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Psychoanalysis is a term that describes techniques and theories that are used to examine the motives or thought processes that define an individual's outward behavior. Psychoanalytic techniques are vital to almost all psychological disciplines and many related therapies. In addition to this, many theories that have evolved from psychoanalysis are now used in areas such as medicine, sociology and history.

OriginsAs for how psychoanalytic theory originated, the founding work was pioneered by Sigmund Freud and Erik Erickson. These men, amongst others, undertook highly diverse research and set out some key principles. This article will look to briefly examine what exactly psychoanalysis entails. It has to remembered, however, that psychoanalysis is abstract and, more importantly, cannot be entirely described in a mere few paragraphs.


Erik Erickson's studies focused primarily on the ego. Erickson helped develop a theory that is known as psychosocial development, through which he studied many thoughts associated with ego, such as autonomy, shame, guilt or trust. Erickson's theory was divided into eight stages concerned with conflicting emotions and situations - for instance, trust and mistrust. This theory is often referenced in psychosocial evaluation.


Freud's works are intimately related to sexuality and the influence that family environment can have on an individual. These works are considered to be amongst the pioneering works of psychoanalysis, the basic idea of which revolves around the idea that human behavior is not based on the immediate. Freud believes that human behavior results from human experiences that are embedded in the subconscious of the individual. Humans, human behavior and the human mind are wildly unpredictable things, and as such there can be no defining single theory with regard to psychoanalytic theory.

This makes psychoanalytical theory abstract and ever-evolving, but Freud had two basic areas of focus with regard to his theories. He focused firstly on psychosexual development and the development of an individual within a family. His second area of focus centers around the study of conscious, subconscious and the human ego. These two approaches encouraged further study of both these areas and how they related to human behavior. In addition, these studies helped lead to the study of desire, childhood trauma and other related factors, all of which are vital to the understanding of the human psyche and the treatment of mental illness.

Despite the basing of psychoanalytic theory on the approaches of these men, the scope of the discipline is vast, constantly changing and constantly evolving. Psychoanalytic theory has seemingly infinite limits and possibilities and should not be seen simply as the work of these two men.

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