Critique of psychological research methods on the subject of anxiety

In this essay the research area of interest is the effect of the social environment on anxiety. Two different methods are examined to see how they have contributed to this research in two particular studies. The methods are: meta-analysis arising from self-report data and semi-structured interviews.


The first study to be examined is Twenge (2000). Twenge found that anxiety had increased considerably over the time of the study and the environmental attributes of low social connectedness and high threat explained these high levels of anxiety. The method used in the study was meta-analysis. Meta-analytic techniques were used to gather and analyse data from samples of American college students and children between the years 1952 and 1993. The participants completed self-report measures of anxiety and neuroticism. For the college students the initial research was conducted using the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale, the Eysenck Personality Inventory or the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. For the studies involving children the Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale was used.


The method of self-report can be examined first. The anxiety scales are highly structured so this suggests they can give robust and valid data. It is difficult to see how personality constructs can be measured in any other way with a large sample. However, this self-report method is not without its problems. Scales can suffer from the problem that some people will tend to choose the extreme ratings while others will cluster round the middle. Participants may not respond truthfully or may not take the questions seriously enough. It is impossible to establish cause and effect from self-reports. There may be other variables at work. There are already preconceptions in the questions so the answers are necessarily limited. Participants may answer in a way that does not accord with their views. Some participants may lack the necessary introspection to answer the questions or may not understand what they are being asked (Hoskin 2012). Thus it can be argued that anxiety scales are not entirely reliable but Hoyt and Magoon (1954) found the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale to be largely valid with the results according with those given by experienced counsellors. One major weakness of the study is that the self-reports may not reflect true shifts in personality but the participants’ willingness to describe themselves as anxious because of the acceptability of the term in society. Attitudes towards mental health have become less judgmental (Twenge 2000).




Secondly, the meta-analysis method will be examined. Twenge used data from many studies. This can be criticized in that the researcher has lost control of how the original studies were performed and there may have been errors in their methods. The use of meta-analysis has the advantage of enabling a large sample size to be examined suggesting the results are reliable and valid. The method avoids the bias that may be inherent in literature reviews. The method improves statistical power and improves estimates of the effect size (Noble 2006).


A difficulty for meta-analysis is the research cannot exceed the limits of what is reported by the primary research. It is a challenge to quantify the size of the common effect because of the diversity of the primary studies and their many potential differences. The effect size may be over-estimated reflecting bias in the original studies. There could still be bias in the researcher as important studies could have been left out and more favourable studies included. Meta-analysis seems very complicated so mistakes can be made which invalidate the results (Borenstein et al 2009).


In spite of some shortcomings it seems that Twenge’s study does make an important contribution to anxiety research suggesting that the larger sociocultural environment has a large impact on the mental health of the individual. There does seem a reductive element to the study though and one is left wanting to know more about the experiences of the participants. This could be achieved through a detailed case study or more open interviews.


Twenge seems to have a mix of worldviews. The major focus seems to be social constructionist. The data is qualitative from self-reports and the statistical analyses only show correlations not causations. The tone of the study seems exploratory as she is showing new possibilities for further study into the effect of society on the mental health of the individual. The participants are viewed within their contexts. There is also an element of the pragmatist worldview as this research can be used to solve real world problems: to create societies where people do not feel so anxious. There is a problem of power relations in this study as the researcher is in a more powerful position than the participant as she has framed the terms of the study. Future research on this topic could have a more transformative tone (Cresswell 2014, cited in The Open University 2017).


The second study to be examined is Brown et al (1992). This study found that anchoring events (events giving increased security) were associated with recovery or improvement in anxiety. The method used here was the semi-structured interview. The participants were interviewed twice with one year between. On the first interview information was gathered about the previous year. There was therefore clinical information for three years. The interviews were recorded and the interviewer made the final ratings. The interviewers used the DSM-III-R diagnostic system to record the anxiety symptoms. There was also a semi-structured interview for the information about life events. Raters judged the life events against what most women were likely to feel in that situation.


The semi-structured interview has many advantages as a method of psychological research. There is a pre-determined set of open questions but the interviewer can explore issues further. The participants are not limited by closed questions so the information is getting closer to their real experience that can be very valuable. There is still some uniformity because of the pre-determined questions. The structure gives reliability but there is also flexibility because of the openness. If the interviewer is skilled and well trained they may well rate the information more accurately than in the case of a self-report questionnaire. The skilled interviewer can also elicit more information about the real life events. The data can be rich (McLeod, S. A. 2014).


There are, however, obvious disadvantages. The interview is a social interaction and the participant may answer in a different way to how they would normally. The participant could be intimidated by the interviewer and tell lies or give the answers they think the interviewer wants to hear. Recording the interview could make the participant more reticent. The interviewer could suggest answers so there is a real possibility of interviewer bias. The research method is very time consuming and needs highly trained interviewers and raters (McLeod, S. A. (2014).


