Interpersonal/Caring Theories

Peplau’s Psychodynamic Nursing Theory

Peplau’s Psychodynamic Nursing Theory
Peplau’s Psychodynamic Nursing Theory

Hildegard Peplau is one of the first theorists since Nightingale to present a theory for nursing. She introduced her interpersonal concepts in 1952 and based them on available theories at the time: psychoanalytic theory, principles of social learning, and concepts of human motivation and personality development. Psychodynamic nursing is defined as understanding one’s own behavior to help others identify  felt difficulties and applying principles of human relations to problems arising during the experience.

Peplau views nursing as a maturing force that is realized as the personality develops through educational, therapeutic, and interpersonal process. Nurses enter into  a personal relationship with an individual when a felt need is present. This nurse-patient relationship evolves in four phases:

1. Orientation. During this phase, the patient seeks help and the nurse assists the patient to understand the problem and the extent of need for help.

2. Identification. During this phase, the patient assumes a posture of dependence, interdependence, or independence e in relation to the nurse (relatedness). The nurse’s focus is to assure the person that the nurse understands the interpersonal meaning of the patient’s situation.

3. Exploitaiton. In this phase, the patient derives full value from what the nurse offers through the relationship. The patient uses available services on the basis of self-interest and needs. Power shifts from the nurse to the patient.

4. Resolution. In this final phase, old needs and goals are put aside and new ones adopted. Once older needs are resolved, newer and more mature ones emerge.

During the nurse-patient relationship, nurses assumes many roles: stranger, teacher, resource person, surrogate, leader,  and counselor. Today Peplau’s model continues to be used by clinicians when working with individuals who have psychologic problems.


Kozier, Barbare et. al Fundamentals of Nursing 5th edition

Addison Wesley Publishing Company Inc p53