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The 9 types of Psychoanalysis (theories and main authors)

The 9 types of Psychoanalysis (theories and main authors)

May 21, 2024

Psychoanalysis is probably one of the most well-known paradigms and currents of thought in the field of psychology by the population in general.

Types of psychoanalysis, and their differences

Focused on the presence of unconscious conflicts and the repression of instinct , is one of the most controversial theories that try to explain among other things why we are who we are, we think how we think and act as we act.

When we talk about psychoanalysis we usually think of its founder Sigmund Freud and his psychoanalytic theory, but there is a great variety of theories that were derived from it and ended up constituting different types of psychoanalysis.

1. Freudian psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is not only a set of psychological theories, but it also supposes a method of investigation and a way and technique of psychotherapeutic treatment.

The psychoanalytic theory has its origin in the figure of Sigmund Freud, a Viennese doctor specialized in neurology who lived during the Victorian era and throughout his career developed various explanatory theories and models regarding the structure of personality, human development and psychopathology.


Freudian psychoanalysis and later all types of psychoanalysis or psychodynamic theories have been characterized by dividing the psyche into three fundamental aspects, conscious, preconscious and unconscious, of which they have focused mainly on the study of the latter. The unconscious is the most determining part of the psyche, picking up the most primitive and instinctual desires, impulses and sensations that we develop from childhood and be governed by the pleasure principle.

It, me and superego

In addition, in this theory the psychic apparatus is configured by three main elements, called it, I and superego. While the id is the instinctive and impulsive part that dictates what we want and that usually acts on an unconscious level, the superego is the part of our psyche that observes the morality of behavior and seeks that this seat in a responsible manner. Finally, the ego would be responsible for making the desires of the id enter into what the superego finds acceptable, using various defense mechanisms to mediate between desires and reality.


For Freud, the main motor of behavior and psychic life is the libidinal or sexual drive . These instincts are repressed by the conscience based on the censorship provoked by the superego over the id, which causes the ego to seek mechanisms to suppress or sublimate the desires. These defense mechanisms may not be efficient enough to solve internal conflicts, and may generate various disorders.

In addition to all of the above, Freud establishes a development model based on the libidinal impulse, its genetic model of psychosexual development. In him the individual will go through the oral, anal, phallic, latent and genital phases, overcoming different complexes and anguish until achieving full development and psychosexual maturation. It is possible that they suffer regressions that would result in different behaviors and pathologies.


Psychic problems are a symptom of the existence of unconscious conflicts , which are usually due to repressed traumas or unresolved problems, appearing due to the fact that the defense mechanisms have not been able to reduce the tension generated by these conflicts.


Regarding psychotherapeutic treatment, the Freudian approach places special emphasis on the relationship between professional and therapist , called therapeutic relationship. Given the importance given to sexual needs when explaining behavior, Freud considered that his repression and not satisfaction could cause part of the libido to be directed towards the therapist, transferring the patient the blocked emotions to the figure of the professional as a way to relive the repressed events. The projection mechanism is used for this.

Analyzing these transfers will allow, according to this theory, the patient to discover the repressed elements and existing blocks, being able to improve the patient's condition. Likewise, the therapist's reactions towards the patient's revelations or countertransference are also taken into account, which may allow interpreting the unconsciously expressed by the treated individual. This last aspect must be very controlled so that the therapeutic relationship is not contaminated.

2. Continuing with the Freudian theory: the psychoanalytic tradition of the self

A large number of Freud's disciples considered their theories to be correct and certain, maintaining a certain continuity with the founder of the discipline in the development of psychoanalysis. But nevertheless, that they accept the theories of the father of psychoanalysis does not imply that they did not develop new perspectives and types of psychoanalysis , deepening them and expanding to new areas.

In this sense, the psychoanalytic tradition of the self is characterized by expanding its scope of action, applying to children and other severe disorders. There would be more emphasis on the Self, and the focus would be on interpersonal relationships. There would also be some differences with Freudian psychoanalysis, such as greater directivity and activity on the part of the professional and a closer approach to the real, and social. An increase in the capacity of adaptation of the individual was sought and the decision-making capacity of the individual was valued.

Although multiple authors can be inscribed within this tradition, as Anna Freud, who went deeply into the different defense mechanisms we employ, in general the components of the psychoanalytic tradition of the self would accept most Freudian concepts and theories. Some of the authors who had the most significant contributions are the following.


Winnicott's contributions focused on the role of transitional objects and phenomena and the role of the mother and the mother-child bond in human development. This author considered that mental problems are due to failures in the provision of stimulation during childhood.

As the child develops, he establishes relationships with the environment and the different beings around him. Initially they establish a series of behaviors or links with objects (transitional) that make anxiety more tolerable, allowing also to begin to differentiate between the self and the non-self.

The role of the mother in the development is fundamental, being the maternal preoccupation captured by the child and granting him security and exercising as auxiliary until the child manages to elaborate his own self. The child will go through several phases of dependence until he can be autonomous .

