In our previous article we discussed some of the ways Freud went wrong. Today we are going to examine what he got right and how his contributions have helped to shape modern psychotherapy.
Freud revolutionized the psychological field by positing that the memories, emotions, and ideas can exist in our mind without us being aware of them (subconscious information), affect our conscious thoughts and behaviors (Craig, 2010; De Sousa, 2011). In fact, countless studies have been conducted on implicit biases and other subconscious mechanisms that affect the way we process information and behave in our environments (Brownstein, 2015; Carey, 2007). Moreover, most modern psychologists agree with Freud’s assertion that environment and experience during childhood can have an effect on a person’s mental state as an adult (Bargh & Morsella, 2008).
Much of Freud’s legacy exists in his contributions to the field of psychodynamic therapy (PDT). PDT today is incredibly different from the PDT that Freud first created, however it relies on some of the same concepts. It is practiced through traditional “talk therapy” where the therapist helps the client to probe into why they feel the way they do (Fonagy, 2003). Since PDT is practiced so differently by so many different practitioners, it is hard to get generalizable data on its effectiveness. The studies we do have show that PDT is more effective than placebos, but generally equally or less effective to other forms of psychotherapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy) (Fonagy, 2015). Though there is anecdotal evidence of PDT being incredibly effective.
While Freud’s legacy may currently be viewed as a stain on psychology by the 21st century zeitgeist, we should not forget the important contributions he has added to the field as a whole!