freud’s point on the development stages. When the human body feels an unpleasant emotion, such as guilt, sadness or anxiousness, it can respond with many different defence mechanisms, which are repression, regression, denial, reaction formation, sublimation, isolation and displacement.

In the earlier stages of Freud’s career, Freud would use hypnosis as a technique of therapy, the problem with this is that Freud was not able to believe what the individual was saying during the trans of being hypnotised as this could not be proved wrong. Sloan found that psychoanalysis only really worked on individuals with cases that were not as severe and found that it also took a lot of valuable time and money to study. However, Freud’s view on psychology is now known by many and is still used on a daily basis by many people.

“Many mental health practitioners (including psychotherapists, counsellors and social workers), although not formally trained as psychoanalysts, have incorporated elements of Freudian thought and technique into their approaches to helping their patients”.

The second theoretical approach that this essay will be focusing on is the Humanistic approach, the theorists behind this were Carl Rogers and Maslow. They studied humans and humans only, this theory cannot be studied on other animals, it also looks at the individual as a whole, not just their mind, behaviour, age etc. Maslow’s view on individuals was that everyone is naturally good and talented.

Maslow made a pyramid to help others understand his theory and go through it as stepping stones for individuals to go through in order to achieve progress. The pyramid starts with Psychological (breathing, food, water, sleep, excretion), Safety (health, property, employment), Love/belonging (friends, family, sexual intimacy), Esteem (Confidence, respect for self and others) and self-actualisation (creativity, spontaneity, morality) etc. Maslow believed that each individual would have to achieve each stepping stone in order to have a full quality of life and be able to reach self-actualisation. Once the individual has reached self-actualisation, they can then continue to keep working towards their full potential and a better self.

Certain things can interfere with an individual’s development, such as society can tell us a certain thing is extremely important that will change our thought process, this is also known as the actualising tendency. The good thing about this theory is that it looked at the person as a whole and gave individuals freedom of speech and choice. The bad thing about this theory is that it never gained credibility and theorists could never predict a certain behaviour by using this theory.

Carl Rogers had seven main ideas, they were the Actualising tendency (the thought that everything that is alive is driven to its full potential), Organismic valuing (every living thing knows what is good for itself and knows what to try and stay away from if it is bad), Unconditional positive regard (the need for love, value and respect from others), Positive self-regard (a feeling of self-worth and self-esteem), Conditions of worth (regard of others should not have strings attached), Incongruity (the difference between you now and the you that could be) and Defences (the things that individuals do to deal with anxiety/also associated with Incongruity).

Carl Rogers believed that everyone is unhappy in some way and in order to be happy, humans need to look for the next achievement, whether it be a qualification, a stepping stone in a place of employment, a pay rise that an individual has been working towards or a new relationship, Carl Rogers believed that without this, humans would be ‘miserable’. Carl Rogers did not refer to individuals as happy humans, instead, he used the term ‘fully functioning person’, this is an individual whose mental health is made in a way that they can work towards their full potential.

A ‘fully functioning person’ in Carl Rogers's eyes would be, open to new things, able to enjoy the moment while they are in it, can do things that make them happy and what is good for them, they are in control of their own life and they can allow themselves to be who they want to be creative.

Carl Rogers decided to create a psychotherapy better known as client-centred therapy (CTT), also known as person-centred therapy (PCT), this therapy was created to develop and improve on an individual’s self-regard, help people to practice self-actualisation, help individuals with their emotions and feelings (having a better understanding of who they truly are) and help people become themselves fully, to become the best versions of themselves.

The difference between these two theories is that Freud believed that an individual’s behaviour is caused by their brain and the way that they view society, as well as their behaviour and unconscious thoughts, whereas, Maslow and Rogers believed that it was down to the whole individual, not just their brain. Freud believed that behaviour can be determined, however, Maslow and Rogers believed that behaviour is a choice and is down to the individual’s personality. Both theorists looked at an individual (or many) and they both believed that the environment and society can change an individual’s personal development.

The Humanistic approach looks at how an individual can develop and improve what they as humans may already have, however, the Psychoanalysis approach focuses on how to improve an individual’s health when they are unwell. Freud also focused on development throughout an individual’s childhood and the way their brain works whereas Maslow and Rogers looked at the development through the different stages in an individual’s life and their personality. Overall, both theories cover the importance of growth and development as well as improvement in individuals, they both show what is right and what is wrong and help individuals reflect on their behaviour and their thoughts. Both theories can help others decide on what they believe is the correct perspective of psychology.

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In conclusion, after reviewing the two perspectives to psychology, this essay has covered what two of the perspectives believed, it covered what Humanistic and Psychoanalytical Psychology were and who created each and showed what the differences are between them, it also showed how humans can be seen differently in society. This essay also looked at the advantages and disadvantages of each perspective and how each of them was studied, it looked at some criticisms of these perspectives and went into depth of how each perspective can be taught to many more people in modern-day society.


  • Kay Kendall (2014). Key Concepts in Psychology. London: Collins. p208-213 [a].
  • Kay Kendall (2014). Key Concepts in Psychology. London: Collins. p19-23 [b].
  • Kay Kendall (2014). Key Concepts in Psychology. London: Collins. p19-23 [c].
  • Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate (1999). Introducing Freud. Cambridge: Icon Books Ltd. 67-68.
  • Richard Gross (2001). Psychology The Science of Mind and Behaviour. 4th ed. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 506. [a]
  • Richard Gross (2001). Psychology
  • The Science of Mind and Behaviour. 4th ed. London: Hodder & Stoughton. p17. [b]
  • Sean McLeod. (2016). Id, Ego and Superego. Available: Last accessed 16th Nov 18.
  • Kandra Cherry. (2018). What Is an Oedipus Complex? Available: Last accessed 16th Nov 18.
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Analysis of Two Theoretical Approaches to Psychology: Psychoanalytic and Humanistic. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
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