Critique of Dr. Freud's Theories
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Critique of Dr. Freud's Theories

Freud was the founder of modern psychology but his methods were not scientific. He based his work on the information his patients told him and he also made huge inferences about what their situations could mean. He never took notes and based much of his theories on his own recollection of what had been told to him.

Besides being the first psychology clinician, Dr. Sigmund Freud is probably the most talked about psychiatrist then and now. He was praised for his ingenious, honored must high in the field even today and also criticized the most as well.

His theories were controversial in his own Victorian pre world wars lifetime. He dared to make up a theory about infants having sexual drives. He postulated that they did not have an intellect formed at birth, but they still had these sexual drives which he said were animalistic and unconscious.  The idea was simply outrageous for its time.

The criticism of his theories and those of the Neo-Freudians who came after him are mostly based on case studies.  However, case studies of mental health data as a means of a criticism are not felt to be objective enough to use as a valid criticism.  They lack empirical research. This method of information gathering has been criticized for not being totally objective.  However, neither was Freud’s work. It may well be the case of the kettle calling the frying pan black when we are using cases studies to formulate theories and to discredit them as well.

Here are some of the criticisms.

Freud worked with actual clients; he did not take notes during sessions.  He relied on his own memory of what the patients had said. Now, we all know today that some memories fade in time and others become distorted with time, meaning we remember them but our brain has already made chances in what we remember.  This phenomenon is best explained through eye witness accounts which change over time.  An eye witness may remember something after making his or her police statement. Or by the time he or she gets to court, forget something that was said in the statement that was crucial in court, like a piece of clothing, the time of day the incident happened and so on.

Another criticism in the therapy field is that a patient /client relationship is very sensitive. Clients will pick up on cues from their therapists.  It is possible that Freud’s patients were trying to please him and talk about all these childhood memories real on otherwise, because that is what they knew he wanted to hear. Or Freud himself may have set the stage and tried pulling this information out of them.

Freud’s theories as well as the theories of many who followed him were not based in research and so they made a lot of inferences about what the situation really was.  There is a lot of subjectivity in the conclusions they made. 

Today we are trained as practitioners to be as objective and unbiased as possible. Back then a lot had to do with the way Freud and his followers felt about what was going on; not what they actually knew without question was going on.  Since their bias was looking towards mental illness with its roots in sexuality and childhood they found it.

I remember an old Japanese saying, “to a carpenter with no instruments, everything becomes a hammer.”

To be continued

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