Sigmund Freud

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What contribution did Freud make to pastoral counseling?

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Freud's theory on the subconscious and defense mechanisms can be used in pastoral counseling to help counselees understand their problem and even gain freedom from it.

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While opinion is divided as to whether psychoanalytical therapy theory is appropriately applied to Christian pastoral counseling, those who do practice and/or advocate its use identify several of Freud's contributions to psychology as being useful to pastoral counseling. The two most often cited elements of Freudian theory that contribute value to pastoral counseling are subconsciousness and defense mechanisms.

Subconsciousness theory explains that motivation and reactions may lie deep beneath conscious thought in recollections of past experiences that may mold our worldview and present stimulus responses. This may be useful in pastoral counseling (1) when motivations and behaviors of counselees seem to defy the limits of present circumstances and (2) when therapies seem to be rejected and/or have no measurable or meaningful effect.

Defense mechanisms--which include rationalism, acting out (as opposed to expressing painful memories in session), denial and repression--inhibit effective therapeutic counseling by redirecting the counselees responses to stimuli away from authenticity toward neuroses. Defense mechanism theory contributes to pastoral counseling when their recognition leads to the implementation of successful therapeutic strategies to disempower the defense to enable counselees to move from neuroses to authenticity.

[Reported of Dora in Freud's case, "Dora" (1901): "Thus she acted out an essential part of her recollections and phantasies instead of reproducing them in the treatment." (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. eNotes)

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