The use of the DSM-III-R diagnostic system can be argued to be reductive but the scale has been shown to be valid and reliable over time (Brown et al 1992). One strength of this study is that the interviewer is making the rating, not the participant, so if the interviewer is well trained the ratings should be accurate. The semi-structured interview about the anchoring and other life events can be the most challenging part of the study due to the possible bias effect of the interviewer and the complexity of rating and categorizing this material. This study does try to lessen bias effects by having a team of researchers with different people rating the information to the ones doing the interviewing.


The researchers themselves point out some limitations of the study. It is impossible to rule out bias completely. There was sometimes doubt about the exact date of the clinical change. It is possible that the clinical change as in recovery from anxiety occurred before the anchoring event and this change brought about the event rather than the reverse. The sheer complexity of the subject matter means the correlations between anchoring events and recovery from anxiety may involve other factors (Brown et al 1992).


In spite of some drawbacks of the method this study seems to provide valuable and reliable, rich evidence about the influence of social factors on anxiety that has real world implications. There is a wealth of detail in the data because of the interview method that is lacking in Twenge (2000).


Again, there seems a mix of worldviews in the design and implementation of this study. The use of the semi-structured interview provides situated information placing the participants in a social context and giving validity to their experiences. This gives the study a strong social constructionist element. There are also some pragmatic features such as the desire to solve a real problem. There is still a power inequality between the researcher and the participant with the researcher framing the terms of the research so the study is not transformative (Creswell 2014, cited in The Open University 2017).



Both methods have provided important information about the effect of the social environment on mental health and both have an exploratory tone giving pointers to further research, moving the dialogue about mental health on from beyond the individual and the family. The meta-analysis has breadth while the semi-structured interview has more depth from a smaller sample.



(Borenstein, M. Hedges, L. Higgins, J. Rothstein, H. 2009) ‘Introduction to Meta-Analysis’, John Wiley and Sons, Ltd (Online) DOI: 10.1002/9780470743386 (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)


(Brown, G. Lemyre, L. Bifulco A.1992). ‘Social Factors and Recovery from Anxiety and Depressive Disorders A test of specificity’, British Journal of Psychiatry vol. 161 pp. 44-54 (Online) DOI: 10.1192/bjp.161.1.44 (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)


(Hoskin, R. 2012) ‘The dangers of self-report’, (Online) Available at 24th Nov 2017)


(Hoyt, D. Magoon, T. 1954) ‘A validation study of the Taylor manifest anxiety scale’,

Journal of Clinical Psychology, October 1954, Vol.10(4), pp.357-361 (Online) DOI: 10.1002/1097-4679 (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)


(McLeod, S. A. 2014) ‘The interview method’ (Online) Available at (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)


(Noble, J. 2006) ‘Meta-analysis: Methods, strengths, weaknesses, and political uses’, Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine Volume 147, Issue 1, Pages 7–20 (Online) DOI: (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)



The Open University (2017) DD801 Worldviews and Transformative Enquiry. 8.2 Four Worldviews on Research. Available at (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)



(Twenge, J. 2000) ‘The Age of Anxiety? Birth Cohort Change in Anxiety and Neuroticism 1952-1993’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2000, Vol.79(6), pp.1007-1021 (Online) DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.79.6.1007 (Accessed 24th Nov 2017)












What criticisms are levelled at the case study in psychology?


The case study has suffered from many criticisms but these can all be countered with reasonable success. Flyvbjerg (2006) sets out the five main criticisms. The first is that practical knowledge provided by case studies is not as valuable as theoretical knowledge. The second is it is not possible to generalise from a single case. Next, that the case study is only useful for generating hypotheses. In addition, the case study contains a bias towards verification. Lastly, it is difficult to summarise and develop general theories on the basis of case studies.


It can be argued that case study knowledge is just as valuable as theoretical knowledge. It is not possible to have hard science theories in psychology because it is the study of people in real life situations. Newburn’s study (2015) of the behaviour of crowds in city riot situations is a good example of this. This topic cannot be studied in a theoretical way. The researcher needs to look at the actual behaviour in real life in order to learn something. As Flyvbjerg (2006) states there really is only context dependent knowledge when one is concerned with the behaviour of people. Milgram’s (1965) laboratory experiment study of obedience has many flaws, which make its findings questionable. A case study could be a valuable way of looking at this concept. All psychological research can be flawed, not just case studies.


