Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, revolutionised the field of psychology with his ground-breaking theories on the human mind. While some of his ideas have been met with scepticism and criticism, recent advancements in neuroscience have shed new light on Freud’s work, providing insights into the complex relationship between the brain and human behaviour. This article delves into the intersection of Freud’s theories and neuroscience research, exploring whether neuroscience is proving Freud’s theories correct and whether Freud can be considered one of the first neuroscientists who did not have neuroimaging to help establish his theories.
Understanding Freud’s Pleasure Principle and Drives
Freud proposed that the pleasure principle drives human behaviour, stating that individuals seek pleasure and avoid pain. He argued that the mind is motivated by a complex interplay of drives, which are powerful forces that influence our thoughts, emotions, and actions. While Freud initially focused on libido, the sexual drive, subsequent psychoanalytic developments have expanded the concept of drives to include other intrinsic motivations independent of libido.
Pleasure and Affects: A Neuroscience Perspective
Neuroscience research has provided valuable insights into the experience of pleasure and its effects. Pleasure is not simply a sensory event but a multifaceted experience involving memory, motivation, and homeostasis. The hedonic marking of impact, the quality that distinguishes emotions from other psychological processes, plays a crucial role in the brain’s regulation of pleasurable and unpleasant experiences. Neuroscientific findings have shed light on the neural circuits and neurotransmitter systems responsible for pleasure, such as the mesocorticolimbic system and dopamine release.
Neural Basis of Pleasure: Brain Hedonic Systems
Neuroimaging studies have identified specific cortical and subcortical regions activated by hedonic stimuli in humans. The critical brain areas involved in pleasure processing are the orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, insular cortex, nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and ventral pallidum. These regions play crucial roles in the subjective attribution of pleasure, monitoring reward value, and integrating perceptual stimuli with interoceptive states. Activating these brain regions is essential for the experience of pleasure and the reinforcement of adaptive behaviours.
Pleasure and Pain: Interactions in the Brain
Neuroscience research suggests a high degree of overlap between the brain areas and neurotransmitter systems that regulate pleasure and pain. Endogenous opioids and dopamine significantly modulate physical pain and affective states. The activity of µ and δ opioid receptors in the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex is associated with decreased subjective unpleasantness in response to nociceptive stimuli. Furthermore, the striatum’s dopaminergic system exhibits algesic and antinociceptive properties, depending on the activation level. These interactions between pleasure and pain regulation contribute to maintaining homeostatic equilibrium.
Exploring Freud’s Notion of Drives in Light of Neuroscience
Freud’s concept of drives, initially focused on libido, has evolved to include other intrinsic motivations observed in humans. Intrinsic motivation encompasses the inherent propensity to pursue choices, seek novelty and challenges, satisfy curiosity and competence, and extend one’s capacities and control over events. These motivations are distinct from libido and provide a neuropsychoanalytic understanding of mental functioning. Recent neuroscientific observations on self-related processes, agency, body ownership, and attachment have theoretical implications for understanding libido-independent intrinsic motivations and their relationship with the self.
The Role of Self in Pleasure and Affects
Neuroscientific research has shed light on the neural correlates of the self and its relationship to pleasure and effects. Subcortical-cortical midline structures (SCMS) are brain areas involved in self-related processing (SRP). These regions, including the right posterior insula, right inferior parietal cortex, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, enable the coordination of emotional, motivational, homeostatic, and bodily need states with exteroceptive stimuli. SRP involves the integration of interoceptive and exteroceptive stimuli and contributes to the sense of agency and body ownership. The subjective experience of the self, known as the “core self,” arises from the continuous interaction between these neural networks.
The Compulsion to Repeat and Motivational Drives
Freud’s concept of the compulsion to repeat, which precedes the pleasure principle, has important implications for understanding human behaviour. This compulsion, more primitive and instinctual than the pleasure principle, drives individuals to actively reproduce distressing events originally experienced passively. It suggests the existence of motivations beyond the gratification of drives, such as attachment and the pursuit of competence. Recent research in psychology has distinguished between extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, with intrinsic motivations driven by a sense of autonomy and personal agency. These motivations align with Freud’s observations on gratification in exerting control and dominance over reality.
Freud as a Neuroscientist: Exploring the Convergence
While Freud’s work predates the field of neuroscience, there are intriguing convergences between his theories and recent neuroscientific findings. Freud’s emphasis on the role of drives, affects, and the pleasure principle aligns with current research on the neural circuits and neurotransmitter systems involved in pleasure and motivation. However, it is essential to recognise that Freud’s theories were developed based on clinical observations rather than empirical neuroscience research. Integrating psychoanalysis and neuroscience, known as neuropsychoanalysis, offers a promising avenue for further exploration and understanding of the human mind.
