Ep 224 (Video): If Freud Worked Tech Support


A humorous way to learn about the Freudian defense mechanisms (actually elaborated by Anna Freud) of Displacement, Denial, Sublimation, Reaction Formation, and Projection. A little dream analysis thrown in. Who knows? Maybe Freud would have been good at tech support…(technically, this is a video version of episode 209).

Ep 202: How To Memorize Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development


Need to memorize Freud’s stages of psychosexual development for a test? Here’s a mnemonic that should do the trick. In this brief video, the founder of psychoanalysis gives you a mnemonic and explains the 5 stages for you. What do orangutans and ogres have to do with Freud’s stages? They’ll help you remember them, that’s what. Find out how in this episode and make sure to check out these other Psych Files episodes for psychology mnemonics: How to Memorize the Parts of the Brain, How to Memorize Erikson’s Eight Stages, and How to Memorize Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development. I love mnemonics here on The Psych Files so if you need to memorize anything else let me know!

Ep 192: An Example of How Psychoanalysts Really Interpret Dreams


Dream AnalysisWhat do psychologists really think about your dreamsdo they have meaning? In this episode I talk about what psychologists think today about dreams. You probably know that Freud thought that dreams had a manifest content (the people and things that happened in the dream that you remember) and a latent content (the unconscious meaning of the dream). Do we still think this? Also: can you look up in a book or online to find out what your dreams meant? If you dream about a cat for example – what does this mean? In this episode I explore these questions with author and psychoanalyst Kerry Malawista. She and her colleagues discuss this topic in their book, Wearing My Tutu To Analysis. I’ll talk to her and include my own thoughts about whether or not dreams have meaning and whether you should be taking the time to analyze them. [Read more…]

Ep 185: The Dynamics of Therapy: Transference and Counter Transference: An Interview with Kerry Malawista

Transference and countertransference are two key concepts in psychoanalysis and they are fascinating. If you’re interested in the therapy side of psychology – particularly psychoanalysis – this is the episode for you. Kerry Malawista, psychoanalyst and author, along with Anne Adeleman and Catherine Anderson, talks about their new book, “Wearing My Tutu To Analysis“. In this episode we focus on two of the stories in the book, which focus on transference and countertransference. [Read more…]

Episode 107: Freud, Projective Tests and …. Poetry


Picture of a Rorshach InkblotHow do the Rorschach, the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and the House, Tree, Person tests work? Do you reveal something about yourself when you tell stories about pictures or tell what you see in an inkblot or even when you do something as seemingly innocent as drawing a picture of a house? In this episode I try to answer these questions about the Freudian defense mechanism of projection as well as show you how a wonderful poem called How It Will End by Denise Duhamel could be an excellent example of psychology in everyday life.

Resources for this Episode

  • Many thanks to Denise Duhamel for allowing me to read her wonderful poem How It Will End on this episode. You can find out more about her here.
  • Click to hear Garrison Keillor read the poem in the September 28, 2009 episode of The Writer’s Almanac.
  • You can find more poetry by Denise Duhamel here: Denise Duhamel on Amazon

Projective Tests

  • The Rorshach Society of North America created this site where you can get a sense of what it is like to take the Rorshach test.
  • Information about the Rorshach Test from Wikipedia
  • Information about the Thematic Apperception Test from the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders
  • Iinformation about the Thematic Apperception Test from Wikipedia

Episode 12: Is Your Therapist Any Good? How Do You Know?

What is the frame in psychotherapy and why do we need to keep it from breaking? This week I discuss the importance of boundaries and guidelines set forth by Robert Langs, MD regarding how to know when your relationship with your therapist is healthy – and when it is not. I also talk about the concepts of transference and countertransference in psychotherapy.

Notes From This Episode

Download a Word doc on Lang’s guidelines for psychotherapy.

Go to the webpage for the European Society for Communicative Psychotherapy where you can learn more about Robert Langs’ work.

Here’s a good site, called Good Therapy for locating a psychotherapist

Guidelines for Psychotherapy

From the book: Rating your Psychotherapist
Author: Robert Langs, M.D.

1) Ideal conditions which constitute the "frame"

  • A single, set fee
  • A single, set location
  • A set time and length of the session
  • A soundproof office (or noise machine)
  • Relative anonymity of the therapist (no self-revelations or opinions, focus should be on the patient)
  • Total privacy
  • Total confidentiality

2) Referrals


  • Local Medical Society, Mental Health Association, or other professional organization
  • Recommendation from a friend who is a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker or other mental health worker
  • Employer, principal or lawyer recommendation


  • A co-worker, social acquaintance, or relative sees or used to see him/her and says he/she is good
  • Therapist is the wife/husband of one of your friends
  • Therapist is a friend or used to be a friend of the family

3) Your first interaction with the therapist


  • He/she was concerned and listening
  • Said nothing of a personal nature
  • No physical contact except for an initial or concluding handshake
  • At the end of the meeting the therapist set the ground rules for treatment


  • He was very physically demonstrative, that is, hugging or holding your hand
  • He/she came on to you sexually
  • Was unprofessional and self revealing
  • Talked more than you did