It can also be argued that it is possible to generalise from a single case. The Magh Mela study (Hopkins et al 2015) is an example of an extreme or critical case. If effervescence and self-realisation is evident here in a huge crowd living in extreme conditions then it should be possible in any crowd situation. Many cases show the same phenomenon such as the road protest study (Drury 2015) where people are empowered through being in a crowd. However, this argument still seems weak as one case study only suggests rather than demonstrates a theory and could be disproved by more case studies on the same topic.


The case study is not only suited for generating hypotheses but can reveal more information leading to greater knowledge of a subject. This is particularly true of extreme or paradigmatic cases as Flyvbjerg states (2006). The Magh Mela study (Hopkins et al 2015) can be seen as a case like this as its richness adds more information creating knowledge which can be studied further.


It is not correct to say that case studies always suffer from confirmation bias, as there are examples where the case study results challenge the pre-conceived notions of the researcher. This was true in the study of democracy, power and urban planning (Flyvbjerg 1998) where he actually found that democracy and urban planning were in fact weak in the face of power in Aalberg where he originally thought this would be a model case of strong democracy.


Flybjerg (2006) counters the difficulty of summarising case studies and drawing theories from them by stating this difficulty is to do with the richness of the material that provides good narratives, which are valuable in their own right. It is not always necessary to summarise or theorise. The Magh Mela is a case study like this (Hopkins et al 2015).


The case study is therefore a valuable research method, which is not as weak as the classical view of it proposes. It provides knowledge alongside other theoretical or experimental knowledge so that psychological research can have both breadth and depth. It is particularly useful for studying real world human behaviour that cannot be replicated in a laboratory setting. It is also useful for confirming or rebutting hypotheses but does suffer from the problem of lack of generalizability.



Flyvbjerg, B. (1998) ‘Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Flyvbjerg, B. (2006) ‘Five misunderstandings about case study research’, Qualitative Inquiry, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 219–245. Available at (Accessed 23 October 2017)


Drury, J., & Reicher, S. (2000). Collective action and psychological change: The emergence of new social identities. British Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 579–604. UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.




Hopkins, N., Reicher, S., Khan, S., Tewari, S., Srinivasan, N. and Stevenson, C. et. al (2015) ‘Explaining effervescence: investigating the relationship between shared social identity and positive experience in crowds’, Cognition and Emotion, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 20–32 Available at (Accessed 23 October 2017)



Milgram, S. (1965) ‘Some conditions of obedience and disobedience to authority’, Human Relations, vol. 18, pp. 57–76. Available at (Accessed 23 October 2017)



Newburn, T. (2015) ‘Reflections on why riots don’t happen’, Theoretical Criminology, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 125–44. Available at (Accessed 23 October 2017)

What role does the case study play in psychological enquiry?


The first question to be asked must be: What is a case study? One definition might be:

“Case study. The detailed examination of a single example of a class of phenomena. A case study cannot provide reliable information about the broader class, but it may be useful in the preliminary stages of an investigation since it provides hypotheses which may be tested systematically with a larger number of cases.” (Abercrombie, Hill and Turner 1984 p 34)

This provides a useful starting point but it will be argued here that the case study provides more of a role than this and is a useful research method in its own right rather than just a pilot method.

One example of a case study that illustrates many of these points is the study into the relationship between shared social identity and positive experience in crowds by Hopkins et al (2015). The subject of the study is a selection of spiritual pilgrims at a religious festival in India: the Magh Mela. It provides the role of giving a detailed and rich examination of the participants’ experience.

This case study also has the role of testing a hypothesis. The hypothesis is that participation in crowds is a positive experience, which strengthens social identity allowing collective self-realization. It is not a pilot study but builds on lots of other research, which supports the social identity theory of crowd behaviour (Turner 1987). The case study of the Magh Mela (Hopkins et al 2015) provides the role of an example of the subject of crowds in general and more particularly of crowds that are positive in nature. It can be seen as an extreme or outlier case as it is on a huge scale and the participants are living in very basic conditions in a very noisy environment. It can be argued if collective self-realization can happen here it can happen in any crowd. This suggests this case study can be used to generalize to other situations. All crowds may be capable of self-realization. The study is not just describing crowd behaviour but also explaining it in accordance with social identity theory.

Flyvbjerg (2006) argues that the case study does more than the conventional definition we looked at the beginning of this essay. It is the only way of providing context dependent knowledge, which is necessary when theorizing about human affairs. He argues people can only become expert when they have knowledge of lots of examples of concrete cases. A case study can then provide expert knowledge of human behaviour. The study of the Magh Mela performs this role.

Another detailed case study is the examination of empowerment at an anti-roads campaign (Drury and Reicher 2000). Activists and local residents climbed over barriers and destroyed them to reclaim the green space and felt empowered by their shared social identity. This study provides the role of an example of positive, empowering crowd behaviour. It confirms the research into social identity theory on crowd behaviour (Turner 1987). As the findings are similar to other case studies it can be used to generalize about crowds. This study is again performing the role of providing context dependent knowledge, which would be difficult to obtain any other way. It is describing crowd behaviour and also explaining it in accordance with social identity principles.