Conclusion: The Intersection of Freud and Neuroscience
The intersection of Freud’s theories and neuroscience research provides valuable insights into the complex relationship between the brain and human behaviour. Recent neuroscientific findings support some aspects of Freud’s work, particularly in understanding pleasure, motivation, and the self. However, it is essential to approach this intersection cautiously, recognising both disciplines’ limitations and the need for further research and integration. The ongoing dialogue between psychoanalysis and neuroscience offers exciting opportunities for a more comprehensive understanding of the human mind and behaviour.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Are you struggling with personal issues and don’t know where to turn for guidance? Psychoanalysis and counselling are two popular forms of therapy that can offer support and help you navigate life’s challenges. While both approaches aim to improve mental well-being, their methods and philosophies differ. Psychoanalysis delves deep into the subconscious mind, exploring the causes of present-day issues by analyzing childhood experiences and unconscious desires. On the other hand, counselling focuses on providing guidance, support, and practical solutions to specific problems.
In this article, we will explore the differences between psychoanalysis and counselling, their unique benefits, and how to determine which approach may be the most suitable for your needs. Whether you’re seeking profound self-discovery or practical problem-solving, understanding the distinctions between these therapeutic methods will help you make an informed decision and embark on a transformative journey towards personal growth.
Psychoanalysis is a psychodynamic therapeutic approach developed by Sigmund Freud to uncover and resolve unconscious conflicts that influence thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. This method focuses on interpreting the meaning behind dreams, slips of the tongue, and other manifestations of the unconscious mind. By exploring childhood experiences and unconscious desires, psychoanalysis seeks to bring repressed material to the conscious level, providing insight into deep-rooted issues.
One fundamental principle of psychoanalysis is the belief that individuals are driven by unconscious motivations and conflicts, often rooted in early childhood experiences. These hidden forces can manifest in various ways, affecting our relationships, self-perception, and overall well-being. Psychoanalysis aims to bring these unconscious elements to light through free association and analysis of resistance and transference, providing an opportunity for healing and personal growth.
Another important technique used in psychoanalysis is dream analysis. Dreams are seen as a window into the unconscious mind, and by interpreting their symbols and hidden meanings, therapists can gain valuable insights into the patient’s inner world. This process can help uncover unresolved conflicts, unmet needs, and deeply rooted desires, providing a deeper understanding of the self.
The benefits of psychoanalysis are numerous. By exploring unconscious desires and childhood experiences, individuals can better understand themselves and their motivations. This increased self-awareness can lead to personal growth, improved relationships, and a more fulfilling life. Psychoanalysis can help resolve long-standing emotional issues, reduce anxiety and depression, and provide relief and liberation.
The disadvantage is that for it to be successful it usually requires long term therapy.
Counselling is a broad term that encompasses various therapeutic approaches aimed at helping individuals navigate through challenges, find solutions, and improve their overall well-being. Unlike psychoanalysis, which focuses on the unconscious mind, counselling is typically more practical and solution-focused, addressing specific issues and providing guidance and support.
There are different counselling approaches, each with unique methods and philosophies. One popular approach is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. CBT aims to help individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms, challenge irrational beliefs, and achieve their goals.
Another common type of counselling is person-centred therapy, developed by Carl Rogers. This approach emphasizes empathy, unconditional positive regard, and genuineness in the therapeutic relationship. By providing a safe and supportive environment, person-centred therapy aims to help individuals explore their feelings, gain insight into their experiences, and develop a greater sense of self-acceptance and personal growth.
The benefits of counselling are significant. By providing guidance, support, and practical solutions, counselling can help individuals overcome specific challenges and improve their quality of life. Whether dealing with relationship issues, work-related stress, or personal conflicts, counselling offers a safe space to explore emotions, gain new perspectives, and develop effective coping strategies. Additionally, counselling can enhance self-esteem, promote better communication skills, and foster personal empowerment.
Comparing Psychoanalysis and Counselling
While both psychoanalysis and counselling aim to improve mental well-being, they differ in their methods, philosophies, and the types of issues they address. Psychoanalysis delves deep into the unconscious mind, exploring childhood experiences and unconscious desires to uncover the root causes of present-day problems. In contrast, counselling focuses on providing guidance, support, and practical solutions to specific issues.
When choosing between psychoanalysis and counselling, it is essential to consider your specific needs and goals. Psychoanalysis may be the most suitable approach for you if you are looking for profound self-discovery, a deeper understanding of unconscious motivations, and resolution of long-standing emotional issues. Psychoanalysis offers a transformative journey that can bring about lasting change and personal growth.
