Much of Freud's work/methods have been discredited. So what if any of his work ha remained useful?

Much of Freud’s work been discredited/(or is it his methods?). So what if any of his work has remained useful in modern psychology?Is Freud’s work still taught as a foundation course in Psychology?
I look forward to your feedback.

References to Freud’s work (and that of other psychoanalysts) still appears in Psychology 101 textbooks but mainly in the historical background section. Likewise, it is also referenced in Personality classes and The History of Psychology classes in a little more detail but generally as history only. The same is true for the work of a lot of other early Psychologists as well. I would say that modern Psychology didn’t really begin until the 1950’s with the work of B.F. Skinner. Work prior to that is mainly referenced as nothing more than history whereas Skinner’s work still has scientific relevance.

It’s not so much that Freud was wrong (although he was, and often) it’s that he wasn’t doing what we now consider science. He didn’t test anything, his claims are largely unfalsifiable, and his methods don’t work any better than any of the others, and often they’re worse.

If we look at his impact on popular culture, art and public discourse, however, he’s still huge and his work remains useful on that front. If I look at a piece of art and tell you I think it’s exploring the Oedipal urges of the artist, you know what I mean, and you know that thanks to Freud (even though in psychology we now know that the Oedipal Complex as a normal stage of human psychosocial development is a load of Dingo’s Kidneys.)

Call him a philosopher, or an observer of the human condition, and he’s still a pretty cool dude with some neat ideas that may pertain to some people some of the time. He’s just not a psychologist/scientist in the way we now demand of our mental health professionals.

The Master speaks.

And although I’m unable to find column in the archive, I remember that Cecil did say that despite his quackery, Freud deserved credit for positing the existence of the subconscious, and its influence on behavior. That was an improvement over spirits and crap like that.

No, that was Fechner, as well as a slew of others. Freud *popularized *the existence of the sub/unconcious, but it was posited long before him, in many forms, many of which he did duly credit in his own work. His own take on it was the famous id/ego/superego, which again works much better as philosophy than as today’s psychology.

Very similar to my initial thoughts. Overall, it’s more helpful to think of him as a theorist or philosopher. We generally rely on more evidence-based approaches now, and we have a better understanding of the brain which makes it easier to use empirical evidence in psychology.

Freud was undeniably important because he was the father of “the talking cure”–talk therapy–which works if done right. CBT is effective according to real, empirical evidence. Psychoanalysis is based almost completely on the subjective.

Also, like any other thinker, Freud’s work would have been different had it been a different time period, and not just because of scientific innovations. His attitude towards women is outdated, as are his attitudes towards sexuality in general.

It’s interesting shit, though.

In many ways, Freud’s work was a continuation of, rather than a protest against, 18th and 19th century ideas about “spirits and crap like that.” For more on this subject, see Henri F. Ellenberger’s monumental The Discovery of the Unconscious. A great read.

[ETA: The first paragraph below is a reply to Shagnasty’s post, which was all that was there when I started.]

Psychology most certainly did not become “modern” or a real science, or whatever it is that you are trying to say, either in the 1950s or with the work of Skinner, (who probably has few more loyal followers than Freud does, these days). As an experimental, laboratory science, psychology began in the 1870s, developing out of physiology, with the work of Wilhelm Wundt and others in Germany. It was transformed in the 1910s in the USA by the theories and methods of the behaviorist movement in the USA, led by John B. Watson, and was transformed yet again in the 1960s and 1970s by the cognitive psychology movement, which rejected much of behaviorism, returned, in some res, to more sophisticated versions of the experimental techniques first developed in Wundt’s time, and based its theories largely on models drawn from information theory and computer science. If one were to insist on knowing when psychology became a “modern” or “real” science one could make a case of any of those three periods: the 1870s, the 1910s, or the 1960s-‘70s. The 1950s and Skinner do not really figure. The 1950s were a period in which behaviorist psychology was in decline, as problems with its approach became more apparent, and Skinner was, in effect, the last of the significant behaviorist theorists, attempting, largely unsuccessfully, to rescue the movement from its decline. Early behaviorists like Watson were generally fairly sympathetic to Freud’s ideas, late ones like Skinner were much more critical of them, but in fact their concerns simply did not overlap very much with those of Freud. Freud was not a hugely significant influence on any stage or aspect of the development of psychology as a science, even during the period when his theories, in their own domain, were very influential.