It seems the case study is crucial as a research method. It is particularly appropriate for understanding complex real world behaviour though it can never give the whole story. It has depth rather than breadth so can be utilized alongside other research methods such as experiments and theoretical knowledge to deepen understanding of human behaviour.



Abercrombie, N., Hill, S., & Turner, B. S. (1984). Dictionary of sociology (3rd ed.). Harmonds- worth, UK: Penguin.

Drury, J., & Reicher, S. (2000). Collective action and psychological change: The emergence of new social identities. British Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 579–604. UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Flyvbjerg, B. (2006) ‘Five misunderstandings about case study research’, Qualitative Inquiry, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 219–245. Available at (Accessed 23 October 2017)


Hopkins, N., Reicher, S., Khan, S., Tewari, S., Srinivasan, N. and Stevenson, C. et. al (2015) ‘Explaining effervescence: investigating the relationship between shared social identity and positive experience in crowds’, Cognition and Emotion, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 20–32 Available at (Accessed 23 October 2017)


Turner, J. C., Hogg, M. A., Oakes, P. J., Reicher, S. D., & Wetherell, M. C. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.




























Discuss one Theory used in Psychotherapy



Lynn Matheson

This paper will discuss psychoanalysis. It is both a therapeutic technique and a theory of mind. Psychoanalysis is important, as it is the founding theory behind psychotherapy. What psychoanalysis is will be examined, the theory behind the method, and how psychoanalytic ideas have changed over time as well as its purpose and goals. Its influence on more modern psychotherapy theories will be detailed. Finally, its usefulness in the modern day will be discussed and it will be argued that it still has value.


Firstly, what is psychoanalysis? In classical psychoanalysis two people – the patient and the psychoanalyst meet as much as five times a week at set times usually for fifty minutes each time. The patient lies on a couch and the analyst sits behind him without eye contact. The patient says whatever comes to mind. This is known as free association. The analyst is often silent but not passive. The aim is to act as a catalyst, clarifying and interpreting what is said. This exploration of the mind can bring about lasting change for the patient leading to improved mental health (Pick 2015).


Secondly, the theory that led to this method of therapy will be examined. Psychoanalysis was developed by Freud (1856-1939) in Vienna. Freud referred to his method as the ‘talking cure’ and he used it with his patients, who had been diagnosed with hysteria, beginning in the 1880s. These patients were suffering from psychological stress which affected their physical as well as mental health. His theory used empirical data from case studies of his patients, most famously Anna O, as he referred to one of them (Pick 2015). The main idea developed was that thoughts can exist of which we are unconscious. This unconscious is dynamic, full of conflicting forces trying to gain access to consciousness and ego defences preventing such access (Eagle 2018). Freud (1920) provided evidence for these unconscious processes from slips of the tongue, which reveal hidden intentions, as well as dreams. Freud (1920) also finds evidence of a sort from fantasies, or as he refers to them phantasies, which are disguised fulfilments of instinctual wishes. Listening to his patients led Freud to develop the concept of transference; baggage from the past is brought into present relationships. Patients can transfer feelings onto the analyst, which are really meant for someone else.


Freud believed that his patients repressed thoughts of unbearable early memories. Many patients described experiences of childhood sexual abuse often from family members. Freud later came to doubt that these were always real events but could be fears or fantasies. Freud held that children feel both hate and love for their parents and this leads to ambivalence which is necessary to separate from them to gain a sense of identity (Pick 2015). These ideas led to Freud developing the famous Oedipus Complex which includes: universal incestuous wishes towards the opposite sex parent and hostile wishes towards the same sex parent, the incest taboo, and choice of mate based on parental templates. How the individual resolves these conflicts determines their psychological development. The infant goes through stages of psychosexual development: oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital. People can become fixated which means they are stuck at one stage of development (Eagle 2018). Freud conceptualised the conflict between immediate gratification and the need to delay gratification as one between the pleasure principle and the reality principle. This leads to Freud’s model of the mind involving the superego (largely unconscious reproaches), the ego (mediates internal and external reality), and the id (unconscious instinctual urges and passions which can erupt and overtake us). Analysis can strengthen the ego and make the superego and the id less destructive. A very critical superego can lead to feelings of worthlessness and abjection (Pick 2015).


The concept of defence is also central to psychoanalysis. This occurs when there is an incompatibility between the ego and an idea presented to it. These unacceptable thoughts are banished from consciousness by an act of will; they are repressed. Not all Freud’s ideas concerned sex. He also believed in the death drive: a tendency to self-destruction and also aggression towards others. Coping with these internal and external forces leads to anxiety. The process of analysis between the analyst and patient can lead to a release of these conflicts and an understanding of them, which can provide relief for the patient, and a lessening of their ‘hysterical’ symptoms. Many of Freud’s patients reported an improvement in their conditions but the treatment was not always successful (Pick 2015).


