Compares and Contrasts Two Mental Health Theories

Topic: Nursing
Words: 654 Pages: 2

Mental health theories have evolved to provide varied explanations for individuals’ behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Essentially, it is critical to comprehend a patient to care for them appropriately. When working with clients who have mental health illnesses, the practitioners continue to learn about their well-being and apply theories to aid in the understanding and treatment of psychiatric changes. Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory and Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development theory are two popular theoretical models.

Psychoanalytic theory is associated with Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist. Freud argued that mental illnesses were due to unresolved incidences of childhood origin (Halter, 2017). The theorist thought that a person’s formative experiences impact their adult lives, influencing their personality and life patterns (Halter, 2017). According to Freud, concerns from infancy produce psychological health difficulties. The conscious, preconscious, and unconscious parts of the mind are the three levels of psychological consciousness. The conscious mind is a state in which people are aware of their fantasies, feelings, memories, and thoughts. Halter (2017) claims that the preconscious component contains materials that may be easily recalled with conscious effort. Finally, all controlled desires, unacceptable cravings, and memories that an individual finds difficult and painful to deal with and are related to trauma are stored in the unconscious part.

Erik Erikson was an American psychoanalyst who lived from 1902 to 1994 in Frankfurt, Germany. From birth to death, Erikson believed that life is divided into eight stages of development. Early childhood (18 months to 3 years) (autonomy vs. shame and doubt), preschool (3 to 6 years) (initiative vs. guilt), school-age (6-12 years, industry vs. inferiority), adolescence (12-20 years, identity vs. role confusion) (Halter, 2017). Moreover, early adulthood (20-35 years, intimacy vs. isolation), middle adulthood (35-65 years, Generativity vs. self-absorption), and later years (65 to death, integrity vs. despair) (Halter, 2017). Erikson’s developmental paradigm is an essential part of patient evaluation. Generally, the model can identify age-appropriate or inhibited development of basic interpersonal skills by analyzing behavior patterns.

Freud’s and Erikson’s theories are both concerned with human development. In essence, both theorists think that a person’s personality develops in predetermined stages, with early life events impacting adult life. Erikson acknowledged the significance of the unconscious in development like Freud (Cherry, 2019). According to Cherry (2019), Erikson felt that each stage is effectively built on past experiences, which means that if a person misses development in one step, it is difficult to progress to the next. Erikson felt that personality evolves through a succession of stages. Nonetheless, there are some differences, especially in interpretation and approaches. Additionally, unlike Freud’s psychosexual phases theory, Erikson’s model considers the impact of social experiences throughout one’s life (Cherry, 2019). Generally, Freud’s approach is based on psychosexual qualities, whereas Erikson’s is centered on psychosocial aspects.

Freud and Erikson’s theories can be applied in nursing practice. Freud’s theory is crucial because the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind will help a nurse discover the source of a patient’s various acts and behaviors (Halter, 2017). Erikson’s framework provides realistic development objectives; hence, it helps shift a therapist’s perspective from focusing solely on pathology and the past to including the acquisition of skills and qualities required for the client to progress toward a certain future (Knight, 2017). According to Knight (2017), this approach contributes to the realization that personality is a process that evolves through time, and therapy is a place where a new sense of self can emerge. Generally, the caregiver can recognize the needs of the phases and create appropriate interventions for high-quality care.

In brief, Freud’s and Erikson’s theories equip healthcare professionals with the ability to comprehend human growth and to help patients learn about their unique needs. However, the approaches to development do not explain why people behave in certain ways, mainly based on previous experiences. Essentially, it is tough to recollect specific past experiences, and this is not always owing to a lack of growth, as some theories indicate.


Cherry, K. (2019). How do Erikson’s and Freud’s theories compare? Verywell Mind. Web.

Halter, M. J. (2017). Relevant theories and therapies for nursing practice. Nurse Key. Web.

Knight, Z. G. (2017). A proposed model of psychodynamic psychotherapy linked to Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 24(5), 1047-1058. Web.

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