Analytical Review of Freud and Jung’s Theories

Date: Apr 18, 2019
Category: Review Category


Play therapy is a method of counselling, which presupposes work with children with the purpose of analysing and understanding their emotional and psychological conditions. This method is widely applied all over the world, and Ireland is not an exception. With a variety of new counselling tools and approaches to the play therapy, it becomes one of the most prominent and reliable ways of comprehending children psychology and diagnosing any mental disorders or deviations. To a great extent, the psychological theories of child development, suggested by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, contribute to the contemporary play therapy in Ireland.

Freud worked on the issue of psychodynamic approach to the problem of child development and dwelled on the significance of sex drives and desires in the process of personality formation. Jung was the author of analytical psychology, which connected child development with the acquisition of archetypes and reflections of collective unconsciousness. This paper is going to analyse Freud and Jung’s theories of children development, discuss their main peculiarities, provide comparison of both approaches, and dwell on their significance for the development of play therapy in Ireland.

Freud’s Psychodynamic Approach to Child Development

Freud offered a psychodynamic approach to the issue of child development. His theory is based on the concepts of natural needs and demands, as well as the ways of their satisfaction during different stages of children growth and physical and mental development. His theory dwells on the existence of several stages of child development, according to the psychosexual demands and needs of individuals (Parkes, Stevenson-Hinde & Marris 1999).

According to Freud, the first stage of development (oral stage) lasts from the moment of birth to 18-24 months. During this period, mouth remains a primary erogenous zone. It means that a child finds satisfaction (and, thus, security) by touching mouth and stimulating areas around it. For example, all children tend to put toys and other objects into their mouths as well as touch them with their fingers. Analogically, one of the first natural instincts includes sucking, which also contributes to stimulating mouth and neighbouring muscles (Slee & Shute 2014). Freud concludes that the oral stage is connected with seeking satisfaction in the area of mouth for the sake of security and pleasure.

The next period is called anal stage, and it lasts from 2 to 3 years. At this period, children learn to take care of their bodies, use toilet, and acquire some hygienic norms. This process is essential for the normal mental development, and parents should provide all possibilities for children to explore their bodies individually and independently. From 3 to 6 years, children focus their attention on the exploration of their genitals and enter a new stage of development called a phallic one. At this period, children realise the differences between men and women and may develop an unconscious affection to a parent of the opposite sex (Slee & Shute 2014).

The next period, which lasts from 6 years to the puberty, is called latency stage. Freud supposes that this stage is characterised by reduction of sexual interest as children focus on the development of other skills and socialisation experience. The situation changes with the puberty period. Starting from this period, the genital stage occurs and lasts throughout the entire life of individuals. Freud explains that this is the last stage of psychodynamic development during which individuals awake their sexual needs and interests and focus on building relations with other people (Slee & Shute 2014).

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Freud’s method of explaining children’s emotional deviations and disorders in terms of psychodynamic approach has found its reflection in the play therapy. Freud suggests the usage of toys for expression of children emotions, since they do not possess sufficient verbal capacities to speak up. At the same time, Freud emphasises on the role of observation and examination of children games, as they are the main source of information about emotional conditions and psychological health (Schaefer, McCormick & Ohnogi 2010).

Additionally, play therapy based on the studies of Freud includes interpretation of dreams and speech flow as the children play. This method helps to reveal the unconscious motives and ideas of children and give information about their phobias and disorders. Nowadays, the Irish play therapy implements these methods and continues discovering personal unconscious with the help of role games, imagination activities, and interpretation of fairy tales (Schaefer, McCormick & Ohnogi 2010).

Jung Theory of Child Development

Jung’s analytical psychology bears some common features with Freud studies, although it also suggests a new approach to the theory of human development. Jung’s theory of personality focuses mainly on the issues of collective unconsciousness and role of fixed symbols (archetypes) in the development of individual values, beliefs, interests, and models of social behaviour (Parkes, Stevenson-Hinde & Marris 1999). When speaking about Jung’s contribution to the play therapy, the following features should be mentioned (Slee & Shute 2014).

The psychologist believes that small children do not have enough capacities and skills to form their individual identity and have to imitate the image of their parents. As a result, it is possible to say that parental behaviour is the key element determining children’s personality and mental development (Crellin 2014). Jung supposes that parents should be involved in the process of play therapy and spend enough time with children to balance their emotional background.

In the childhood, the role of collective unconsciousness becomes especially prominent, as it shapes personal expectations, behaviour, and thoughts. Again, Jung emphasises on the importance of fundamental symbolic patterns in the process of personality formation (Crellin 2014).

The Irish Analytical Psychology Association widely uses principles of Jung’s analytical psychology in play therapy. This organisation implements the ideas of archetypes and fixed symbols in work with children. Thus, play therapy includes such elements as sand-play, story-telling, active imagination, and dramatic performances of fairy tales. All these methods apply the usage of archetypes and analysis of children’s interpretations and explanations. According to the results, counsellors can form psychological portraits of patients and continue working on the reduction of any deviations (Krapp 2015).

Similarities and Differences in Freud and Jung’s Theories

To a great extent, Freud and Jung’s theories of child development are similar. For example, both emphasise on the role of unconscious in the development of personality and suggest applying this method in play therapy. Freud states that all sexual drives and ways of their satisfactions derive from the unrealised demands and interests of children at every stage of their development. Similarly, Jung claims that unconscious factors shape the way children perceive the world and form their imaginations about their egos and other individuals (Crellin 2014). Correspondingly, contemporary play therapy in Ireland focuses on the analysis of all children’s thoughts and ideas in the process of game, as they reflect their real emotional and psychological responses.

Secondly, both psychologists emphasise on the exclusive role of parents in the process of child development. For Jung, parents are primary models of behaviour and thinking to imitate and follow. Children are reflections of parents’ ideas, values, and attitudes. Both Freud and Jung believe that parents should be involved in the play therapy and take active role in observation and analysis of children’s behaviour. In fact, modern Irish play therapy techniques involve participation of parents and keep close contact with the families of young patients (Schaefer, McCormick & Ohnogi 2010).

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At the same time, Freud and Jung’s theories have some striking differences. The main one is connected with the interpretation of the unconscious. Freud says that the unconsciousness is the main source of mental traumas, hidden associations, and recollections from the past. For Jung, the unconsciousness is a broad meaning which includes three individual notions, such as ego, personal unconscious, and collective unconscious. In play therapy, interpretation of archetypes can strongly help to define children’s personalities and emotions. Children are offered to explain the meaning of familiar objects (sun, tree, mountain, etc.) and suggest their vision. This practice allows identifying children’s outlook and values (Schaefer, McCormick & Ohnogi 2010).

Additionally, two theories explain the role of sexuality differently. Freud views sex drive and sexual demands as the driving forces of development and socialisation. On the contrary, Jung does not agree on the paramount importance of sexuality in the process of personality formation. He states that it is one of the probable manifestations of the psychic energy, which does not necessarily influence personal development.


To sum up, Freud’s and Jung’s theories of child development represent prominent value for the contemporary Irish play therapy methods and practices. Both theories connect personal development with the influence of natural needs and unconscious motives and interests. They concentrate on the role of parents as models of social behaviour and ideas for children to imitate and follow.

Modern Irish play therapy combines practices and studies of these two psychologists and provide a complex research of children’s emotional and psychological conditions. Irish play therapy orients on various kinds of game activities, sand plays, role-plays, storytelling, and interpretation of objects with the purpose of comprehending children’s fears, worries, and inner conflicts.

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