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The Neo-Freudian psychiatrists and psychologists
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 were a group of loosely linked American theorists of the mid-twentieth century, who were all influenced by Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

, but who extended his theories, often in social or cultural directions. They have been defined as 'American writers who attempted to restate Freudian theory in sociological terms and to eliminate its connections with biology'. First, the Neo-Freudian was born in Germany (Neopsychoanalyse) (1945) by the german psychiatrist Harald Schultz-Hencke
Harald Schultz-Hencke
Harald Schultz-Hencke was a German psychiatrist and psychotherapist. After an initial introduction to psychoanalysis, with Sandor Rado as psychoanalyst, he was excluded from the German Society of Psychoanalysis because of, among other things, his divergent views on sexuality.In 1933, like several...


Dissidents and post-Freudians

The term neo-Freudian is sometimes loosely (but inaccurately) used to cover those early followers of Freud who at some point accepted the basic tenets of Freud's theory of psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 but later dissented from it. 'The best-known of these dissenters are Alfred Adler
Alfred Adler
Alfred Adler was an Austrian medical doctor, psychotherapist, and founder of the school of individual psychology. In collaboration with Sigmund Freud and a small group of Freud's colleagues, Adler was among the co-founders of the psychoanalytic movement as a core member of the Vienna...

 and Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

...The Dissidents'.

The 'Independent Analysts' Group
British Independent Group (psychoanalysis)
The Independent or Middle Group of British analysts represents one of the three distinct sub-schools of the British Psychoanalytic Society, and 'developed what is known as the British independent perspective, which argued that the primary motivation of the child is object-seeking rather than drive...

 of the British Psycho-Analytical Society, as distinct from the Kleinians and what are now called the Contemporary Freudians', who include figures such as Christopher Bollas
Christopher Bollas
Christopher Bollas is a British psychoanalyst and writer.-Early life and education:Bollas grew up in Laguna Beach, California and later graduated in history from UC Berkeley. As an undergraduate Bollas studied intellectual history with Carl Schorske, psychoanalytical anthropology with Alan Dundes,...

, D. W. Winnicott and Adam Phillips
Adam Phillips
Adam Phillips may refer to:*Adam Phillips *Adam Phillips *Adam Phillips...

, are - like the ego-psychologists
Ego psychology
Ego psychology is a school of psychoanalysis rooted in Sigmund Freud's structural id-ego-superego model of the mind.An individual interacts with the external world as well as responds to internal forces. Many psychoanalysts use a theoretical construct called the ego to explain how that is done...

 such as Heinz Hartmann
Heinz Hartmann
Heinz Hartmann , was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He is considered one of the founders and principal representantives of ego psychology.-Life:...

 or the intersubjectivist analysts in the States - perhaps best considered of as 'different schools of psychoanalytic thought', or as ' developments'.

It was only in a jocular, derogative way that one might have spoken in the Eighties of 'today's nouvelle vague neo-Freudians, Kernberg and Kohut
Heinz Kohut
Heinz Kohut was an Austrian-born American psychoanalyst best known for his development of Self psychology, an influential school of thought within psychodynamic/psychoanalytic theory which helped transform the modern practice of analytic and dynamic treatment approaches.-Early life:Kohut was born...


Neo-Freudian ideas

An interest in the social approach to psychodynamics was the major theme linking the so-called Neo-Freudians. Adler had perhaps been 'the first to explore and develop a comprehensive social theory of the psychodynamic self'; and 'after Adler's death, some of his views...came to exert considerable influence on neo-Freudian theory': indeed, it has been suggested of 'Horney and Sullivan...that these theorists could be more accurately described as "neo-Adlerians" than "neo-Freudians"'.

As early as 1932, however, Fromm had been independently regretting that psychoanalysts 'did not concern themselves with the variety of life experience...and therefore did not try to explain psychic structure as determined by social structure'.

Horney too 'emphasised the role culture exerts in the development of personality and downplayed the classical driven features outlined by Freud'.

Erikson for his part stressed that 'psychoanalysis today is...shifting its the study of the ego's roots in social organisation', and that its method should be 'what H. S. Sullivan called "participant", and systematically so'.

Harald Schultz-Hencke
Harald Schultz-Hencke
Harald Schultz-Hencke was a German psychiatrist and psychotherapist. After an initial introduction to psychoanalysis, with Sandor Rado as psychoanalyst, he was excluded from the German Society of Psychoanalysis because of, among other things, his divergent views on sexuality.In 1933, like several...

