Mark Solms, Ph.D., is the Chair of Neuropsychology at the University of Cape Town and founder of the journal Neuropsychoanalysis, and at the upcoming National Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association on January 20th he will review three central psychoanalytic concepts about the human mind, all of them ideas first developed by Freud, and discuss how contemporary psychoanalysts use these principles to treat mental health issues today.
The core concepts are that :
(1) infants are not blank slates and are born with innate needs, which Freud called the “id”;
(2) as we develop, our main task is to learn how to meet these needs in the world, through what Freud called “ego” development; and
(3) most of the ways we use to meet our needs are unconscious.
These concepts, which were once controversial, are now widely accepted by neighboring disciplines, Solms says. Contemporary psychoanalysts’ work flows from these concepts, namely from the understanding that psychological patients suffer mainly from feelings and that their emotions have meanings, specifically they represent unsatisfied needs. The main goal of treatment then is to help patients learn more effective ways of meeting their needs, leading to better emotion regulation. This is done, in part, by unraveling the unconscious solutions that give rise to their unwanted feelings.
Solms intends to discuss studies showing that psychoanalytic psychotherapy is a highly effective form of treatment. Examples include meta-analyses of all psychotherapy outcome studies typically reveal effect sizes of between 0.73 and 0.85, compared to effectiveness of antidepressant only treatment which typically achieves effect sizes of between 0.24 and 0.31. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is as effective as other forms of psychotherapy (e.g. CBT) but there is consistent evidence to suggest that the effects last longer and even increase after treatment ends, Solms says.
“There are professionals and members of the general public who still think Sigmund Freud’s theories are all wrong. But it is possible he was so far ahead of his time that science is just now catching up.,” said Harriet Wolfe, president of the Association. “Many of us can agree that Freud was wrong on some culturally-based issues, but on the value of key psychoanalytic principles, the ones which we use today to help people suffering with emotional anguish, it looks like he was right all along.”
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