On the other hand, if you are seeking practical problem-solving, guidance, and support for specific issues, counselling may be the better choice. Counselling provides a more focused and solution-oriented approach, helping individuals develop coping strategies, improve relationships, and overcome specific challenges.
It is worth noting that psychoanalysis tends to be a longer-term therapy, often requiring several sessions per week over an extended period. This intensive approach allows for in-depth exploration and analysis of unconscious material. Counselling, on the other hand, can be more short-term and focused, with sessions typically scheduled weekly or bi-weekly.
Ultimately, the choice between psychoanalysis and counselling depends on your needs, preferences, and resources. It may be helpful to consult with a mental health professional who can assess your situation and provide guidance on the most suitable therapeutic approach.
Psychoanalysis and counselling are two valuable forms of therapy that can support and help individuals navigate life’s challenges. While psychoanalysis delves deep into the unconscious mind, exploring childhood experiences and unconscious desires, counselling focuses on providing guidance, support, and practical solutions to specific problems. Understanding the distinctions between these therapeutic methods can help you make an informed decision and embark on a transformative journey towards personal growth. Whether you’re seeking profound self-discovery or practical problem-solving, there is a therapeutic approach that can help you find the support and guidance you need. Remember to consult with a mental health professional to determine the most suitable therapeutic approach for your specific needs.
Mental health is an essential aspect of our overall well-being. However, it is often overlooked, and many people suffer in silence. Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and trauma can significantly impact our lives. Seeking help from a therapist can be a game-changer, but finding the right therapist can be daunting. With so many options available, it is easy to become overwhelmed and unsure where to start. This article will provide tips for finding the best mental health therapist.
Importance of Finding the Right Therapist
Finding the right therapist can make all the difference in your mental health journey. A good therapist can give you the tools and support to overcome your struggles. On the other hand, a bad therapist can leave you feeling more overwhelmed and frustrated than when you started. Therefore, it is essential to take the time to find a therapist who is a good fit for you.
Factors to Consider When Looking for a Therapist
When looking for a therapist, there are several factors to consider. These include:
Identifying Your Specific Therapy Needs
Before you start your search, it is essential to identify your specific therapy needs. What issues are you struggling with, and what type of therapy would be most beneficial for you? For example, if you are dealing with anxiety, you may want to consider cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). If you are dealing with trauma, you may want to consider EMDR therapy. Identifying your specific therapy needs can help you narrow your search and find a therapist who specializes in the type of therapy most beneficial for you.
Researching Potential Therapists
Once you have identified your specific therapy needs, the next step is to research potential therapists. You can ask friends, family, or your primary care physician for recommendations. AMindset therapists work closely with medical centres and HK-based psychiatrists. You can also search online for therapists in your area. Read reviews and check out their website to better understand their approach and style.
Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist
Before making an appointment, it is a good idea to ask potential therapists some questions to understand their qualifications and approach better. Some questions you may want to ask include:
What is your experience treating people with my specific issues?
What type of therapy do you specialize in?
What is your approach to therapy?
What are your qualifications and credentials?
What is your availability, and what are your fees?
AMindset offers a free 20-min introductory session for our regular therapy sessions.
Evaluating the Therapist’s Qualifications and Credentials
When evaluating potential therapists, it is essential to consider their qualifications and credentials. This background check is particularly relevant in Hong Kong, where anyone can call themselves a counsellor, as therapy is still a relatively unregulated business. So look for licensed therapists with experience working with people with similar issues to yours. You can also check reputable associations to ensure the therapist’s qualifications are sound.
At AMindset, all of our therapists have a minimum of a Master of Counselling qualification and are members of a reputable association in Hong Kong, Australia or the UK. The AM Team.
Considering the Therapist’s Approach and Style
It is also important to consider the therapist’s approach and style. Some therapists may be more directive, while others may take a more collaborative approach. Consider what approach would work best for you and your specific therapy needs.
Practical considerations, such as location, availability, and cost, are also important when choosing a therapist. Look for a therapist who is conveniently located and has availability that works with your schedule. Be sure to consider your budget and whether the therapist’s fees are affordable.
AMindset offers online low-cost counselling (LCC) for eligible parties. We have scaled therapy pricing to help make psychotherapy affordable for everyone. We also offer a free 20-minute introductory session for non-LCC counselling.
