Evaluate the Extent to Which Freud's Theory of Psychosexual Development Can Help Us to Understand a Client's Presenting Issue? Essay

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In this essay I am going to evaluate the extent to which Freud’s theory of psychosexual development can help us to understand a client’s presenting issue. I will be describing Freud’s psychosexual theory and its relationship to adult neurotic behaviour as well as looking at the criticisms of Freudian theory.

According to Freud personality is mostly established by the age of five. Early experiences play a large role in personality development and continue to influence behaviour later on in life.

Freud’s theory of psychosexual development is one of the best known, but also one of the most controversial. Freud believed that personality develops through a series of childhood stages during which the pleasure-seeking energies of
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In earlier stages the focus was solely on the individual’s needs, interest in others grows at this stage. If the previous stages were completed successfully the person should now be well-balanced, warm and caring.


1. Freud’s theory is focussed mainly on male developments. 2. His theories are difficult to test scientifically. Concepts such as the libido are impossible to measure and therefore cannot be tested. 3. Future predictions are too vague. How can we know that a current behaviour was caused specifically by a childhood experience? 4. Freud’s theory is based upon case studies and not experimental research. Freud based his theory on the memories of adult patients, not on observation and the study of children.

Criticisms of Freudian Theory

Freudian psychoanalysis was challenged in the 1920’s by Otto Rank, Sandor Ferenczi, Willhelm Reich and later in the 1930’s by Karen Horney, Erich Fromm and Harry Stack Sullivan. These critics of Freud stressed the interpersonal aspect of the analyst-patient relationship (transference) and placed more emphasis on the processes of the ego. Despite a number of detractors and a lack of controlled research, Freudian psychoanalysis remained the most widely used method of psychotherapy until at least the 1950’s.

Today, Freud’s method is only one among many types of psychotherapy. Many objections have been levelled against traditional psychoanalysis,