Next, how psychoanalytic theory has changed over time will be examined. Freud himself did not have static ideas but changed and developed his ideas over the course of his life. Freud worked with other psychoanalysts but many disagreed with many of his ideas and split from him and developed their own theories. Jung diverged from Freud and introduced a spiritual dimension (cited in Pick 2015). Adler and Klein (cited in Pick 2015) also split off from Freud. Klein did a lot of work with children and developed a theory of the relational dimension of the mind. Hartmann (cited in Pick 2015) developed ego psychology and became convinced that the ego could operate conflict free with the help of analysis. This view was also held by Anna Freud (cited in Pick 2015). Lacan (cited in Pick 2015) was interested in words and felt that the ego is constituted by our relationships to our own images. We are involved in a constant searching for others. Winnicott (cited in Pick 2015) became interested in the primacy of the relationship between mother and infant and developed the idea of the good enough mother. Bion (cited in Pick 2015) was interested in work with groups and introduced the concept of projective identification. Less desirable qualities in ourselves are projected onto others. Ferenczi (cited in Pick 2015) was concerned that there should be more warmth in the analyst. Psychoanalysis has developed differently in different countries. Currently it is in decline due to the rise in popularity of other therapies (Pick 2015).


In spite of this decline there are still practitioners today working as psychoanalysts though many do not fully accept all of Freud’s ideas. What remains accepted is that our behaviour, thoughts and feelings are influenced by factors outside of our conscious awareness and that we do indulge in defences and self-deceptions. These illusions protect our self-image. There is also much evidence supporting the idea of unconscious mental processing. However, there is not much evidence for Freud’s notion of a dynamic unconscious as a seething mass of primal desires. The unconscious in modern research is seen as consisting of internal working models which are acquired in childhood and can be difficult to change. There is little evidence for a universal Oedipus complex or that it has a role in psychological development. Modern psychoanalysts have reconceptualised this as a tension between the regressive lure of identification with the caregiver and the progressive urge for separation. How these tensions are resolved are important for healthy psychological development. Research evidence has provided support for viewing delay of gratification, affect regulation and executive functions as concerning the adequacy of an individual’s ego functions. In essence, modern psychoanalysis has moved from seeing psychopathology as resulting from repressed conflictual wishes and impulses towards seeing it as early acquisition of maladaptive representations. It is not always necessary to become aware of one’s representations and their influence on behaviour but these representations can be altered through the therapeutic relationship itself without interpretation. Therapy can provide emotional correction. However, it still seems that self-knowledge can be important in becoming a healthy individual (Eagle 2018).


Psychoanalysis has been criticised for lacking scientific rigour. It cannot be falsified. Freud only used a small sample of patients to generate his theories so they cannot be generalised to all human beings (Joseph 2010). However, Bergin (1971, cited in Lambert 2013) found that 80 % of patients undergoing psychoanalysis showed significant improvement, which suggests this style of therapy can have considerable value.

Next, the purpose and goals of psychoanalysis will be examined. The goal is better mental health by a patient understanding his or her neuroses. Freud’s patients often had physical symptoms such as paralysis. Through ‘working through’ how neuroses have developed through talking about painful memories and thoughts the patient can be helped to understand the condition and resolve it. Formerly unconscious material is brought into conscious awareness and reintegrated into the total structure of the personality. Symptoms are seen as having a psychological rather than a physical cause (Joseph 2015).


This paper has chosen to concentrate on psychoanalysis, as it is important as the founding father of psychotherapy. It brings in the notion that psychological processes rather than biological processes can sometimes result in psychological problems. Freud was the first to point out that unconscious motives and defence mechanisms influence behaviour and that early childhood experiences influence adult personality. The idea of transference is utilised by many therapists today.


Finally, other modern psychotherapy techniques will be examined to tease out the influence of psychoanalysis on them. Many modern therapists refer to themselves as psychodynamic. These therapists use many of the techniques of psychoanalysis but they have adapted them to a modern context. It is not considered necessary to see the therapist as much as five times a week and most have abandoned the couch and will sit face to face with the patient. They are more likely to intervene in the interaction in order to help the patient. Psychodynamic techniques like this are still recommended for some cases of depression and schizophrenia. They can also be useful for clients wanting to develop interpersonal skills, to enhance self-understanding and overcome self-defeating behaviour (Joseph 2010). Modern psychodynamic therapists do not usually support all of Freud’s ideas but will still work with inner conflict and transference to help their patients.


