This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special
English. I'm Faith Lapidus.
I'm Bob Doughty. The work and theories
of Sigmund Freud continue to influence many areas of modern culture.
Today, we explore Freud's influence on the treatment of
mental disorders through psychotherapy.
Freud was born May sixth, eighteen fifty-six, in Moravia, in what is now the
Czech Republic. He lived most of his
life in Vienna, Austria. Early in his adulthood,
Freud studied medicine. By the end of
the nineteenth century, he was developing some exciting new ideas about the
human mind. But his first scientific
publications dealt with sea animals, including the sexuality of eels.
was one of the first scientists to make serious research of the mind. The mind is the collection of activities
based in the brain that involve how we act, think, feel and reason.
used long talks with patients and the study of dreams to search for the causes
of mental and emotional problems. He
also tried hypnosis. He wanted to see if
putting patients into a sleep-like condition would help ease troubled
minds. In most cases he found the
effects only temporary.
Freud worked hard,
although what he did might sound easy.
His method involved sitting with his patients and listening to them
talk. He had them talk about whatever
they were thinking. All ideas, thoughts
and anything that entered their mind had to be expressed. There could be no holding back because of
fear or guilt.
believed that all the painful memories of childhood lay buried in the
unconscious self. He said this part of
the mind contains wishes, desires and experiences too frightening to recognize.
thought that if these memories could somehow be brought into the conscious
mind, the patient would again feel the pain.
But this time, the person would experience the memories as an adult. The patient would feel them, be able to
examine them and, if successful, finally understand them.
Using this method, Freud reasoned, the
pain and emotional pressure of the past would be greatly weakened. They would lose their power over the person's
physical health. Soon the patient would
Sigmund Freud proposed that the mind was divided into
three parts: the id, the ego and the superego.
Under this theory, the superego acts as a restraint. It is governed by the values we learn from
our parents and society. The job of the
superego is to help keep the id under control.
id is completely unconscious. It
provides the energy for feelings that demand the immediate satisfaction of
needs and desires.
ego provides the immediate reaction to the events of reality. The ego is the first line of defense between
the self and the outside world. It tries
to balance the two extremes of the id and the superego.
of Freud's theories about how the mind works also had strong sexual
connections. These ideas included what
he saw as the repressed feelings of sons toward their mothers and daughters
toward their fathers.
nothing else, Freud's ideas were revolutionary. Some people rejected them. Others came to accept them. But no one disputes his great influence on
the science of mental health.
James Gray at American University in Washington, D.C. says three of Freud's
major ideas are still part of modern thinking about the mind.
is the idea of the unconscious mind.
Another is that we do not necessarily know what drives us to do the
things we do. And the third is that we
are formed more than we think in the first five years, but not necessarily the
way Freud thought.
Freud was trained as a neurologist. He
treated disorders of the nervous system.
But physical sickness can hide deeper problems. His studies on the causes and treatment of
mental disorders helped form many ideas in psychiatry. Psychiatry is the area of medicine that
treats mental and emotional conditions.
Freud would come to be called the father of
Psychoanalysis is a method of therapy. It includes discussion and investigation of
hidden fears and conflicts.
Freud used free association. He would
try to get his patients to free their minds and say whatever they were
thinking. He also had them talk about
their dreams to try to explore their unconscious fears and desires.
His version of psychoanalysis remained the one most
widely used until at least the nineteen fifties.
is rarely used in the United States anymore.
One reason is that it takes a long time; the average length of treatment
is about five years. Patients usually
have to pay for the treatment themselves.
Health insurance plans rarely pay for this form of therapy.
has its supporters as well as its critics.
Success rates are difficult to measure.
Psychoanalysts say this is because each individual case is different.
recently, a number of shortened versions of psychological therapy have been
developed. Some examples are behavior
therapy, cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Behavior is actions; cognition is knowing and
patients in therapy want to learn to find satisfaction in what they do. Others want to unlearn behaviors that only add
to their problems.
In these therapies, patients might talk with a
therapist about the past. Or patients
might be advised to think less about the past and more about the present and
kinds of therapy involve movement, dance, art, music or play. These are used to help patients who have
trouble talking about their emotions.
In many cases, therapy today costs less than it used
to. But the length of treatment depends
on the problem. Some therapies, for
example, call for twenty or thirty visits with a therapist.
How long people continue their therapy can also depend
on the cost. People find that health
insurance plans are often more willing to pay for short-term therapies than for
Mental health experts say therapy can often help
patients suffering from depression, severe stress or other conditions.
some patients, they say, a combination of talk therapy and medication works
best. There are many different drugs for
depression, anxiety and other mental and emotional disorders.
however, say doctors are sometimes too quick to give medicine instead of more
time for talk therapy. Again, cost
pressures are often blamed.
Mental health problems can affect work, school,
marriage, and life in general. Yet they
often go untreated. In many cases,
people do not want others to know they have a problem.
disorders are common in all countries.
The World Health Organization says hundreds of millions of people
throughout the world are affected by mental, behavioral, neurological or
substance use disorders.
The W.H.O. says these disorders have major economic and
social costs. Yet governments face
difficult choices about health care spending.
The W.H.O. says most poor countries spend less than one percent of their
health budgets on mental health.
are treatments for most conditions.
Still, the W.H.O. says there are two major barriers. One is lack of recognition of the seriousness
of the problem. The other is lack of
understanding of the services that exist.
father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, left Vienna soon after troops from
Nazi Germany entered Austria in nineteen thirty-eight. The Nazis had a plan to kill all the Jews of
Europe, but they permitted Freud to go to England. His four sisters remained in Vienna and were
all killed in Nazi concentration camps.
Freud was eighty-three years old when he died of cancer
in London on September twenty-third, nineteen thirty-nine. Anna Freud, the youngest of his six children,
became a noted psychoanalyst herself.
Before Sigmund Freud, no modern scientist had looked so
deeply into the human mind.
IN THE NEWS was written and produced by Brianna Blake. I'm Faith Lapidus.
I'm Bob Doughty. You can download
transcripts and audio archives of our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Listen again next week for more news about
science, in Special English, on the Voice of America.