In cases where therapy is necessary, the therapist must act as a transitional object that allows favoring and completing the development through transference and countertransference.

3. The object relations theory of Melanie Klein

Melanie Klein's work in child psychoanalysis is widely known . Focused primarily on the practical rather than the theoretical, this author is considered the founder of the theory of object relations, according to which the individual is related to the environment based on the type of links that are established between subject and object.

Unconscious fantasy

One of the most important types of psychoanalysis focused on the development of children, a very important concept for the author is unconscious fantasy, understood as that expression of the desires and instincts that exist from the beginning of life . These fantasies are the ones that direct the behavior of the child and allow to understand his attitude and way of acting.

When it comes to assessing and treating children, the use of symbolic play is especially important as an element to extract information from children. since free association can not be applied because it does not have enough resources and maturity to do so. However, in the game the unconscious fantasies that direct the behavior are projected, analogously to what would be done through free association. In addition, the interpretation of the meaning of the game can serve to modify the anguish of the infant.

As regards the way of linking to the objects, it establishes two positions: The first is the paranoid schizoid position in which the individual is not able to distinguish between the self and the non-self and therefore is not capable of to integrate that the same object can sometimes be rewarding and sometimes be absent or painful, so that each object is split in two (one good and one bad). You have a concrete and partial thought.

The second is the depressive position, in which the objects begin to be seen as a whole sometimes good and sometimes bad, and with which comes the fear of losing the beloved object.

In object relations the life drive would be seen through gratitude , while the death through envy and jealousy. This is especially important for the resolution of the Oedipus conflict.

It also indicates that the Self has four basic functions, to experiment and fight against the anxiety caused by the death drive, the establishment of object relations, the integration and synthesis of the self and the acquisition and emission through introjection and projection of attitudes and characteristics. external or internal.

4. Neofreudian tradition: divergences with Freudian psychoanalysis

Freud's theories initially attracted numerous scholars who would be trained in the complexities of the human mind under the school of psychoanalysis.

However, in many cases important differences in the way of conceiving various aspects of the psyche would emerge. For example, many authors opposed the concept of death drive . Likewise, others had a greater interest in the conscious aspects of the person.The identification of the sexual as the main motor of behavior and development would also be widely discussed, considering it secondary in the determination of behavior. Furthermore, Freudian psychoanalysis does not deepen or give excessive value to social and cultural aspects, nor to the patient's current situation, which is mostly derived from childhood traumas.

For this reason many authors ended up abandoning classical psychoanalysis and establishing their own lines of thought, emerging new types of psychoanalysis. Some of the most prominent authors are the following.

5. Jung's analytical psychology

Carl Gustav Jung was one of Freud's disciples who, although he began his career with the father of psychoanalysis, ended up disagreeing in multiple aspects with him, separating himself from his school and elaborating what would be called analytical or profound psychology. For Jung, although the libido was present in the human being, this was only a secondary part of his being and not his main motor.

It is one of the most well-known types of psychoanalysis, where psychic energy is the main driving force of human action. This energy is expressed in thinking, feeling, intuiting and perceiving .

Two types of unconscious

Another of the main differences is that analytical psychology considers the existence of two types of unconscious : an individual in which you can find the repressed experiences and another collective from which the knowledge and knowledge of the ancestors is partly inherited. In the first, complex derivatives of childhood traumas can be generated, always existing in the individual a part of which we are aware and we show the world, the person, and a part called shadow in which our instinctive and unconscious side is censored and hidden to the world.

Collective unconscious

With regard to the collective unconscious, based on it we can see the existence of different archetypes or universal and shared psychic expressions that act autonomously before external events and that are expressed differently in our life, allowing us to relate our self with the environment until the process of individuation is completed.


The personality is forged from basic processes, mainly in the development of relationships between subject and object at the time in what will determine our level of introversion or extraversion, in the rational capacity in what refers to the ability to reflect or feel and in the irrational processes when establishing whether we are more sensory or intuitive.

Deep psychology attaches great importance to the symbolic and spiritual l, working to a large extent through the artistic and spontaneous expressions of the unconscious. For this reason, the analysis of dreams is very important, which have a compensatory and explanatory function of consciousness.

The ultimate goal of treatment in this type of psychoanalysis is to achieve the correct development of selfhood or individuation, from a collaborative relationship between patient and therapist.

6. Adler's individual psychology

As would happen with Jung, Adler would consider that Freud's theory gave too much importance to the sexual domain . In addition to the contrary that Freud considers that although the unconscious and the past are important the human being is by itself an active being with capacity to create and to decide in the present, not being determined by its past.

Here and now

This type of psychoanalysis focuses more on the here and now, with the conscious self having a great importance in Adler's thought and the individual being aware of its possibilities and limitations. It is because of that would end up separating from traditional psychoanalysis and establishing individual psychology .

Feeling of inferiority

For this author, the problems arise from the understanding that the desires themselves are beyond the reach of the individual, giving rise to the feeling of inferiority. Thus, individual psychology is based on the desire for power as a way to try to compensate feelings of inferiority. The human being tends to look for the feeling of belonging to the community.

