“Psychoanalysis is a theory, a technique, an organization, a language, an ethos, an ethic, a climate” (Gellner 5). Sigmund Freud founded psychoanalytic theory in the 1920’s (Elliott). The basis for psychoanalytic theory is the unconscious mind. “Freud believed that people could be cured by making conscious their unconscious thoughts and motivations, thus gaining insight” (McLeod 1). The Psychoanalytic theory was brought into the criminology world to help explain criminal behavior and later help in the construction of policy implications. “The Freudian approach is firmly embedded in the predestined actor model of criminal behavior” (Burke 78). Even though this theory does provide an interesting approach to understanding criminal behavior that no one had ever contemplated before Freud it still under goes scrutiny. Psychoanalytic theory is often compared to the biological theory although these theories are similar they are also very different. The Biological Theory is focused more on the genetic makeup of why people commit crimes. Thus they believe that criminals are born this way and are predestined to commit crimes. Where Psychoanalytic Theory believe that we are born as blank slates and it is the things that happen to us in the early years of life that determine our ability to develop criminal behavior or not. 

            It all started with the clinical trial called Anna O. Freud worked with Dr. Josef Breuer on this case. Some even consider Breuer as the grandfather of psychoanalysis. Anna O was a case of a disturbed young lady. She suffered from high levels of anxiety mixed with phobias. Freud and Breuer treated and experimented with the treatment options of Anna O’s condition which laid the ground work for psychoanalysis (Meissner 21). Freud’s lectures and many books were based on this single case known as Anna O. The basis of the psychoanalytic theory is categorized by the id, ego, and superego. All these unconscious actions work together to balance each other out. The id is the instinctive unconsciousness which is the instincts we are born with as an infant. For example, when a baby is hungry the baby cries. The only thing to make the baby stop crying is to feed the baby. The ego is the rational part of the brain that develops a little later in childhood. For example, a 3 or 4 year old knows not to hit someone or they will get in trouble. Then the superego develops and the child knows not to hit because they will hurt the other person, thus gaining the moral aspect. The ego and superego are the main gateway for being accepted into society by controlling the id. The psychoanalytic theory related to crime comes from the imbalance of these id, ego and superego (Meissner 163). When these id, ego, and superego are imbalanced it causes people to commit crimes. Therefore, in regards to criminology the psychoanalytic theory suggests that every day occurrences are not the cause of the problem just simply triggers of underlying problems that has caused the imbalance of the id, ego and superego. The root to these problems is hid in the unconscious and must be brought to the conscious by psychoanalysis therapy. Psychoanalytic theory has been a major contribution and laid the ground work for many other personality theories for instance; Freud’s Psychosexual Theory and Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages Theory    Along with every theory there come criticisms. One criticism of psychoanalytic therapy is the cost of the treatment and the effectiveness. It may take many sessions a week or years and even then the effectiveness of the psychoanalytic therapy can be questioned (Cherry).  A few criticisms of this theory according to are; concepts seem poorly designed, lack of scientific proof, case-study method (used neurotic wealthy European females), and overemphasis on sexual drive. Another major criticism of Psychoanalytic theory is that, “most of Freud’s ideas were based on case studies and clinical observations rather than empirical, scientific evidence” (Cherry).  Therefore, the empirical validity of this theory has been compromised. It is for the most part widely accepted that psychoanalytic theory is not a scientific theory. For several obvious reasons mainly because the theory is a tautology because it is not testable. This theory is not measurable either because the unconscious mind cannot be measured. Many aspects of the psychoanalytic theory also entertain the idea of circular reasoning and often open-reasoning. This means that the evidence can be interpreted or reinterpreted to prove the theory correct.  

            In regards to policy implications the Psychoanalytic theory play a big role in a few of the major implications set into place today. Probation is one of the policy implications psychoanalytic theory plays a part in. For many years’ probation and case work relied on the aspects of sociology but it has been discovered that psychoanalytic theory also helps to get a deeper understanding and better results in probate’s (Smith). Another policy implication that is straighter forward is rehabilitation. Our Justice system has many implications for rehabilitation. Drug rehabilitation, Juvenile corrections, and access to therapy while incarcerated are a few. Psychoanalytic Theory believes that if these offenders can bring their unconscious motives for acting out and committing crime to the surface they can be corrected and will prevent the offenders from committing future crimes.

            The Psychoanalytic Theory has made many contributions in the world of criminology especially in the policy implications in recent years. There are criticisms to every theory just as there are for this one. It is very rare that there is an anonymous agreement on every aspect of a theory. Even though there are fallacies in this theory there are other many great aspects that have helped develop and spark ideas for other great theories. Hopefully one day we will have enough information to be able to prevent these criminals from acting before the crime is committed. Until then we have many theories to think about and the policy implications that can possibly help prevent future crimes from being committed.

Works Cited

Burke, Roger H. An Introduction to Criminological Theory. 1st ed. Cullompton ,Denon &

            Portland, Oregon: Willan Publishing, 2001. Print.

Cherry, Kendra. "What is Psychoanalysis?"             <>.

---. "What is Psychoanalytic Therapy?" 11/21/12             <>.

"Critique of Psychoanalytic Theory." 22 Sep. 2003 2003.Web.             <>.

Elliote, Anthony. Psychoanalytic Theory an Introduction. Oxford UK & CAmbridge USA:

 Blackwell Bublishers, 1994. Print.

Gellner, Ernest, et al, eds. The Psychoanalytic Movement the Cunning of Unreason. 3rd ed.

 London: Arrangement of with HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 1996. Print.

McLeod, Saul. "Psychoanalysis." 2007.Web. 11/20/12


Meissner, W.W., S.J., M.D. Freud and Psychoanalysis. Ed. Earnet D. Carrere O.C.S.O. University

 of Notre Dame Press, 2000. Print.


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