Humanistic approaches to psychotherapy emerged in the middle of the twentieth century. They were a reaction against the pessimistic view of human nature painted by psychoanalysis in which people are selfish, driven by sexual and aggressive impulses. The humanistic approach sees human nature as essentially positive and emphasises choices, values and purpose. Carl Rogers (1902-1987) is one of its most well known proponents. He developed the person-centred approach. The foundation of the theory is the actualizing tendency, which is a natural force in people directed towards constructive growth and development. This tendency in a child is thwarted by an internalized belief that he must please others. The therapist provides a supportive environment where the client can become their actualized self. This approach can be seen as a radical departure from the ideas of psychoanalysis. However, its echoes can still be felt. Person centred therapy is still a talking therapy and events in childhood are given prominence. Not much research has been done on the effectiveness of this therapy but some work has suggested it is just as effective as other forms (Joseph 2010).


Another humanistic approach is Perl’s Gestalt therapy. The client experiences the total configuration of who they are. It emphasises choice and responsibility. It is a more confrontational approach than that of Rogers, encouraging the client to heighten their emotions. Little research has been done into the effectiveness of Gestalt (Joseph 2010). Its emphasis on the here and now suggests a clear break with the approach of psychoanalysis.


Berne (Joseph 2010) introduced a form of humanistic counselling called transactional analysis. This approach assumes people are ‘ok’. The therapist values and esteems the client. Each person can make decisions about their life and the way they think is their own choice. It is closer than the other humanistic approaches to psychoanalysis and can be seen as a development of this theory as Berne himself trained in psychoanalysis. Berne developed a model of the mind consisting of the child, the parent and the adult. In many ways this model echoes Freud’s ideas of the id, ego and superego. The approach also echoes the Freudian idea that problems have their roots in childhood.


The transpersonal approach is associated with Maslow. He saw human beings as striving to achieve their potential. Maslow described a hierarchy of human needs with physical needs such as food at the bottom and self-actualisation at the top. Actualized individuals are self-directed, creative and independent. Self-actualized individuals can have peak experiences, which transcend ordinary human consciousness and can be regarded as spiritual in nature. This approach has little in common with Freud. There has not been much research into the effectiveness of the transpersonal approach (Joseph 2010).


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a widely used approach used today both in the NHS and in private practice. This is a merging of cognitive and behaviourist ideas about the human mind. The approach works on changing a client’s behaviour and the way they think about themselves through checking their internal dialogue and removing negative, critical thoughts. Much research has backed up this approach and it has gained respectability by adopting psychiatric language. However, it has been criticised for being overly simplistic with scientific experiments not always relevant to complex, intractable problems of patients (Smail 1996, cited in Joseph 2010). This approach with its emphasis on the present shows a resounding rejection of the ideas of psychoanalysis.


Now, psychoanalysis in the present day will be examined. Classical psychoanalysis as described by Freud is rare today. It is still possible to train in at various institutions around the world. As the client is required to come for sessions as much as five times a week and the therapy can go on for years it remains too expensive, time consuming and impractical for many people. Many of Freud’s key ideas have also been severely criticised as having no scientific basis. As a result of this psychoanalysis is in decline. It survives in private practice and is rarely used in the NHS, which is constrained by economic factors. It has been overtaken in popularity by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. However, it still survives in modified form in psychodynamic therapies in private practice. Many psychodynamic practitioners use psychoanalytic ideas of unconscious conflicts and transference in their work. They may follow other theorists more closely than Freud but who are still within the analytic tradition such as Jung, Klein, Adler and Erikson. This kind of approach can still be useful for deep-seated depression, which has not responded to other techniques. Modern therapy is moving towards an integrative approach where the therapist uses what works best for the client. In this way, psychoanalytic ideas still survive (Joseph 2010).



This paper has examined psychoanalysis discussing what it is, its purpose and goals and its influence on other psychotherapies. It has been seen that its legacy has been great though it is currently in decline. Psychoanalytic ideas have been much criticised but many practitioners have found their use in therapy to be beneficial in helping patients. New research into the effectiveness of different approaches may well show that psychoanalytic ideas still have value.






























Eagle, M. N. (2018) Core Concepts in Classical Psychoanalysis Abingdon: Routledge


Freud, S. (1920) A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis New York: Boni and Liveright


Joseph, S. (2010) Theories of Counselling and Psychotherapy Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Lambert, M.J. (2013) ‘Outcome in Psychotherapy: The Past and Important Advances’ Psychotherapy American Psychological Association, Vol. 50, No. 1, 42–51

Pick, D. (2015) Psychoanalysis A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press



New Year’s Resolutions

I know we are all tired of resolutions and I have failed to keep many in the past but I still need goals so here are mine.


