The psychoanalytic theory is a theory of personality development and organization that serves as a guide for psychoanalysis and treatment for psychopathology. The original developer of the theory was Sigmund Freud, who was an Austrian neurologist. The theory involves analysis of the human psyche focused on interactions between the conscious and unconscious aspects of the mind and the significance of repressed conflicts and fears as influences of behavior and personality. In essence, psychoanalytic theory features the technique of transference as the basis of understanding the personalities and behaviors of individuals (Stoleru, 2014; Coon & Mitterer, 2008). Transference refers to the unconscious redirection or projection of the feelings of individuals towards others or other things. On its part, the humanistic theory is a psychological perspective that adopts a holistic approach to the existence of human beings, emphasizing on aspects such as free will, creativity, and positive potential, such that it features an inherent outlook towards human beings as inherently good. It focuses on the view of a person as a whole, rather than as a sum of parts, and emphasizes on exploration, thoughtfulness, self-awareness, and uniqueness of each individual (Coon & Mitterer, 2008). The root of this theory is work by Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, and work during the renaissance period in the 15th and 16th Centuries, during which philosophers considered man as the “measure of all things”.
Both theories offer perspectives for the understanding of human personality and serve as a basis for therapeutic treatment. Nonetheless, while psychoanalytic theory is deterministic in nature, with unconscious instinctive and irrational forces determining human behavior and thought, humanism offers a liberal and progressive approach to understanding human personality and behavior. While the former considers individuals’ behavior as dependent on their unconscious thoughts and conflicts, the latter considers people as intrinsically good and as having an innate need to improve themselves and the world. While psychoanalytic theory focuses on unconscious thoughts and conflicts to understand personality and behavior, the humanistic theory focuses on the human potential and uniqueness of individuals. The implication is that while the psychoanalytic theory adopts a pessimistic view about human nature and personality, humanistic theory adopts a more optimistic view, considering human beings as intrinsically good.
In nursing practice, the concepts of these theories could be important applications. The psychoanalytic theory could serve in nursing contexts to indicate the need to consider the beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors of patients from a deeper perspective, especially in terms of previous experiences. It could influence the need for nursing professionals to investigate the lives and previous experiences of patients, particularly in terms of the potential significance of previous events as influences of presenting behaviors, beliefs, and thoughts in patients. This approach would enable nursing practice to apply more effective techniques and models of care that fit the experiences and challenges of patients. The concept of uniqueness of each individual in the humanistic theory could apply in nursing practice in terms of the need to consider and treat patients individually. It would support the need for nursing practitioners to consider the unique needs, experiences, values, and feelings of patients in the delivery of care, and hence support evidence-based care. This means that the theory would support the delivery of individualized care, in which practitioners consider the factors that are important for patients and incorporate their individual needs in care plans. A potential problem with the psychoanalytic theory in nursing practice is the failure to consider other significant influences in the environments of patients on their behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs. Nursing professionals would need to apply the theory’s concepts cautiously to avoid being prejudicial.
Coon, D., & Mitterer, J. (2008). Introduction to psychology: Gateways to mind and behavior. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning
Stoleru, S. (2014). Reading the Freudian theory of sexual drives from a functional neuroimaging perspective. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8(157): 1-15.