The Nexus Between Social Psychology and Psychoanalytic Family Therapy Essay

The Nexus Between Social Psychology and Psychoanalytic Family Therapy Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 2601

  • Pages: 10

The Nexus Between Social Psychology and Psychoanalytic Family Therapy

This paper addresses the connection between self and collectivism concepts of social psychology and psychoanalytic family therapy. It is revealed in the discussion in the paper that the link between the two psychology elements is very strong and thus the need for family therapy to solve some of the problems accruing from self and collectivism.  In essence the paper looks at the nexus by bringing out real life examples emanating from these socio psychology concepts. In essence there is affirmation that the two psychology disciplines are interrelated and one helps to improve the problems that are created from the other.


              Social psychology is the bit of psychology that deals with how the thoughts, feeling, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined or indirect presence of others.  It can therefore be insinuated that social psychology not only studies an individual but the whole society. In the study of social psychology therefore an individual is looked at a part of a society and not a unique entity. Thus in essence, an individual can affect others or be affected by others. On the other hand psychoanalytic family therapy studies an individual with the focus that, he or she emanates from a family unit. Basically the psychoanalytic family therapy focuses on the basic wants and fears that keep individuals from interacting in a mature way.

Family therapists find profound truths about system interactions and how they affect individuals in the family- in this case a family is a system unit. The nexus that come along this with the social psychology concept can be concluded to be that, studying a family is the beginning of studying the first interactive social unit and thus a strong bond is created between social psychology and psychoanalytic family therapy.

Psychoanalytic family therapy aims to free family members of unconscious constraints so that they interact with each other as healthy individuals. In essence, the bottom line is that psychoanalytic family therapists aim at changing an individual’s personality rather than the entire family. When individual character traits are changed in the society, then eventually the whole society is shaped towards a designated direction.

Concept of Self and Psychoanalytic Family Therapy

              The concept of self can be realized to advocate the underlying reality that every human being longs to be appreciated. This might be internalized at an early age when parents tend to appreciate their children. As a matter of fact, this shows a direct link with the concept of self and the psychoanalytic family therapy. The concept of self was studied by social psychologists in pretext or disguise of self awareness, self consciousness and self esteem.  On the other hand the internalized behaviors as a result of appreciating parents are like self confidence- this comes as a result of appreciative parents. This shows the bond between the concept of self and psychoanalytic family therapy since it is the realization of an individual’s self confidence for example that enables him/her to interact with others as a healthy individual.

         The concept of self is a controversial one such that psychologists have failed to agree on what self entails. It cannot be distinguished if self is what you are, something you want to be or something you were or something you aspire to be. Selfhood can be said to have two facets; that is its uniqueness and its innate tendency to preserve its integrity. There is a sociological self that can be identified by others owing to its distinctive attributes- this points at the social psychology direction.

                Family therapy involves the study of social relationships. This shows that as much as an individual is a self-being they relate to others on the basis of expectations formed by early experience probably gotten from the family as a social unit. This can be depicted by the fact that an individual learns the wrongs and the rights from the family. Therefore when the relationships in a family are in crisis the therapists come in to change the self that appears to be the source of the crisis so that they can harmonize the interaction in that family.

            The concept of self is perceived by Freud that an infant conceives itself as all encompassing and with time sees itself as distinctive and unique. In psychoanalysis individuals and their deepest motives are studied (Kohut 1971).  While family therapy studies social relationships, there is a relation that comes up with the expectations formed by early experiences. The result of the past relationships is the internalized objects – mental images of self and others developed from the previous experiences and expectations.  Example of this can be seem in racial prejudices- where an individual can have an internal feeling that he/she is inferior to another or a certain race is inferior to theirs or vice versa, this is by virtue of the experience they had in their previous life.

          The concept of self can be perceived with the development of language that comes with the boundary between one’s body self and one’s symbolic self. It is indispensable at this juncture to de-link the nexus between social psychology concept of self and family therapy since psychoanalytic family therapy endeavors to study social interaction and language is the vehicle in which this is done thus its development is crucial.  The broadening contacts with secondary (friends) and primary (family) groups and strangers develop increasingly defined boundary between self and groups or others thus showing the link between social psychology and psychoanalytical family therapy.

             The concept of self can be considered when an adolescent brings increasing differentiation between self and parents featuring battles for privacy and rights for distinctive as individuals make to break from parents. This is a scenario when the self ego creates a crisis. This in essence causes disharmony in the interaction within the family set up.

Thus the need for family therapy to harmonize interactions in this family becomes essential.  This shows a very common crisis between young people and parents and the link between the concept of self in social psychology and psychoanalytic family therapy. On the other hand, adulthood features maintain boundaries between one’s public and private selves, such as those of one’s work and family roles. It is common for adults to keep family roles distinct from their work, for instance men are known to keep their business deals private even from their wives.