1 Read the Bible every day

2 Pray every day in English and in tongues.

3 Meditate every day

4 Find out all I can about different mental health therapies  by reading and having therapy. Choose one that works for me

5 Diligently work on my hypnotherapy training and become qualified in it.

6 Diligently work on my MSc Psychology and complete the first module.

7 Do not drink alcohol

8 Do not eat meat

9 Attend the Alive Church every week and decide if it is the right Church for me.

10 Find paid employment.

11 Do voluntary work.

12 Find out all I can about Christianity by reading and talking to other Christians.

13 Rework my second book and self publish it.

14 Start and complete a third novel.

15 Increase my social circle.

Yogi Cameron The One Plan weeks 9 and 10

I have been really bad at following the One Plan these past few weeks. It’s all about getting rid of extra possessions that you don’t need. I have done this in the past and I tend to live simply and don’t have a lot of things. I still have some junk I could clear out but as I live with someone else I can’t throw out everything I would like to as some of it is his.

I haven’t been following the diet properly and I have been drinking wine so lots of backsliding.

In this two weeks I became a Christian so my focus has shifted. I am still going to continue the One Plan and follow most of the recommendations as I think they are valuable and try to incorporate them into my new Christian lifestyle.

It is really cold in England at the moment and that always has a bad effect on me and makes me not want to do anything much.

So hopefully I can shake myself up and get back on the health track next week.

How not to get your Book Edited

So having failed to get an agent for my second novel I thought I would enlist some help in the shape of an editor. Not knowing where to turn I tried The Writer’s Workshop.

I got the manuscript back after a few weeks. I was quite horrified by the comments of the editor. I know there are things wrong with my novel but I wasn’t prepared for the total decimation that happened. She didn’t like anything about my book at all. She didn’t like the beginning. She didn’t like the middle. She didn’t like the end. She didn’t like the characters. She didn’t like the dialogue. She didn’t like the story. She seemed to have expected it to be some kind of tacky thriller with lots of edge of the seat action. This couldn’t be further from the kind of book I was trying to write. It is a book about a girl’s discovery of faith through Islam and what love is and what it is not.  I don’t want to write thrillers. The advice was full of patronising comments. At one point she tells me the plot of Cinderella. It’s the kind of writing advice you would give to a class of ten year olds. I know because I used to do that for a living. There was a whole segment about the plots of various books which I feel sure I have read somewhere before, probably in a book about novel writing. So she had lifted her advice straight from someone else.

A quick google gave me the information that my experienced editor and agent was in fact someone who only started writing in 2014. They had one novel published which sounded deathly dull middle class home counties fare. She had failed to get a publisher for her second one so had self-published and had set up her own publisher to publish the third one. Hardly experienced. I felt I had been misled by the kind of editor I would get. Her main achievement on her web page seemed to have been home schooling her children. She also had the cheek to put a blatant ad for her book on the end of the email.

I felt angry and then I just felt sad. I can hardly bear to look at my book now. There is an art to giving feedback. When I was a teacher however pitiful the child’s offering I always found something positive to say first. I thought the Writers’ Workshop was about nurturing new writers. Assassination is not nurturing.

I was advised to read On Writing by Stephen King and go on a course run by their company. I have nothing against Stephen King but I don’t particularly like his novels and I don’t want to write like him. It seems to me everyone is now writing the same kind of books because they have all been on the same courses and read the same advice. It’s all so boring. I haven’t read a really good book in ages.

I would not advise anyone to use the Writers’ Workshop but to find an editor by other means that at least gets what you are trying to do to some extent.

I will probably just self publish my book as it’s not commercial. Then I will have  a go at another one. I doubt I will ever land an agent.

I must go on…

The Alpha Course – A Personal View

A couple of months ago I signed up for the Alpha Course. I am doing it in the neighbouring town of Wymondham about 20 minutes drive away. It has been running once every two weeks in the evening.

I got interested in it because I have been seeing these ads for Alpha for years but never dived in. I was brought up by Communists so though Christened no attention was ever paid to my spiritual development. I got introduced to Christianity at school and through friends. I dabbled a bit but didn’t completely get involved. At university it was the same. I went to a few prayer meetings in my Hall, attended Church a few times and then abandoned it for other things. I have always been quite spiritual though and returned sporadically to exploring. I have dabbled in Paganism, witchcraft, the occult in a New Agey way, Spiritualism, Hinduism and Buddhism.  The Buddhism was my most recent foray and I really liked it. I have been to the Norwich Buddhist Centre and learned to meditate. I still wasn’t sure which one was for me.

So I decided to learn more about Christianity. The Alpha Course is supposed to be for non-believers, agnostics or new Christians and is an introduction to the basics of the faith. I hoped I would get answers to my questions like the problem of evil in the world and why God made the world.

