The Concepts of Hildegard Peplau’s Psychodynamic Nursing Theory


Nursing is a profession that entails helping the needy people to achieve independence. This independence could be physical, social, or even psychological. Nursing research is critical in analyzing physical, social, and psychological problems. This analysis contributes greatly to identifying the best practice in nursing. Additionally, nursing research endeavors to evaluate the concepts used in nursing theories by establish the extent to which nursing practice relates to nursing theory (Butts & Rich, 2010). Thus, this paper will review the concepts of Hildegard Peplau’s psychodynamic nursing theory.


Assumptions Underpinning the Psychodynamic theory

The psychodynamic theory is a nursing theory that promotes health through interpersonal relationship between nurses and patients (Macnee & McCabe, 2008). This interrelationship helps evaluate the psychological status of patients. This is achieved by assessing both conscious and subconscious thoughts of the patients. This assessment is premised on the fact that the psychodynamic theory considers nursing as practice that helps patients identify their dire needs.

The theory also assumes that helping patients identify their dire needs requires nurses to take into account the concept of human relation. Moreover, the theory assumes that achieving nursing practice entails creating an avenue for a good interpersonal relationship between nurses and patients who share a common goal (Macnee & McCabe, 2008).

Therefore, using the psychodynamic theory to achieve the nursing goals requires nurses to follow a particular sequence of interpersonal relationship phases. These sequential phases include orientation, identification, exploitation, and, lastly, resolution (Peplau, 2004). While orientation seeks to establish emotional and psychological factors that contribute to health deficiency, identification entails coming up with a goal setting strategy that is critical in ensuring that patients adapt to a life that would lead to their wellbeing. And while exploitation entails establishing other factors that promote health, including interaction with the nurses, resolution entails liberating the patients in a manner that facilitates emotional and psychological independence (Peplau, 2004).

How Psychodynamic Theory Finds Application in Research

The strength of psychodynamic theory stems from its ability to explain and predict the wellbeing of the patients. This is facilitated by developing shared goals with the patients during the intervention program. Moreover, the self-reflection process adopted during the goal setting process does not only facilitate realization of conscious and subconscious thoughts of the patients, but it also facilitates nursing research. This is precisely because self-reflection helps nurses to associate the patients’ experiences with the nursing practice (Peplau, 2004).

Thus, even though the psychodynamic theory over stresses the subjective past while identifying heath deficiency, its application in research is evident in two major ways. First, the information developed between the health practitioners and the patients during goal setting process can help create new information in the nursing body of knowledge. Second, the interpersonal skills required between the patients and the nurses during the goal setting process can help in testing the leadership and management skills of the health practitioners.


This paper has discussed how the psychodynamic theory is applicable in the nursing practice. This has been achieved by highlighting how the theory relates to nursing practice and nursing research. First, the paper has highlighted that, in a bid to achieve the nursing practice, the psychodynamic theory makes a number of assumptions. Finally, the paper has highlighted how the psychodynamic theory relates to nursing research. This includes creation of new information in the nursing body of knowledge, as well as testing of leadership and management skills of health practitioners. Thus, this paper relates nursing theory to practice and research.


Butts, J., & Rich, K. (2010). Philosophies and theories for advanced nursing practice. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Macnee, C., & McCabe, S. (2008). Understanding nursing research: Using research in evidence-based practice. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Peplau, H. (2004). Interpersonal relations in nursing: A conceptual frame of reference for psychodynamic nursing. New York: Springer.

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