                There is the notion of participants in social interaction tending to take the role of each other. This enables individuals to know how they are coming across to others and allows them to guide their social behavior so that it has desired effect. It is a situation when an infant tries to emulate the object that it appreciates. For young children therefore, parents offer models for idealization. In this case parents are selfobjects experienced as part of the self (Kohut 1971. 1977). Therefore, the believe and trust to the parent give the child the base of self-esteem. So there will be the need for psychoanalytic family therapy if the concept of self is not attained. This hence shows the bond between social psychology and family therapy.

                 Socially, the concept of self can be distributed such that socio- historical settings can give rise to a prevalence of a given self type in the society- a situation where we have a certain character in a society- and how in turn this can affect the society’s collective. This can affect the society collectively in terms of its attitude to religion, political and economic orders. This denotes that new social arrangements leads to new action or ways of doing things thus to new personality of people in the society.

This re-emphasizes the link between the self concept of social psychology and psychoanalytic family therapy since the latter tend to reshape individual’s personality in aim of facilitating societal integration. Though when identifying individual, people tend to peg them to their sociological setting, but still some types of self like the Machiavellians, authoritarians, high self monitors and introverts can be expected to act distinctly regardless of the setting or the environment they are in. Therefore it can be insinuated from this that there is an overriding concept of self in these characters, thus the need for psychoanalytic therapy that will see them may be change their personalities.

Concept of collectivism and psychoanalytic family therapy

              Collectivism is a concept is a social psychological idea that focuses on groups engaging in struggle for scarce resources of some sort. For instance, an individual is supposedly to be a self willed determine but the case of racism is which emanates from either deterministic external environmental forces or equally deterministic internal psychological forces does not give a provision for the latter. For example a child acquires racism attitudes and believes by observing those that are surrounding him/her -that is the media, parents and peers.

                The concept of collectivism is perceived in that it has characteristics of personal to the collective good i.e. to the societal betterment.  There is an assumption that individuals are members of a collective group. Thus, the family is the smallest unit of this collective group. As a child joins school they join another social group, regardless of the learned personalities from home they form other personalities. Therefore this concept of social psychology links to family therapy such that if the unwanted characteristic traits are not treated in the family unit, they will be transferred to another collective unit and this is a class (group of students)

               Collectivism values similarity and conformity rather than uniqueness and independence. Collectivism in this case gives a perception that individuals are grouped as per their similarity and conform to the standards set up by the setting they live in. There is no provision for uniqueness according to the concept of collectivism.  Thus the psychoanalytic family therapists can be linked to this social psychology concept of collectivism by changing the family set up in the effort of correcting a crisis, for instance if a family has members who are violent then this will be a time for family therapy to step in to curb the social psychological collective trait of violence.

               When cultures are more collectivistic, conformity tend to be higher and identification of groups also influences the amount of conformity. When people identify highly with a group they show more conformity than the low identifiers. When social identity is most important the norms attached to these identities guides the group members’ behaviors.  People from a collectivistic culture who identified highly with their group were less individualistic than low identifiers (Jetten, Postmes, and McAuliffe 2002). The social psychological concept of collectivism thus becomes linked to psychoanalytic family therapy since the latter can be used in addressing the critical and controversial cultures at the family level.

For example the family therapists can be used to correct stereotypic cultures like female genital mutilation by helping the individuals in the society practicing this act by changing their attitude towards this act. Also the perception of individuals on the basis of their race can be addressed using psychoanalytical family therapy. It is therefore an open secret that, using the above mentioned examples, there is a link between social psychology concept of collectivism and psychoanalytic family therapy.

            Another case where collective concept of social psychology applies is in suicide terrorism. This can be realized when suicide terrorism which is a function of culture martyrdom where an organization  establish social contracts of identity – as a living martyrdom- thus gaining prestige in the society. This can be addressed by applying psychoanalytic family therapy at the family level which will see the recruits retreating after learning the negatives of the actions. This in essence is a case where social psychology concept of collectivism can be resolved by the link it has with psychoanalytic family therapists.

                The two concepts of social psychology discussed in the paper (self and collectivism) provide ways in how the problems emanating from the concepts can be addressed using analytical family therapy. This depicts the bond that is found between the two and if used in the right way can be used to prevent some of the problems that are in the contemporary world like terrorism and suicide among the youth. The bond between social psychology and analytical family therapy comes by the fact that family therapy convenes families to help go one another- by improving the trait of an individual by allowing them to be independent; at the same time ensuring that people are related in the society. It is to this effect that the nexus between the two is indispensable.


Freud, S. Group Psychology and Analysis of Ego. Edition 17. London: Hogarth press, 1955.

Jetten, J “We are all individuals.”  Group norms of individualism and collectivism, levels of identification, and identification threat.  European Journal of Social psychology, 32, 189-207

  Justin, J Group domination and inequality in context: evidence of the unstable meanings social and dominance and authoritarianism (p 704-724)

 Kevin, A. Theory Models of Counseling and Psychotherapy. Barnes: Psychology press, 2004.

 Marc, M. Psychology and its Allied Disciplines. Chicago: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1984.

Shapiro, R. Family Dynamics and Object Relation theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.


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