When I arrived at the hall I found that everyone there was already a member of the charismatic Church which used the Hall. I was the only vague one. I hadn’t expected this. What struck me the most was how pleasant everyone was. It was very welcoming. The pastor and leaders didn’t wear any particular clothes. It was very casual and relaxed.

Each session takes the same format. There is a meal prepared by the Church members and then a video headed up by Nicky Gumbel the founder of Alpha. Then we break into groups and discuss the topic. There is an accompanying booklet. I was hoping for some intellectual discussion but this didn’t really happen in my group. Everyone was already a true believer so they just believed. Sometimes I asked questions nobody could answer such as why the Old Testament is in the Christian Bible when there is a new promise of the New Testament. The leader who was incredibly sweet looked it up on Google for me the next week. They all seemed to take the Bible literally as the word of God so didn’t question anything. I realised I wasn’t going to be converted by clever arguments.

One thing struck me from the very beginning. They were all incredibly open and honest. Most had had life traumas which they discussed candidly. The Church was for broken people. At least this one was. I would fit right in. I warmed to them over the weeks though I often felt awkward and didn’t know what to say.

One week I finally cracked and cried as I thought about how sinful I had been and how I hadn’t come to Jesus properly even though he had given me plenty of opportunities.

The first few sessions were about what it meant to be a Christian but it swiftly turned into a conversion course.  I didn’t mind this but I could imagine some people would. In fact I wanted to be converted. I really need something solid in my life and I know the pick and mix spirituality is never going to work.

I felt I was on a roller coaster ride and I really was confronting my past and my failings and being honest with myself. I often went home in deep thought but I was enjoying it. I worked my way through the New Testament though I have done this many times before. The group leader behaves as if I am a complete atheist but I have actually read the Bible many times. I like the core message but I find lots of it confusing and contradictory. I still had lots of unanswered questions. I knew I wasn’t going to get them answered. If I wanted this I had to just go with it in my heart.

So I girded up my courage and prayed the conversion prayer recommended by Alpha. I repented and asked Jesus into my life. To my disappointment no Damascene miracle happened on the spot. Slightly sadly, I went out to walk the dog. In the church yard glebe at dusk I saw a huge white barn owl with wings outstretched hunting over  and over on the same patch of ground. It was completely unconcerned by my presence. As I stopped to watch it I was aware it looked a little like an angel. I took this as a sign. Maybe it was a very weak sign and just a coincidence but it was something.

The following week at Alpha there was a Holy Spirit day which was on a Saturday in the Church. For some reason I had a total foreboding about this and nearly didn’t go. When I got there it was all set up for a service. We watched no less than three videos in a row which were building up for the Holy Spirit experience. We had a short discussion and then the experience began. We all stood up and prayed and started to sing a hymn. We asked the Holy Spirit to come. The leaders went around and prayed for people. My group leader came to me and asked if I wanted to be prayed for. I said yes. Already I had started to feel quite strange even before this. My nose was running and I felt hot and shivery. She prayed for me and put her hands on my head. Then she started speaking in tongues and asked me to copy her. As I started I felt incredibly hot in my forehead and shivery but not cold. Then I felt like a great force came into me and something went out of me. I screamed I think about three times. Bizarrely, I can only compare it to orgasm. I am embarrassed I had a very loud orgasmic experience in front of a lot of fundamentalist Christians. Joking aside it was quite an incredible happening. I was also crying and my cheeks were wet when I opened my eyes. This was the Holy Spirit in me.

I sat down for a while afterwards feeling completely strange. I was different. One of the other leaders came over and asked if I wanted to learn to speak in tongues. I was inclined to say I had had enough for one morning but he was quite insistent so I agreed. He laid hands on my forehead again and spoke in tongues. It sounded like Ancient Aramaic. As I repeated it I had the hot sensation again and lots of lights were appearing under my closed eyelids like little fires. He said the Holy Spirit is upon you and carried on chanting. I found I could chant away on my own these strange words but I had no idea what I was saying. The same hot feeling was there but it wasn’t as intense as the first time.

Later on  a few of us joined in a circle and spoke in tongues.

I still feel in shock a few days later and I don’t quite know what to make of it. I do know that something profound happened to me and there was definitely something supernatural in the room. My rational mind has tried to make sense of it but come up with no explanation. I feel like there is something different in my mind. When I meditate or pray my brain feels different.

So I think I have become a Christian. I have been praying and reading the Bible and going about my usual tasks. The inital high has worn off but I still know I am changed. I have prayed in tongues and found it just flows out of me but I don’t know what I’m saying.

There are still a few sessions of the course to go but I feel like I have converted. It has taken me fifty years to fully accept Christ but here I am.

I don’t want to give up my daily meditation but maybe I don’t have to. I have a lot to learn but I have started the journey.