Comparing and Contrasting Psychotherapeutic Approaches


The use of various approaches including psychodynamic, behavioral, and phenomenological by psychologists in the treatment of personality, behavioral and emotional disorders are referred to as psychotherapy (Markowitz, 2017). Each approach- as their names denote- are centered on different diagnoses with a general principle to aid in alleviating a certain problem in a patient. Thus, this paper examines the tenets of the three approaches to prove or disapprove as well as to determine the approach that is easily tested using scientific methods. 

Established by Sigmund Freud, the psychodynamic approach asserts that individuals’ mental and behavioral issues originate from innate impulses and the subconscious mind, which is far beyond their control (Hofmann, 2017). There are three assumptions made by the approach. One, internal conflict significantly influences the development of psychological distress. Two, humans utilize defense mechanisms to reduce their experience of unpleasant behaviors. Three, early childhood encounters highly influence the development of an individual’s adult personality. While the assumptions are true to a sample population, when tested on another sample, they might yield different results. Hence, I disapprove the assumption that the three assumptions apply to every individual as individuals react differently to different situations. Also, whereas some individuals might choose to be influenced by childhood encounters, some seek to overcome and shape their own personality based on other external factors that did not directly influence their childhood experiences. This approach cannot be proved scientifically since there are no testable hypotheses. 

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The behavioral approach, on the other hand, asserts that the psychology of learning is key in comprehending psychological disorders and in the development of therapeutic strategies to combat the former. In this regard, therefore, the approach follows several processes namely, classical conditioning, instrumental or operant conditioning, and vicarious and observational learning. The first process asserts that the recurrent application of a stimulus elicits conditioned responses that become recurrent in the future when the same stimulus is applied severally. This can be proved with the use of a specific stimulus that can be applied at the same time daily with the expectance of the same result daily.  The second process holds that behavioral responses are linked to environmental consequences whereby favorable consequences will reinforce positive behavior and encourage the repetition of the behavior in the future (Smith, 2017). The third process contends that individuals acquire behavioral patterns from observing the execution of such in others, is likewise true.  In essence, the approach is used to examine the acquisition of behavioral traits in individuals that are acquired from the environment, observation of others, and repeated use of a stimulus. This can be observed by putting a particular set of individuals in different environments for a specific duration for which their behavior will be observed to determine their acquisition of expected behavior traits. 

The phenomenological approach attempts to study specific characteristics of certain individuals in order to comprehend ways in which they determine the nature of a person and his or her uniqueness (Lomas, 2017). This belief is evident since individuals’ traits vary from one individual to the next and it is seemingly impossible to find two people with all traits matching. Even though some people might show high similarity in characteristics, they still differ in a degree that makes each individual unique. Also, while people might display similar behavioral characteristics, they are influenced by different aspects such as place of birth, social class, and ancestry. This method, however, cannot be proved empirically. 

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  1. Hofmann, S. G. (2017). International perspectives on psychotherapy. Cham: Springer.
  2. Lomas, P. (2017). True and False Experience : Human Element in Psychotherapy. London: Taylor and Francis.
  3. Markowitz, J. C. (2017). Interpersonal psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  4. Smith, J. (2017). Psychotherapy : a practical guide. Cham: Springer.
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