Psychodynamic theory and practice has enframed much of basic assumptions of therapeutic care, but often those assumptions are left, ironically, un-analyzed (e.g., unilinear development, the unconscious and being able to consciously know the unconscious, the authority and truth keeper of the analyst, analysis as the translation of experience into meta-psychological schemas, here and now healing as exploring then and there, and the defect-based starting place of a hermeneutic of suspicion (i.e., the suspect of presentation as hiding the secret), to name a few assumptions). Pick a critique of psychodynamic theory by challenging an historical assumption about one of these ideologies, and what difference it would make for current psychodynamic practice.
One critique of psychodynamic theory can be with regard to the authority and truth keeper of the analyst. Historical assumptions about this ideology can include that this conception of the analysts authority as truth keeper is a necessary component of psychotherapy in relation to what can be considered the tradition of psychotherapy (Larsson, 2017).
The analysts authority and truth keeper can also be considered in view of what Larsson (2017) describes as the therapeutic dialogue and initially, would have been conducted in a therapeutic setting as a normal dialogue (p. 155) between the patient and the analyst. Interestingly, the reasoning behind, for example, conditions of psychoanalysis such as having the patient positioned on a couch faced away from the analyst can be considered a necessary aspect of psychotherapeutic dialogue. Which can be in a sense unique to the performance of psychoanalysis or psychotherapy and necessary in the activity of uncovering the unconscious.
For Larsson (2017) a therapeutic condition such as this can be seen to differentiate what is the therapeutic experience from what can be normal social context of conversation (p. 158). The idea of psychoanalysis as a medical specialty also seems to emphasize the role of the analyst as authority and truth keeper and in view of what is considered therapeutic dialogue and conditions that would be necessary to achieve psychological change (or healing).
Therapeutic conditions assumed to be necessary for therapeutic dialogue, which seems to support assumptions over the authority and truth keeper of the analyst (on the basis of the analyst medical expertise), can be considered to neglect the importance of social context/dynamics and inter-subjectivity. For current psychodynamic practice, considering the self in view of social context and the inter-subjectivity of thought seems necessary for what Larsson (2017) describes as empathic reflection, and considered in view of humanistic approaches.
Larsson, P. (2017). Psychological healing: Historical and philosophical foundations of professional psychology. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock.
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