Freud’s field was not really psychology but psychiatry, a branch of medicine. There is overlap and much exchange of ideas between psychology and psychiatry, but they are not the same thing and have often developed largely independently of one another. Ideally, the relation between them might be similar to that between physics and engineering, with psychiatrists guiding their practice according to well established psychological theories, but in practice psychology (most areas of which have little concern with, and little directly to say about, mental illness), as a very young science, has not advanced to the stage at which it very often has much to offer to psychiatrists, who must continue to deal with mentally ill patients as best they can, even though their diagnoses and treatments may not always have a very solid foundation in scientific psychological theory.

Freud’s theories owed little to the laboratory psychology of his day (that of Wundt and his immediate successors). They owed slightly more to the neuroscience and neurology of his day, but still not all that much (and, in any case, neuroscience was still in a very undeveloped state then compared to now). His theories were mainly developed by himself in the course of his interactions with his psychiatric patients, and were designed to guide and justify his treatment of them. The discrediting of his theories over the last few decades has had relatively little to do with theoretical or empirical developments in scientific psychology (although there have been plenty of those), but practical developments within psychiatry itself (and, to some extent, within neuroscience). In particular, numerous drugs have been discovered that seem to provide a treatment for many psychiatric problems that is both more effective and much cheaper than the sort of extended psychotherapy advocated by Freud and his successors. This has made Freudian theory, which is elaborate, complex, and difficult to properly learn, seem largely redundant. From its beginnings, many people criticized Freud’s theories as being fanciful, implausible in many respects, and poorly founded upon empirical evidence. However, these sorts of criticism only really became widely accepted when psychiatrists no longer needed the theories nearly as much to guide their practice, because they had found something better (primarily drugs).

That said, I do not think Freud’s influence has by any means entirely died out within psychiatry. For one thing, I am fairly confident that there still a few Freudian psychoanalysts practicing, providing a service to rich clients who can afford and who like the close attention of a therapist, and the pseudo-profundity of full-blown Freudian theory. (Of course, Freud himself also spent his time ministering to the very rich.) More importantly, though, there is a continuing influence of Freud’s therapeutic methods (although not so much his theories) on the treatment of those psychiatric problems that (and there are still many) that are not very amenable to drug treatment. He effectively invented the talking therapy, the idea that people with psychiatric problems could often be helped simply by talking things over, at length , with a sympathetic, non-judgmental listener. Plenty of this still goes on, and to some extent it continues to be guided by theories that are ultimately in large part descended from the theories of Freud, although usually greatly simplified, and stripped of their more elaborate and fanciful elements.

The one thing I think maybe he did get right and was perhaps, if not entirely original, at least ballsy enough to deserve mention: he knew that kids are not asexual. During a time period which viewed children as angelic innocents, he recognized that they’re really not - they’re just as prone to anger, aggression, lies and yes, sexual/genital impulses as adults are, although they may express them in different ways.

Of course, that lead to half a century of trying to restrain, shame and punish children out of their sexuality, which was probably not the greatest strategy ever.

And yes, I agree with **njtt **that talk therapy, including what nurses learn as “therapeutic communication techniques” owes a great debt to Freud. Although true Fruedian psychoanlysis is largely ineffective at changing behavior or relieving depression/anxiety/phobias, talking in a therapeutic way, using specific techniques such as modeling, reflecting and restating, is useful for processing grief, facing specific fears, bettering decision making and other important issues we all have to deal with sometimes. Freud got that ball rolling, at least.

