What are the types of therapy associated with the Erik Erikson — Psychoanalytical ego psychology theory?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Erickson's psychoanalytical ego psychology theory is based on accomplishing a goal after going through a developmental challenge based precisely on the fact that we all will change as we grow, both physically and psychologically.

The basis of the theory is that, by the application of methodological approaches, the individual can achieve the developmental goal as long as no obstacle comes in the way. The biggest problem that comes out of interrupting the developmental processes is the negative affect that is created in the process, which renders the individual too traumatized to even try to undergo natural developmental challenges.

For this reason, there have been at least four types of therapy associated with Erickson's theory. These approaches operate under the Eriksonian premises that:

  1. all individuals develop and evolve psychosocially.
  2. there are specific goals to be met after each developmental stage.
  3. developmental challenges are natural, normal, and inherent to each individual.
  4. failure to accomplish the developmental "mission" will result in the exact opposite of the goal. Ex: trust vs. mistrust

With this foundation applied, the best therapeutic approaches are

  • Psycho-dynamic Approach- this the Freudian-based approach upon which Erikson bases his theory. It is based on discourse and interaction with the patient. It is the primary therapeutic application because it is through this interaction that the therapist can determine the developmental and psychosocial level of the patient, also being able to determine what is the "unfinished business" at hand.
  • Psycho-historical Analysis- The application of the 8 stages of development to the lifespan of the patient and building a system of psycho-dynamics that will allow the patient to simulate a task of the missing developmental stage so that the challenge can be repeated and the goal can be met. Ex: a patient who does not trust anyone can mimic a moment where trust is put to the test. Once the trust is gained, the idea is that the developmental task has been accomplished.
  • Gestalt therapy- The application of psychoanalysis to extract the perceived awareness that the patient has of himself versus the reality of the patient. Through discourse, the patient discloses his or her inner fears and frustrations, self-image, and self-awareness and is slowly guided toward a real perception of the self.
  • Desensitization therapy- The process of exposing a patient to face a fear consistently in order to lose the fear of it. This approach is deemed Eriksonian because it is through a failed developmental task and through the obstruction of a task that individuals develop traumas. Hence, this type of approach helps individuals conquer their fears and move on.

Keep in mind that Erikson's theory is also known as the "Life Span Approach". What this means is that many different psycho-therapeutic approaches can be applied to his theory as long as it follows the Psychosocial development premises offered by Erickson.

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