Psychoanalysis: Erik Erikson System Theory - Essay Sample

Published: 2023-12-28
Psychoanalysis: Erik Erikson System Theory - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Psychology Development
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1309 words
11 min read


Erik Erikson Stages of Psychosocial development is one of the essential psychoanalysis theories because it expands Freud's psychosexual development theory. According to Orenstein and Lewis (2020), Erikson's approach is built upon Freud's theory by drawing parallels in childhood stages and extending psychosocial development into adulthood. The theory divides psychosocial development into eight stages affected by the psychological, biological, and social factors in an individual's lifespan. (Orenstein & Lewis, 2020). Schultz and Schultz (2017) indicate that Erikson and his work have profoundly impacted psychoanalysis and the general culture, especially the human understanding of identity. As a result, Erikson's theory of psychosocial development makes for one of the essential psychoanalysis concepts. Therefore, Erikson’s System Theory is concerned with eight fundamental psychosocial tensions that individuals need to balance throughout their lives to feel a sense of mastery.

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Theory of Balanced Health

A disorder develops when one fails to handle the stages of conflicts in the various stages of development. The development of ego identity makes for one of the main elements of Erikson’s psychosocial stage theory. According to Schultz and Schultz (2017), human development involves a series of personal conflicts that arise as people grow and face new decisions and turning points from childhood, adolescence to adulthood. The turning point that a person meets at each developmental stage is the crisis and involves a shift in perspective. Erikson's theory indicates that people may respond to the situation in either a maladaptive or adaptive way (Schultz & Shultz, 2017). A maladaptive response prevents one from achieving the ego strengths required to tackle the next stage of development.

Erikson’s theory divides psychosocial development into eight different stages. Each stage is defined by two opposing psychosocial tendencies that are either positive or negative (Orenstein & Lewis, 2020). Erikson argued that each step provides an opportunity to develop a fundamental strength (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). Stage one, which, according to Orenstein and Lewis (2020), is the infancy period, is made up of trust vs. mistrust, whose necessary strength is hope. The second stage, known as muscular-anal, is characterized by anatomy vs. doubt, and it provides an opportunity for developing will (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). The next stage is the locomotor genital stage with initiative vs. guilt and is an opportunity to establish purpose. Latency is the fourth stage, and it features industriousness vs. inferiority. Latency also provides an opportunity to develop competency (Schultz & Schultz, 2017).

Then comes adolescence between the age of 12 and 18. It is characterized by identity cohesion vs. role confusion, and it provides an opportunity to develop fidelity (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). The sixth stage is young adulthood between the age of 18 to 35 with intimacy vs. isolation. Young adulthood is an opportunity to develop love. According to Schultz and Schultz (2017), adulthood is the seventh stage between the ages of 35 and 55. It is characterized by generality vs. stagnation and allows an individual to develop care. The last step is maturity-old age, where human experience ego integrity vs. despair. Those who reach the maturity stage can experience the maturity stage of developing wisdom as basic strength.

Theory of Balanced Health

Based on Erikson's psychosocial development theory, the disorder can be avoided or resolved by developing the required strength in each stage through appropriate responses. According to Schultz and Schultz (2017), an appropriate response would constitute both the adaptive and maladaptive mechanisms. For example, the first stage has trust vs. mistrust as the primary personal conflict that the child experiences. Trust would be the adaptive response, while mistrust would be the maladaptive response (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). Therefore, an adaptive response alone would make the individual too gullible and would need a maladaptive response to provide some form of protection. That is why the ego at every developmental stage requires a positive attitude that will be balanced by the adverse reaction. According to Schultz and Schultz (2017), only at that balanced point can the crisis be considered satisfactorily resolved.

Assessment Method

Erikson believed that assessment techniques should be selected and modified to fit the individual patient (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). According to Schultz and Schultz (2017), Erikson's theory relied on three main assessment techniques. The first one is play therapy, which is used on emotionally disturbed children. The assessment method works by providing various toys to the child and observes how the child interacts with the toys (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). Play therapy is suitable for children because of their limited ability for verbal expression.

The second one is the psycho-historical analysis, which, according to Schutlz and Schultz (2017), it was Erikson’s most unusual assessment technique. The method focuses on a significant crisis, such as an episode representing a considerable life theme that unites the past, present, and future activities. It sees the therapist adopt the patient's viewpoint as his or her own to assess life events through the individual's eyes. The third method is psychological tests for personality assessment. The technique uses the ego identity scale, the Loyola Generativity Scale, and the Ego Identity Process Questionnaire (Schultz & Schultz, 2017).

Treatment Method

The treatment method of psychological disorders based on Erikson's theory involves the psychic reworking of the psychosocial development stages (Vogel-Scibilia et al., 2009). According to Vogel-Scibilia et al. (2009), the transformation of the patient's self is the dynamic and responsible agent for recovery. Psychic reworking of the psychosocial development also involves instilling hope and optimism. According to Vogel-Scibilia et al. (2009), healing consists of empowering oneself to live.

Most of the work in Erikson’s treatment method lies in the first three stages, while the next five steps have somewhat blurry boundaries (Vogel-Scibilia et al., 2009). Vogel-Scibilia et al. (2009) also indicate that the other five stages can be treated more quickly if the individual's personality development has been supported and secure. Keeping an individual's personality allows the strengthening of the ego, allowing them to move forward to the next stage.


Change occurs by overcoming symptoms or setbacks through recovery and developing positive adaptation skills (Vogel-Scibilia et al., 2009). According to Vogel-Scibilia et al. (2009), recovering individuals do not recover in isolation but instead engage others in their recovery strategy. Also, the patients experience the formation of the ego skills and strengths required to complete a psychosocial stage (Marcia & Josselson, 2013). Erikson's theory of psychosocial development posits that each step involves the building of a particular strength area. Therefore, the change that will occur due to the treatment will include the development of respective strengths. Also, the patients will see growth in personal history as the developmental stages unfold. The meanings that they make of the early or later experiences change to reflect the current changes and necessities (Marcia & Josselson, 2013).


According to Erikson's theory, any therapeutic process for the formation of ego skills and strengths is needed for every stage (Marcia & Josselson, 2013). According to Marcia and Josselson (2013), the therapist informed by Eriksonian stage theory would want to see the patient adapt to their respective age group's normative crisis. Furthermore, therapists aim at promoting a more personal relationship during therapy (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). According to Erikson, the psychoanalytic couch's Freudian method could lead to sadistic exploitation, hence creating an illusion of objectivity. Instead, Eriksonian theory advocates using a comfortable chair where the patient and therapist face each other so that the patient and therapist could view each other as equals. Finally, Vogel-Scibilia et al. (2009) indicate that the long term goal of Eriksonian therapy is to internalize a healthy identity that is separate from the psychiatric disability.


Orenstein, G. A., & Lewis L. (2020). Eriksons Stages of Psychosocial Development. StatPearls Publishing.

Marcia, J., & Josselson, R. (2013). Eriksonian personality research and its implications for psychotherapy. Journal of Personality, 81(6), 617-629.

Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2017). Theories of personality. Cengage Learning.

Vogel-Scibilia, S. E., McNulty, K. C., Baxter, B., Miller, S., Dine, M., & Frese, F. J. (2009). The recovery process utilizing Erikson’s stages of human development. Community mental health journal, 45(6), 405.

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