Freud had the insight that the unconscious was hidden, but that it could still be probed in a kind of “black box” fashion. He was the first to see that the unconscious reveals itself (Freudian slips.) He pioneered the method of probing the unconscious – the psychoanalytic method – to try to get close to those sensitive areas that mind is protecting.

These are fairly primitive ideas…but he was the first to develop them. He was working scientifically within his limits. You might say a child poking a stick into a wasp’s nest to find out how far he can go until it explodes is also working scientifically. Freud’s work was, perhaps, primitive in that way, but it was not “quackery.”

ETA: Technically, as I understand it, the word “quack” only applies to a doctor who knows his snake-oil is bunkum. A doctor who seriously thinks he’s doing good, but is deluded, isn’t a “quack,” merely a fool. Freud may very well have been a fool, but he was not a quack.

He was not a fool either. Freud was manifestly highly intelligent (though perhaps a bit short on the old humility). Being wrong does not make someone a fool.

While Freud’s work is considered largely bunk in academic psychology, his work on defense mechanisms (projection, repression, sublimation, etc.) is still considered valuable.

Thank you all for your very helpful replies.

You could say that the usefulness of Freud’s work has lived on in the field of public relations and advertising. In the 1920s, Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, took his uncle’s work on the subconscious and its role in informing our conscious decisions and applied it to influencing the masses. By appealing to people’s subconscious desires and fears, he wrote, it’s possible to “regiment the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments their bodies.” Politicians used his ideas to shape public opinion, and corporations hired him to direct ad campaigns. It’s thanks to Bernays that sex is used to sell everything from chewing gum to cars.

One of his better known accomplishments in social engineering was making it socially acceptable for women to smoke so that tobacco companies could sell more cigarettes. And in the 1950s, he generated a propaganda campaign in the U.S. that created an irrational fear of attack from, of all places, Guatamala, in order to protect the United Fruit Company’s interests there. It was so convincing that Eisenhower authorized the overthrow of the democratically-elected leader of Guatamala.

Whenever I see a propaganda campaign or a commercial based on fear (U.S. invasion of Iraq) or sex (take your pick), I see the hand of Freud, through his nephew Edward Bernays.

Personally, I agree with this. I was trying to leave room for dissent without dragging it into a debate.

Freud happened to be the first writer I had ever read who used the “academic style,” and so I will always be fond of him for this. I imprinted upon him like a baby duck upon its mama.

(I’m also very fond of Konrad Lorenz…who had certain issues of his own…)

Without Freud, it might have taken years longer to discover that cocaine is a safe anaesthetic for eye surgery. Before that was discovered by him, eye surgery was done without any anaesthetic at all.

I’m a novice but I also have read that his theories on dreams were illuminating as well, if not ultimately a bit over-wrought.

The contribution I still use and find helpful is the concept of repetition compulsion. I think you can see a lot of reaction formation in the real world, also, eg conservatives and homosexuality.

Umm, no, I would say that Freud’s very elaborate theories about dreams (which were fairly central to his overall theory) are probably one of the most thoroughly discredited aspects of his views, amongst most academic psychologists these days.

Of course, it is not very long since Freud’s theories as a whole were still very widely taken very seriously, and there are still some academics and therapists who do so. Indeed, undoubtedly even now there are still a few thoroughgoing believers around, still defending his ideas. Indeed, there are still scholarly psycohanalysis (i.e., Freudian) journals being published. Another.

You might very well have read something saying what you say, but you can’t take any odd article you might have read as representing the scientific consensus, especially if it was written a few years ago.

Well yes, but did we really need Freud to tell us that stuff like that happens? People have long known about hypocrisy in its various forms. Freud gave some some types of hypocrisy fancy, scientific sounding names, and provided an elaborate theory to explain them. The new names have lived on even amongst those for whom the theory is discredited, but the phenomena are not new and were not first recognized by Freud.