Freudian Psychology is considered by many to be pseudoscience, but as pointed out in another answer, there have recently been increasing numbers of comparisons between psychoanalysis and other depth psychology schools (e.g. a long-term study of CBT vs psychoanalysis for depression, where CBT is not much effective) with results which show that
- psychoanalysis is just as effective as CBT for many disorders,
- it is more effective for certain disorders, and
- it is less effective for others.
In other words, psychoanalysis and CBT are both appropriate for certain patients and disorders and that the decision between them has to be made case by case.
Freudian psychology is still applied, and Freudian psychoanalysis is still actively used today and according to the Science Council, Science is...
...the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.
It is in the scientific evidence where the support of the Freudian approach is limited. However, Freud's ideas have never been extensively assessed scientifically. For instance, there is no unambiguous evidence that psychoanalysis works (Horgan, 1996) and supporters of Freud’s theories are believed to be influenced mainly on the confirming evidence, while they largely ignore the disconfirming cases (Shermer, 2011). Indeed, Sulloway (Dufresne, 2007) argues that...
The greatest failing of psychoanalysis is its blatant rejection of the
scientific method. Without such methods for critical thinking, a
discipline inevitably drifts from one pseudoscientific system of
belief to another.
It should be stressed, however, that the human psyche is extremely complex and largely not understood. Other theories that are generally regarded as valid science, such as the string theory in astrophysics have never been proven either, and the relativity theory of Einstein took about hundred years to be proven right.
Indeed, distinguishing between science and pseudoscience is problematic (Shermer, 2011). As covered in this answer to Does suppressing a desire make it more powerful?, Freud's work is derived from empirical evidence and backed up with high profile journal articles. Nonetheless, in the gray area between science and pseudoscience, according to eminent critics such as Karl Popper, Frank Cioffi, and Adolf Grünbaum, the theories of Freud are generally placed in the area of pseudoscience as they are seen as non-falisifiable.
Many authors assume that to be pseudoscientific, an activity or a teaching has to satisfy the following two criteria (Hansson 1996):
- it is not scientific, and
- its major proponents try to create the impression that it is scientific." (Hansson, 2008)
With regard to Hansson's first point, a PsychologyToday article (2016) points out that
psychology was defined by the application of scientific method(s) and psychologists conduct valuable research and have developed some key insights into animal behavior, cognition, consciousness, and the human condition.
Hansson, has since updated his definition of pseudoscience to an "improved version" (Hansson, 2013)
- Dufresne, T. (2007) Psychoanalysis and Pseudoscience: Frank J. Sulloway Revisits Freud and His Legacy, Dufrense, T (Ed.) Against Freud: Critics Talk Back Stanford: Stanford University Press
- Hansson, S. O. (1996). Defining Pseudoscience. Philosophia Naturalis, 33(1): pp. 169—176
Still to find DOI/PMID reference
- Hansson, S. O. (2008) Science and Pseudo-Science. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition) [Online]
- Hansson, S. O. (2013). Defining pseudoscience and science. In: Pigliucci, M. & Boudry, M. (Eds.) The philosophy of pseudoscience, Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press. pp. 61-77.
- Horgan, J. (1996). Why Freud isn’t dead. Scientific American, 275(6), 106-111.
- PsychologyToday (2016) The “Is Psychology a Science?” Debate [Online]
- Shermer, M. (2011). What is pseudoscience?. Scientific American, 305(3), 92-92. or here
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