Although the names of Freud and Jung are still quite familiar, and some of their concepts at least partially understood by many people, Alfred Adler's recognition quotient is much lower. Yet, he was one of the important members of the group that developed psychodynamic theory in its current form and a psychoanalytic practitioner of great renown. In the following pages, the intent is to situate Adler within the tradition, describe his contributions to psychodynamic theory and psychoanalytic practice, and explore applications of his work to specific situations or case.
Psychodynamic theory and psychoanalytic practice begins with Freud. For him, it was sexual conflict that underlay many of people's problems and the sexual instinct that was central to human development. He created a stage theory of several psychosexual stages, starting with the oral stage and ending with the adult genital stage. He also developed a model of personality which included the id, ego, and superego, with the ego serving as mediator, the superego as conscience, and the id as the unconscious disruptive influence continually trying to erupt and obtain immediate gratification for its needs and desires. The ego also contained both conscious and unconscious material, but some of the unconscious material was available to the individual through psychoanalytic techniques such as free association and dream analysis (Strachey, 1966).
Although Freud attracted followers and disciples for his new theories and techniques, there were major breaks from his initial ideas by several of them. Most important of these early theorists were Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and, later, Karen Horney and Erik Eriksen.
Jung, of course, differed from Freud in many respects. While Jung accepted the role of the unconscious in motivating human behavior, he did not see this as entirely negative, but as a source of creativity and life force. Jung also postulated that there were two...