SOCW 6060 week 3



Week 3: 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.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • 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

Learning Resources

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.
Required Readings
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.

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
Document: Worksheet: Dissecting a Theory and Its Application to a Case Study (Word document)
Document: Theory Into Practice: Four Social Work Case Studies (PDF)
Required Media
Sommers-Flanagan, J., & Sommers-Flanagan, R. (2014). Counseling and psychotherapy theories in context and practice [Video file]. Retrieved from

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.
Optional Resources
Blakely, T. J., & Dziadosz, G. M. (2015). Application of attachment theory in clinical social work. Health & Social Work, 40(4), 283–289.
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
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 theory when working with clients.


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.

To prepare:

  • 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 Theoryand 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
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.
  • Responses

 Angelica Wiggins RE: Discussion - Week 3COLLAPSE

Freud’s psychoanalytical theory focusing on the individual’s “personality development, through three fundamental structures, the id, ego, and superego” (Auld, Hyman & Rudzinski, 2005). His theory addresses our internal struggles of right and wrong. 

Applying Freud’s psychoanalytical theory to women and individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups is not appropriate. He is not an easy man to understand and he seems very sexist. Freud stated, “women have less strongly developed superegos, and all women are passive, hysterical, and women have penis envy.”

I do, however, agree with him that early childhood development is important. Childhood experiences can indeed shape who you are as an adult. He brought to the light the importance of talking about our problems. That is psychology. His viewpoint about the unconscious is good. Our unconscious can influence our behavior (McLeod, 2014).

At the core, there were some things that Freud was right about in regard to his theories, however, he was incredibly sexist, and that goes against the social work values and ethics. He judged women harshly and viewed infants as insecure. His views on women and infants go against social work values and ethics. Social workers are to help people, not judge them and to set all personal feelings and beliefs aside. Social workers are “to not discriminate over another person’s race, religion, culture, beliefs, color, gender, their age, a person’s physical or mental appearance, as well as their age or marital status” (National Association of Social Workers, 2008). That deems this theory inconsistent with social work values and ethics.

 Ebony Mcennis RE: Discussion - Week 3COLLAPSE

Freud is definitely one of the most influential individuals when it comes to understanding the human mind. His theory also known as the psycho dynamic theory is actually a combination of both his ideas regarding theory and therapy. According to Freud (1915), the unconscious mind is the primary source of human behavior. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part you cannot see. The psycho dynamic theory states that experiences within our childhood have great influence on our adult lives. Our childhood is also where personality is shaped, and those events that occur within childhood can stick with a person within the unconscious and may cause issues in adulthood.  I think its fair to say that our values, feelings, and decisions are heavily influenced by past experiences, and as we grow and experience new things our old memories are held in our unconscious and may reappear if triggered. 

In regards to women and the psycho dynamic theory, we have to remember the time and the mindset most men had when it came to women. Freud is known for his controversial opinion about women, he felt they are defiant, and add no value to their own species. There is also an article where Freud says women have " penis envy" this was the outrageous notion that women in the adolescent stage end up resenting the mother because they do not carry male genitalia and this creates some separation between the mother and daughter.  I do not believe this one bit. I think its almost an insult to women as a whole. Now although Freud had some ideas that did not make sense, I understand the time period he lived in. To his defense he made several strides moving forward to understand women and even enlisted the help of Anna Q a social worker who is known for talk therapy. 

Last but not least, Freud's theory and application to minorities groups has been argued many different ways over the years. During this time Freud developed his theory during huge segregation and minorities were said to be inferior. This was also the same for testing, which has caused alot of Freud's data to be speculated. Now one may argue that the human mind is the same between all races, however I disagree. As Freud stated experiences shape who we are and for minorities the experiences of the time were more traumatic and I feel there could have beenalot learned from the time and how it affected individuals. Because Freud was biased against women and simply ignored minorities I do not think he falls compliant with the social work code of ethics, however the code of ethics has also been shaped over time and I feel Freud has made the human mind easier to understand. So in summary yes, the theory is not aligned with socialwork code of ethics, yes it discriminates against women and minorities. There is an understanding of the time and how over the years we have developed. I wouldn't count out Freuds theory completely, but we can not generalize this theory as the ultimate tool for therapy.

    • 5 years ago
    • 50

    Purchase the answer to view it

    • attachment
    • attachment
    • attachment
    • attachment