Psychoanalytic and Adlerian Theories

Alfred Adler’s contribution to the understanding of human psychology continues to attract varied reactions from opponents and proponents of Adler’s view in equal measure. To this extent, other theories like the psychoanalytic have been put forward in an attempt to understand how human beings develop and interact with their environment. Adlerian views of human development differ greatly with those of psychoanalytic theories. However, the two theories have contributed to the understanding of human nature. With modernism and post modernism, it is evident that these classical theories receive a considerable analysis in terms of comparison and contrast. This paper compares psychoanalytic theory and Adlerian theory as expounded in by Corey in his 8th edition book.

The contribution of Adler to the understanding of human development, as directed by social interests and lifelong goal, is contrasting with psychoanalysis approach. As one of the greatest contributors to depth psychoanalysis, Adler argued that it is people who individually program to seek cooperation in a society and thus the need for positive efforts, which are inherently built in person’s capabilities of interpreting, influencing, and creating actions. On the other hand, psychoanalytic theory views human association in a society as influenced by the psychic energy that is unknown to individuals. Examples are the unconscious forces such as sexual urge and aggressive impulses that influence the center of development. These forces later influence behaviors of a person.

This forms the divergent point between the two theories. However, it is notable that Adlerian and psychoanalytic theory helps in understanding human development in uniquely differing ways that aims at solving a common problem.

Main Concepts of Psychoanalytic and Adlerian Theory

In a psychoanalysis approach to human development, sexual urge plays a crucial role in the final development of a person. This is in relation to successful self-resolution and psychosexual stages, which enhances holistic development. Thus, a failure in any or all of these stages leads to faulty personality. The theory further explains that in an attempt to regress basic conflicts during development, people may develop anxieties that later influence the way they interact with society. Similarly, psychoanalytic theory content that there are processes, unknown to human consciousness, which control and influence their development. Such processes are at the center of development since on their own or together with other factors they direct behavior of a person at an early stage or later in life.

Therefore, psychoanalytic theory views personality development as a construct to intervene, mitigate, and direct in psychology lab. That means, it is possible for people to influence personality development of others with help of conscious mind.  

Contrary to psychoanalytic approach, the foundations of Adlerian theory have unified personality influenced by the subjective factors in life, for instance the need to accomplish a personal goal of achievement. Individual behaviors subsequently influence the lifelong goals at hand.  Equally important are social interests that determine what becomes of a person later in life or how individuals interact with their environment and people around them. Additionally, Adlerian theory argued that individuals strive for significance and superiority. He equally recognized the role played by family ties in influencing personality development, as people tend to uniquely identify themselves with family behaviors. Thus, striving produces a life style that is unique and, depending on the nature of the strife, normal or faulty personalities exist.

Adlerian proposes that it is, therefore, not possible to change cognitive perspective of an individual through psychotherapy. This is because forces that direct actions and behaviors of a person are inherently built within a person. According to him, psychotherapy acts only as a supportive mechanism through encouragement and assistance in producing what is already predetermined for an individual.

However, the two theories exude limitations in the way they propose their approaches to human development. In a dissimilar approach, they both fail to provide a viable solution to everyday problems of human development. For instance, psychoanalytic theory does not capture important influencers of development like social, cultural, and interpersonal setting, but instead put more emphasis on biological and instinctual ones. Similarly, Adlerian theory has oversimplified complex human development problems basing them on common sense.


From the above analysis, it is evident that as psychology of human development continues to evolve much will be drawn from the views expressed in the two theories. It is notable that modernism and post modernism psychology have heavily borrowed from these views in explaining their approach to human development.

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