4) The fee and Schedule:


  • Set a single, reasonable, fixed fee
  • Won't let you build up debt
  • Won't accept gifts or other forms of compensation beyond the fee
  • Arranged a definite schedule for therapy (day, time, length and frequency) and these have not changed throughout the course of therapy (except when necessitated by work or life circumstances)


  • He/she is willing to falsify a fee to an insurance company
  • He/she negotiated a barter arrangement
  • There are repeated changes in time/location/day, length of sessions
  • Sessions start late because other patients stayed late
  • He/she lets you stay longer than the scheduled time

5) Treatment:


  • Treatment types vary a great deal (cognitive, behavioral, humanistic, etc.): but in all cases: Does it make sense to you?
  • Does it feel okay?
  • It should always remain a professional relationship
  • In general, the therapist should let you do most of the talking


  • Therapist keeps directing you to talk about particular issues (your marriage, your sex life, etc.
  • He/she frequently tells you what they think you should be doing with your life ("If I were you I would…)
  • The therapist is hostile, makes you feel guilty, or is seductive

6) Termination:


  • You felt like a sense of new insight and understanding had been reached and your symptoms had largely (though probably not completely) been resolved
  • It seemed like the right time to end therapy
  • A specific date was set and adhered to (didn't happen in an unplanned way)
  • All the ground rules mentioned previously had been maintained up until the end
  • Once therapy was over you had no further contact with the therapist


  • You decide impulsively to stop therapy and your therapist accepts this without encouraging you to consider your decision
  • Therapist badgers you to continue despite your feeling that it is time to stop. He/she insists that you still need help

Resources for this episode

Read Robert Lang’s book on psychotherapy on Amazon.

Episode #5: In Defense of Defense Mechanisms

Too many people dismiss Freud because he had a few controversial ideas, but I try to point out that many of Freud’s ideas were very influential and can, with a little attention, be seen in everyday life.

Click the image below to see a concept map of the defense mechanisms discussed in this episode.

Defense Mechanisms

Here are my show notes for this episode:

  • NOTE: I want to thank listener Allen Esterson for helping to improve the accuracy of the information in this podcast. While I retain here a typical definition and example for repression (holocaust victims), Dr. Esterson points out that Freud’s concept of repression is highly controversial and that there is good argument and evidence to suggest that we do not repress memories and that victims of the holocaust have not repressed their memories of their experiences. For more in-depth information on this topic, he recommends reading Erdelyi, M.H. (2006). The Unified Theory of Repression, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 29, 499-551, and the work of Richard McNally.

  • Repression. Blocking a threatening idea, memory, or emotion from consciousness.
  • Reaction formation. Transforming anxiety-producing thoughts into their opposites in consciousness.
  • Regression. Returning to more primitive levels of behavior in defense against anxiety or frustration.
  • Rationalization. Justifying one’s behavior or failures by plausible or socially acceptable reasons in place of the real reason.
  • Denial. Refusing to admit that something unpleasant is happening, or that a taboo emotion in being experienced. Note: Denial distorts the way you perceive events (“I am NOT angry at you”) repression blocks or distorts your memory of events (the so-called “repressed memories” in which a person was molested but up to this point had no memory of it).
  • Displacement. Discharging pent-up feelings, usually of hostility, on objects less dangerous than those that initially aroused the emotion.

Examples of Rationalization (taken from an Instructor’s Manual for Intro Psych, but I forget which book):

  • After Carla rejected him, Phil told his friends that he didn’t think she was very attractive and interesting, and that he really wasn’t all that crazy about her.
  • Jack told his parents that he got a C in his psychology course because all the As and Bs went to students who cheated on tests and had professionals write their papers.
  • Bill said that the reason he flunked out of college was because of the poor quality of teaching there.

Examples of Reaction Formation:

  • George feels that his younger son, Gary, is unattractive and not very smart. He accuses his wife of picking on Gary and favoring their other son.
  • Lucy dresses in provocative clothes and uses suggestive language although she fears that she is unattractive and she really isn’t very interested in sex.
  • John has a lot of unconscious hostility toward his father but he acts very affectionate toward him and tells other people that he and his father have a wonderful relationship.

Examples of Regression:

  • After Sue Ann’s baby brother was born, she began to talk baby-talk and suck her thumb.
  • Mary was homesick and anxious when she moved into the dormitory and started her first year in college. She began to sleep with her favorite teddy bear again.

Examples of Denial

  • Sixteen-year-old Tom had started using drugs, and the changes in his behavior made it pretty obvious, but Tom’s parents didn’t believe the school principal when she called to talk with them about the problem.
  • Bill, who is 50 years old wears clothes that you would see on teenagers and drives a sports car. He can’t see that he doesn’t look 30, or even 40, anymore.
  • Shakespeare: “The lady doth protest too much, me thinks.”
  • From Academic Earth: This lecture introduces students to the theories of Sigmund Freud, including a brief biographical description and his contributions to the field of psychology. The limitations of his theories of psychoanalysis are covered in detail, as well as the ways in which his conception of the unconscious mind still operate in mainstream psychology today.