Making the Final Decision and Starting Therapy
Once you have researched and identified potential therapists, it is time to decide and start therapy. Remember, finding the right therapist takes time and effort, but it is ultimately worth it. At AMindset, we have many therapists with varying specialities; we are here to help. And be sure to give yourself time to build a relationship with your therapist and be open and honest about your feelings and experiences.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Finding the best mental health therapist can be daunting, but it is an essential step towards improving your mental health and well-being. By identifying your specific therapy needs, researching potential therapists, and evaluating their qualifications and credentials, you can find a therapist who is a good fit for you. Be sure to consider the therapist’s approach and style and practical considerations such as location, availability, and cost. You can overcome your struggles with the right therapist and achieve a happier, healthier life.
Psychedelics have been used for thousands of years in traditional cultural and religious practices. However, in recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the potential therapeutic benefits of these compounds. The re-emergence of research into psychedelics has led to the development of new treatments for a wide range of psychiatric and behavioural disorders, including depression, anxiety, end-of-life despair, and PTSD. This article will explore the emerging trend of psychedelics in psychotherapy, including the use of MDMA and psilocybin, the safety of these compounds, and the training required for therapists.
Interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics began in the mid-twentieth century when countercultural forces combined with the rise of psychopharmacology to fuel optimism about psychedelic therapies. Between the 1950s and 1970s, psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin were given to tens of thousands of patients to treat conditions like alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, and end-of-life distress. However, research into these substances largely halted once they were classified as Schedule 1 substances under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
Between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, some therapists became interested in the promise of MDMA to kickstart psychotherapy. However, like psilocybin and LSD before it, MDMA’s therapeutic use was largely shut down when it too was made a Schedule 1 substance in 1985.
The Re-Emergence of Psychedelic Research
Despite being classified as Schedule 1 substances, research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics has continued in recent years. The Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research is leading the way in exploring innovative treatments using psilocybin. The molecular structure of psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in ‘magic mushrooms,’ allows it to penetrate the central nervous system, and the scientific and medical experts are just beginning to understand its effects on the brain and mind and its potential as therapeutics for mental illnesses.
The Potential of Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy
Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy offers the hope of a new treatment whose rapid onset and enduring efficacy could outpace that of other psychiatric treatments. The promise of psychedelic therapies, combined with their cultural and historical significance, has led to their garnering huge amounts of attention for a treatment that remains in an investigational stage. Psychedelic therapies are discussed on the front page of the New York Times, best-selling popular books, documentaries, and beyond. Headlines declare a “new age for psychiatry” while political leaders from across the political spectrum have endorsed therapeutic access to these once-maligned and still-criminalized compounds.
The Safety of Psychedelics
Beyond clinical trials, much of the knowledge about classical psychedelics’ safety comes from epidemiological studies among recreational users. In these settings, psychedelics account for the least emergency room usage of all recreational drugs. However, it is essential to note that psychedelics should only be used in a controlled environment after several hours of preparation of study participants and followed by multiple sessions to integrate the psychedelic experience. The improvement participants experience appears related to the often profound perspective changes experienced and seems unlike the improvements seen in the currently available care paradigms.
Ensuring client safety is a top priority in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Therapists must receive specialized training in the use of these compounds, including how to manage adverse reactions. Additionally, clients must undergo extensive screening to ensure that they are suitable candidates for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.
The Use of MDMA in Psychotherapy
MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is currently being investigated as a treatment for PTSD. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been at the forefront of this research and has completed Phase 3 clinical trials that have shown promising results. MDMA works by increasing feelings of trust and empathy, which may help individuals with PTSD confront painful memories and emotions.
The Use of Psilocybin in Psychotherapy
Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy has shown promise as a treatment for a range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and end-of-life despair. Previous studies by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers showed that psychedelic treatment with psilocybin relieved major depressive disorder symptoms in adults for up to a month. Now, in a follow-up study of those participants, the researchers report that the substantial antidepressant effects of psilocybin-assisted therapy, given with supportive psychotherapy, may last at least a year for some patients.
Therapist Training for Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy
To provide psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy safely and effectively, therapists must undergo specialized training. The training typically includes an in-depth understanding of the pharmacology and effects of the psychedelic compound, strategies for managing adverse reactions, and methods for integrating the psychedelic experience into the therapeutic process. MAPS offers a comprehensive training program for therapists interested in providing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, and similar training programs are likely to emerge for psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy.
The Future of Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy
The emerging trend of using psychedelics in psychotherapy shows promise as a new treatment that could help individuals with treatment-resistant mental health conditions. As research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics continues, it is likely that new treatment paradigms will emerge that are tailored to the specific needs of individual patients.
Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy offers the hope of a new treatment whose rapid onset and enduring efficacy could outpace that of other psychiatric treatments. The re-emergence of research into psychedelics has led to the development of new treatments for a wide range of psychiatric and behavioural disorders, including depression, anxiety, end-of-life despair, and PTSD. Ensuring client safety is a top priority in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, and therapists must undergo specialized training to provide these treatments safely and effectively. As research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics continues, it is likely that new treatment paradigms will emerge that are tailored to the specific needs of individual patients.
Why people who need help with their mental health won’t go and get it?
The effects of the problem
Self-stigma is, if not the biggest, at least a major obstacle that prevents people from seeking psychotherapy or counselling when they face mental health issues. Many feel that they should be stronger, tougher, harder when what they really need is the courage to admit that they need help, and reach out for it. Since mental illness is often stigmatised in society as well, this increases self-stigma, putting up a barrier to asking for help, leading to feelings of isolation and fear in addition to the original mental health issue.
So people plod on, with often worsening long-term mental health issues and possibly, suicidal thoughts. The World Health Organisation states that 264 million people around the world suffer from depression, with rates of anxiety and other mental health conditions on the rise as well.
Self-stigma is a self-built, high wall that stops people getting the mental health support they need and are ultimately seeking.
Self-stigma is the elephant in the room. To overcome it, we must first understand it: self-stigma arises from a culture and society’s sometimes unspoken biases and prejudices against mental issues. This we then internalise. This reinforces a negative view of mental health issues. If we find that we ourselves have a mental health issue, we apply this negative evaluation to ourselves, as if they were true.
Overcoming social stigma can be difficult. Sometimes it is due to the severity of the situation, an implosion, if you will, at other times it is recognising ones own thoughts and beliefs that are holding us back from seeking help, then challenging them with evidence and reasoning, and sometimes just being brave and taking a dive into the unknown.
Where self-stigma exists, seeking help from mental health professionals can be challenging. Still, it is important to know that mental health professionals provide a safe, confidential, empathetic and non-judgemental environment for you to discuss your issues.
Where does the self-stigma come from?
Society recruits us into believing that we must be happy all the time. If we do not have the skills to do this then we are to blame: we are somehow broken. Over time this leads to us internalising this as being to blame. This makes it more difficult to ask for help. Far better if we were to treat a mental health issue, the same as, a broken leg for example, where we have no self-stigma, and seek professional help, which enables and shortens the time needed for healing.
How Psychotherapy Works.
As a psychotherapist, I see many patients and clients with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions who are benefiting from counselling, but who were reluctant to seek it. They were often overwhelmed, feeling hopeless, like no one could understand or help them. For years, they worried about what others would think and feared the judgement of others and professionals. Sometimes, they would see everyone but a mental health professional before coming to see me, treating the symptoms, looking for a temporary ‘fix’ to problems that were deep and dark and not shifting. There seems to be less stigma of going to an astrologer, Reiki, or other alternative healers than seeing a psychotherapist like me. The biggest reason for this is self-stigma.
One of the biggest benefits of counselling is that it provides individuals with an opportunity to speak about their thoughts, feelings and emotions freely, without being judged, criticised, ostracised or punished. Contrary to popular belief, counselling is not just for people with severe mental illnesses; it is for anyone who wants or needs to talk and find the best outcome for the challenges they are facing.
Psychotherapists know that there is no problem too big or small, boring or exciting, embarrassing, unexpected, harmful or harmless that it can be brought up in counselling. Counselling and psychotherapy have the ability to improve individual self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy, helping clients build positive and meaningful relationships with themselves and others.
By moving something, a thought, feeling, or experience out of the dark, shedding light on it, approaching it from different angles, its power over a person can be reduced, minimised, and ultimately, in most cases, removed. Alternatively by learning coping mechanisms and communication skills, counselling can also help individuals regulate their emotions, decreasing levels of anxiety and depression.
Counselling can also help individuals form a better understanding of themselves, their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, enabling them to identify and create happy and healthy patterns, enabling them to move towards making positive changes that improve their lives and that of those around them.
Self-stigma is a significant obstacle that prevents individuals from seeking help for mental health issues. However, if you are curious enough to take a first tentative step towards it, most mental health professionals and all the psychotherapists at AMindset, are open and willing to talk about how it works, answering your questions and concerns. If you do take the leap, it can lead to significant benefits, including improved self-esteem, healthy relationships and an all-round better life.
Elise Phillipson is a psychotherapist at AMindset (AM) in Central, HK and Central Health Medical Practice in Discovery Bay. You can find out more about Elisehere.
Please complete the AMindset intake form if you want to start your therapy with Elise or another AM team member. Our therapists offer a FREE 20-minute introductory session for new clients.
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