Freudian methods of psychoanalysis and a related body of interpretive strategies were articulated in Freud's numerous publications, spread over a period of 45 years. Despite this wealth of writing, however, the effectiveness of Freud's therapeutic methods is still subject to animated debate. You can read more about some of the techniques Freud employed below, and even try some of them out.
According to Freud, we learn through fairy tales, myths, jokes, folklore, poems and linguistic usage. These same symbols are used in our dreams. The patient recalls their dreams that can often be recurring and traumatic. These are 'the royal road to the unconscious' and with interpretation can indicate areas of trouble that need to be investigated by the patient and therapist. There is a need for interpretation as each symbol is heavily disguised. Although Freud did not explore the cross-cultural differences in the significance of dreams, modern practitioners of this method accept the need for flexibility in interpretation.
According to Freud, we learn through fairy tales, myths, jokes, folklore, poems and linguistic usage. From learning, these symbols become part of our dreams. Think about the following dream symbols and match them up with the Freudian interpretation. Symbol/Freud's interpretation A House/The human figure as a whole King and Queen/Your parents Small animals or vermin/Children, brothers and sisters Falling into or out of water/Your own birth Being rescued from water/Your relationship with your mother Sticks, umbrellas, posts, trees etc/Male genitals Flying in dreams/Sexual excitement Pits, closets, tunnels, doors etc/Female genitals Apples, peaches/Breasts
These are minor slips of the tongue or pen that occur when areas of the unconscious enter our conscious mind briefly. These are often the real thoughts and motivations that we are thinking and more often than not should not be in the public domain.
The patient is invited to say the first word that enters their mind when the therapist gives a stimulus word. This enables unconscious thoughts to enter the conscious ready for investigation later on in the therapy.
According to Freud, the way we associate words tells us a lot about ourselves. Read each word and write down the first thing that you think of. There are 20 words in total. tree, wall, page, hair, pen, chocolate, money, love, fish, mother, man, child, death, sex, black, peaches, dog, teacher, job, god.
Here the patient is shown a series of images that are usually abstract, for example ink blots. They are then invited to explain what they see or create a story based on the images. Freud believed that this allows the patient's unconscious to become conscious, unlocking inner thoughts and desires allowing further investigation through further therapy. Hermann Rorschach developed the infamous Rorschach blot test in 1921 and although there are arguments over whether he intended it to be used for projective psychoanalysis, it remains in use today. The ten specially-designed ink blot images used in the Rorschach test are still kept secret to non-practitioners and information about the interpretation methods of this test procedure is also rarely disseminated. Practitioners believe that this could interfere with the clinical and scientific use of the Rorschach test. The random inkblot generator below is an interesting way to explore the use of projective tests, but is not a Rorschach example.
Visualisation of random ink blot creations for self-testing.
The patient is invited to talk freely about any topic and subject that they feel comfortable with. The therapist prompts when necessary whilst listening carefully. Over a long period of time the patient will uncover some of the important traumas within their unconscious, therefore making them conscious and accessible for interpretation.
The patient is placed into a trance. The therapist then investigates the patient's unconscious while it is uncovered in this state. This brings unconscious thoughts and desires out of the unconscious ready for investigation as the patient wakes from their trancelike state.
Use the activities to discuss your impressions of the Freudian techniques. What can be gained by using them? How might these tests ‘prevent’ or ‘cure’ mental disorders?