Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Does Not Go Down Easily Term Paper

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Psychodynamic and Humanistic Theory

Psychodynamic & Humanistic Theory

A seminal study on the personality trait differences of therapists practicing with different theoretical orientations is an interesting place to begin this compare and contrast discussion. Tremblay, et al. (1986) administered the Personality Orientation Inventory to 90 male and 90 female psychotherapists who self-designated and were equally distributed in groups designated as behavioral (BEH), psychodynamic (PSY), and humanistic (HUM). Interestingly, the study suggested that a core therapist personality exists and that further distinction can be achieved through consideration of the patterns of personality that were associated with theoretical orientation. The caveat was that the patterns associated with theoretical orientations were characterized more by overlapping traits than unique traits. Of the three theoretical categories, the HUM group exhibited the most unique traits: they were more flexible, more accepting of personal aggression and expressing feelings in action, and differed in their development of intimate relationships. Therapists in the HUM, were more affirming of the values of self-actualization, more inner-directed and sensitive to their own feelings. Therapists in the BEH group resembled the therapists in the PSY group, more than those in the HUM group. And the therapists in the PSY group were most like the therapists in the HUM group. Interestingly, the therapists in the BEH group showed personality traits of limited flexibility and limited acceptance of their own feelings. From this, the question arises as to the effect of the personality and theoretical orientation on the therapeutic relationship between the psychotherapist or counselor and the client. This brings us to the conceptualization of personality across the two practice orientations of humanism and psychodynamics. But first, what is personality?

Personality can be defined as: "An individual's unique pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that persist over time and across situations" (Boreman, 2010). When the general public discusses personality, they tend to think in general terms associated with the popularized trait theory, the basis of which is not necessarily psychodynamic or humanistic. But trait theory does use a more commonly recognized lexicon than psychodynamic and humanistic theories. As a jumping off point for discussing personality and the way that personality influences human interaction, a brief discussion of trait theory follows.

Trait theory is a foundational theory of psychology and has endured over many decades and is embedded in one way or another in many theoretical orientations. Traits are characteristic patterns of behavior that reflect the way people interact and their overall outlook on life. Cattell originally established trait theory through factor analysis in which he identified 16 traits that were thought to make up human personality. Eysenck reduced Cattell's constellation of traits to three dimensions termed: Emotional stability, introversion-extraversion, and psychoticism. As trait theory evolved over time, the basic dimensions coalesced into five traits that still form the basis of the theory today. The "Big Five" traits, as they are commonly called, consist of: Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Culture, Emotional Stability, and Extraversion. Interestingly, the big five traits appear in cross-cultural studies, and are found in both Western and non-Western societies.

Personality in Humanistic Theory

Humanistic personality theory is based on the belief that people are fundamentally good and that they by and large engage behaviors that help them strive toward levels of higher functioning. The primary theorists of humanistic psychology are: Alfred Alder, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers. Of these, Abraham Maslow is the most commonly known by the general public because his concepts of self-actualization and hierarchy of needs have been adopted by the business community and self-improvement gurus, bringing broad public exposure to the theories. Rogers expanded on Maslow's theories, postulating that people whose ideal (i.e., actualized) selves differed substantially from their real (i.e., current level of functioning) selves were likely to be unhappy.

Personality in Psychodynamic Theory

Psychodynamic theorists believe that a considerable degree of mental processes are unconscious to a degree that people may not always understand even their own behavior. Indeed psychodynamic theory holds that there are parallel streams of mental activity that may put emotion, motivation, and other thoughts in conflict. Moreover, the early experiences that people have are thought to influence them for life and to contribute strongly to the stable personality characteristics of individuals. Psychodynamic theorists believe that the conceptual images or representations that people hold of themselves and the people in their lives strongly influence the manner in which their interactions play out. Indeed, social independence occurs only when an individual successfully grapples with their aggressive and sexual conflicts in a manner that moves them…

Sources Used in Document:


Boreman, D. (2010, November). The Science of Psychology. Chapter 10 Personality. Retreived from

Leichsenring, F. & Leibing, E. (2003). The effectiveness of psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavior therapy in the treatment of personality disorders: A meta analysis. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 160(7), 1223-1232. Retrieved from

Shedler, J. (2010, February-March). The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 65(2), 98-109. Retrieved from

Tremblay, J.M., Herron, W.G. & Schultz, C.L. (1986). Relation between therapeutic orientation and personality in psychotherapists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 17(2), 106-110. Retrieved at

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