For this author it is necessary to treat the individual holistically His beliefs and concepts of himself and the world are very important. We work from the change in the lifestyle trying to make conscious a vital guideline that, changing the orientation towards the events of life, the individual wants to follow and strengthen it through self-confidence.

7. Interpersonal Psychoanalysis of Sullivan

It is one of the types of psychoanalysis most focused on the relationship between people , placing the focus of interest on the ability to establish interpersonal relationships and communication. The interpersonal comes to assume and provoke the intrapsychic, understanding these relationships as the main motor and behavior modifier.

Under interpersonal psychoanalysis the personality is and is due to the stable pattern of interpersonal situations that characterize the human being.This pattern is composed of dynamisms, personifications and a system of the self elaborated from experience.

Dynamisms and needs

The dynamisms are perpetuated ways through the time in which the individual transforms his energy directing it to the attempt of satisfaction of a need , whether self-satisfaction or safety (understood as anxiety relief). These dynamisms reduce the tension produced by the presence of a need, but in case they are not effective they will generate anxiety that will lead to destructive behaviors.

Personifications are the way we interpret the interpersonal, the reactions and attitudes of others. It is about schemes made from repeated experience with others that will be fixed to our internal structure, forming part of our personality.

As for the ego system, it is a personality system elaborated through life experiences and whose objective is the protection of our self-esteem through the satisfaction of the people we love.

  • Related article: "The interpersonal theory of Harry Stack Sullivan"


With all this, it is possible to observe that the main emphasis of this type of psychoanalysis is found in the use of the symbol as a communicative element and in the expression of mental and physical contents .

For Sullivan, the events that we live are processed internally in different ways as we grow. The first of these would be the prototaxic, typical of newborns, in which the environment is felt as something undifferentiated over which we have no control. Later we would see the world in a paratáxico way, being able to make associations between elements of the environment and predictions as we gain experience and symbolic capacity. Finally, as adults and in the case of getting a correct development we would get to experience the world in a syntactic way, being able to share symbols in a correct and active way and basing the action on the logic and adaptation to the context.


Psychological problems such as mental disorders are for this type of psychoanalysis product of maladaptive relational patterns or of unbalanced dynamisms , having to be treated taking into account therapy as a type of interpersonal relationship that must provide security while facilitating changes that make personal relationships more adaptive and in which the patient expresses himself in an adaptive manner and free of inhibitions.

8. Fromm's humanist psychoanalysis

Traditional psychoanalysis is mainly based on the power of the unconscious on the behavior of the individual, treating and focusing on the existence of conflicts and pathological thought processes. Erich Fromm, however, believed that to understand the human mind it is necessary to know how we find meaning in our lives, exploring the positive and motivational side of the psyche.

It is one of the most humanist types of psychoanalysis and linked with positive elements without rejecting the importance of human pain.

However, another characteristic of Erich Fromm's psychoanalytic perspective is that it incorporates an important social component in his ideas, and does not focus so much on individuals.

Affection and love

For this author the human being is able to face pain from the granting of a meaning or meaning both to this and to life itself. Fromm considered that interpersonal problems are the main source of discomfort, in a struggle between our personal desires and goals and the desire to bond with others. For humanistic psychoanalysis, to overcome the discomfort it is necessary to develop affection, acceptance of the other and love .

The main objective of Fromm's humanistic psychoanalysis is based not on the treatment and avoidance of suffering, but on the search for happiness and the strengthening of one's own strengths and strengths through the establishment of vital goals.

9. Returning to the origin: the psychoanalysis of Lacan

Regardless of whether they followed Freud or ended up diverging with him, most theories after classical psychoanalysis involved significant advances in different areas of knowledge.

However, one of the types of post-Freudian psychoanalysis is in favor of returning to a classic approach and closer to the initial, having left the rest excessively of the fundamental pillars of the paradigm. This is Jacques Lacan's approach.

Pleasure, suffering and tension

The contributions of this author go through the distinction between the concepts of pleasure as an activity aimed at avoiding suffering or reducing tension and enjoyment as a pleasant element linked to increasing this tension, unconsciously enjoying what would generate discomfort. Recover the concept of death drive (introducing it into the idea of ​​enjoyment) .

Reinterprets the psychic structure in real, imaginary and symbolic.The real thing would be that which we do not know and that we are not able to express with language, the imaginary would be represented in dreams and fantasies, and the symbolic everything that is born of consciousness and in what we use codes like the word, forming the superyó and structuring the self.

A) Yes, the language is of great importance, allowing to unite the discourse of the unconscious with the conscious . He also proposes that the truth, as something real, is not bearable for the self being only possible to know a part of it to be restricted by the symbolic.

Bibliographic references:

  • Almond, M.T. (2012). Psychotherapies CEDE Preparation Manual PIR, 06. CEDE: Madrid

Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory on Instincts: Motivation, Personality and Development (May 2024).

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