Psychoanalytical Theories and Attachment Theory
Psychodynamic theory and its derivatives can be traced to the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. You likely are familiar with the image that often conjures Freud: A client lying on a couch with a therapist sitting nearby, notepad in hand. The psychoanalytic terms “id,” “ego,” “superego,” “repression,” and “unconscious” are deeply embedded in the layperson’s jargon.
Many theories have sprung from Freud’s psychoanalytical principles. Attachment theory is one example. Its originator, John Bowlby, was directly influenced by Freud, but because of Bowlby’s experiences in working with disturbed children, he believed that a child’s psychosocial development is linked to their attachment to the mother. Because all theories must be tested using empirical research methods, Mary Ainsworth tested John Bowlby’s theory using the Strange Situation experiment, which involved observing children react to caregivers and strangers. The results from her research led to what we now know as attachment styles.
This week, you switch your lenses to consider a case study through these theories.
- Summarize the assumptions of psychoanalytical theories and attachment theory
- Evaluate the strengths and limitations of psychoanalytical and attachment theories
- Develop reflection questions to apply attachment theory in social work practice
- Apply attachment theory to a social work case study
Photo Credit: [Tom Merton]/[OJO Images]/Getty Images
Note: To access this week’s required library resources, please click on the link to the Course Readings List, found in the Course Materials section of your Syllabus.
Turner, F. J. (Ed.). (2017). Social work treatment: Interlocking theoretical approaches (6th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Chapter 1: Attachment Theory and Social Work Treatment (pp. 1–22)
Chapter 25: The Psychoanalytic System of Ideas (pp. 398–410)
Foley, M., Nash, M., & Munford, R. (2009). Bringing practice into theory: Reflective practice and attachment theory. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work Review, 21(1/2), p39–47. http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol21iss1-2id318
Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.
Auld, F., Hyman, M., & Rudzinski, D. (2005). How is therapy with women different? In Resolution and inner conflict: An introduction to psychoanalytic therapy (pp. 217–236). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
Note: You will access this book chapter excerpt from the Walden Library databases.
National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English
Sommers-Flanagan, J., & Sommers-Flanagan, R. (2014). Counseling and psychotherapy theories in context and practice [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.psychotherapy.net.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/stream/waldenu/video?vid=277
This week, watch the “Psychoanalytic Approaches” segment by clicking the applicable link under the “Chapters” tab.
Note: You will access this video from the Walden Library databases.
Blakely, T. J., & Dziadosz, G. M. (2015). Application of attachment theory in clinical social work. Health & Social Work, 40(4), 283–289. https://doi.org/10.1093/hsw/hlv059
Fleischer, L., & Lee, E. (2016). The analytic principle and attitude: Mobilizing psychoanalytic knowledge to maximize social work students’ practice competence. Psychoanalytic Social Work, 23(2), 99–118. doi:10.1080/15228878.2016.1149776
Discussion: Evaluating Psychoanalytical Theory
Sigmund Freud is often hailed as the father of psychoanalytical theory. His theory was the first to point to the influence of early childhood experiences. However, psychoanalytical theory has received a lot of criticism. Although theories are supposed to be objective and value-free, they are developed within a sociocultural and political context. For example, with historical perspective, it is possible to see that values within the Western Victorian era influenced Freud as he developed his theory. Another criticism is that many psychoanalytical concepts cannot be measured. For example, how do you measure the id, ego, and superego or the notion of unconscious conflicts? As a result, it is difficult to test the accuracy of these concepts using social science research methods.
It is important to critically evaluate theories for their practical use. For example, is it appropriate to use a theory when working with diverse populations or with populations different from those with whom the theory was normed (e.g., women, racial and ethnic minority groups, those who are economically disadvantaged)? Finally, are the assumptions of theories consistent with the values underlying the field? In this Discussion, you respond to some of these concerns.
To prepare, read the following from the Learning Resources:
- Auld, F., Hyman, M., & Rudzinski, D. (2005). How is therapy with women different? In Resolution and inner conflict: An introduction to psychoanalytic therapy (pp. 217–236). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
- National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English
By Day 3
- Summarize the assumptions of Freud’s psychoanalytical theory in 2 to 3 sentences.
- Explain whether you believe it is appropriate to apply psychoanalytic theory to women and individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups.
- Explain whether you believe psychoanalytic theory is consistent with social work values and social work ethics.
By Day 5
Respond to at least two colleagues:
- Compare your response with your colleague’s. Identify any insights you gained from your peer’s response.
- Discuss whether or how to address values related to the development and use of a specific theorywhen working with clients.
Submission and Grading Information
Post by Day 3 and Respond by Day 5
Assignment: Application of Attachment Theory to a Case Study
As you have read, theory guides the conceptualization of the client’s problem and how social workers assess and intervene relative to the problem. However, theory can also shape the self-reflective questions social workers ask themselves. Clients often come to social workers under stress or distress. This then affects how the social worker responds and thus the client-social worker relationship. As a result, Foley, Nash, and Munford (2009) employed attachment theory as a “lens in which to view the reflective process itself and to gain greater understanding and empathy for what each social worker within each unique social work-client relationship can access of that relationship for reflection” (pp. 44).
This week, you will apply attachment theory to the case study you chose in Week 2. In other words, your theoretical orientation—or lens—is attachment theory as you analyze the case study.
- Review the same case study you selected from last week’s Assignment. (Remember, you will be using this same case study throughout the entire course). Use the “Dissecting a Theory and Its Application to a Case Study” worksheet to help you dissect the theory. You do not need to submit this handout. It is a tool for you to use to dissect the theory, and then you can employ the information in the table to complete your assignment.
- Review attachment theory and the following article listed in the Learning Resources: Foley, M., Nash, M., & Munford, R. (2009). Bringing practice into theory: Reflective practice and attachment theory. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work Review, 21(1/2), p39–47. Retrieved http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol21iss1-2id318
By Day 7
Submit a 1- to 2-page case write-up that addresses the following:
- Summarize the assumptions of attachment theory in 2 to 3 sentences.
- Identify the problem in your chosen case study to be worked on from an attachment theoryperspective.
- Explain how attachment theory defines and explains the cause of the problem in one to two sentences.
- Develop two assessment questions that are guided by attachment theory that you would ask the client to understand how the stress or distress is affecting the client.
- Discuss two interventions to address the problem. Remember, the theory should be driving the interventions. In other words, you would not identify systematic desensitization since this is not an intervention guided by attachment theory.
- Formulate one self-reflective question that is influenced by attachment theory that you can ask yourself to gain greater empathy for what the client is experiencing.
- Explain which outcomes you could measure to evaluate client progress based theory.
Be sure to:
- Identify and correctly reference the case study you have chosen.
- Use literature to support your claims.
- Use APA formatting and style.
- Remember to double-space your paper.
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