 (1892–1953), doctor and psychotherapist, was busy thoroughly with questions like impulse and inhibition and with the therapy of psychoses as well as the interpretation of dreams. He was agains't the libido freudian theory and also working with Prof. Matthias Göring
Matthias Göring
Matthias Heinrich Göring was a German psychiatrist, born in Düsseldorf. He died in prison in Poznan because he was an active Nazi.He start his studies with a doctorate in law, and a doctorate in medicine at Bonn in 1907...

 in he's institut (Deutsches Institut für psychologische Forschung und Psychotherapie). He created the name "neopsychoanalyse" in 1945.

The 'Neo-Freudian revolt against the orthodox theory of instincts' was thus anchored in a sense of what Sullivan termed '"our incredibly culture-ridden life"'. By their writings, and 'in accessible prose, Fromm, Horney, and others mounted a cultural and social critique which became almost conventional wisdom'.

Through informal and more formal institutional links, such as the William Alanson White Institute
William Alanson White Institute
The William Alanson White Institute, founded in 1946, is an institution for training psychoanalysts and psychotherapists. It is located in New York City, USA, on the Upper West Side, in the Clara Thompson building....

, as well as through likeness of ideas, the Neo-Freudians made up a cohesively distinctive and influential psychodynamic movement.


Otto Fenichel
Otto Fenichel was a psychoanalyst of the so-called "second generation".Otto Fenichel started studying medicine in 1915 in Vienna. Already as a very young man, when still in school, he was attracted by the circle of psychoanalysts around Freud...

 developed a stringent theoretical critique of the neo-Freudians', which informed and fed into the way 'Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse was a German Jewish philosopher, sociologist and political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory...

, in his "Critique of Neo-Freudian Revisionism"...icily examines the tone of uplift and the Power of Positive Thinking that pervades the revisionists' writings, and mocks their claims to scientific seriousness'.

In comparable fashion, 'an Mr Edward Glover
Edward Glover (psychoanalyst)
Edward George Glover was a British psychoanalyst. He first studied medicine and surgery, and it was his elder brother, James Glover who attracted him towards psychoanalysis...

, entitled Freudian or Neo-Freudian, directed entirely against the constructions of Mr Alexander' equally used the term as a form of orthodox reproach.

In the wake of such contemporary criticism, a 'consistent critique levelled at most theorists cited above is that they compromise the intrapersonal interiority of the psyche'; but one may accept nonetheless that 'they have contributed an enduring and vital collection of standpoints relating to the human subject'.

Influence and successors

In 1940, Carl Rogers
Carl Rogers
Carl Ransom Rogers was an influential American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology...

 had launched what would become person-centered psychotherapy
Person-centered psychotherapy
Person-centered therapy is also known as person-centered psychotherapy, person-centered counseling, client-centered therapy and Rogerian psychotherapy. PCT is a form of talk-psychotherapy developed by psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1940s and 1950s...

, 'crediting its roots in the therapy of Rank
Otto Rank
Otto Rank was an Austrian psychoanalyst, writer, teacher and therapist. Born in Vienna as Otto Rosenfeld, he was one of Sigmund Freud's closest colleagues for 20 years, a prolific writer on psychoanalytic themes, an editor of the two most important analytic journals, managing director of Freud's...

...& in the neo-Freudian analysts - especially Karen Horney'. A decade later, he would report that it had 'developed along somewhat different paths than the psychotherapeutic views of Horney or Sullivan, or Alexander and French, yet there are many threads of interconnection with these modern formulations of psychoanalytic thinking'.

A half-century further on, whether by direct or by indirect influence, 'consistent with the traditions of these schools, current theorists of the social and psychodynamic self are working in the spaces between social and political theory and psychoanalysis (Wolfenstein 1993; Chodorow 1994; Hinshelwood 1996)' once again.

Cultural offshoots

In his skit on Freud's remark that 'if my name were Oberhuber, my innovations would have found far less resistance', Peter Gay
Peter Gay
Peter Gay is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and former director of the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writers . Gay received the American Historical Association's Award for Scholarly Distinction in 2004...

, considering the notional eclipse of "Oberhuber" by his replacement Freud, adjudged that 'the prospect that deviants would have to be called neo-Oberhuberians, or Oberhuberian revisionists, contributed to the master's decline'.


  • Harald Schultz-Hencke
    Harald Schultz-Hencke
    Harald Schultz-Hencke was a German psychiatrist and psychotherapist. After an initial introduction to psychoanalysis, with Sandor Rado as psychoanalyst, he was excluded from the German Society of Psychoanalysis because of, among other things, his divergent views on sexuality.In 1933, like several...

  • Erik Erikson
    Erik Erikson
    Erik Erikson was a Danish-German-American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on social development of human beings. He may be most famous for coining the phrase identity crisis. His son, Kai T...

  • Karen Horney
    Karen Horney
    Karen Horney born Danielsen was a German-American psychoanalyst. Her theories questioned some traditional Freudian views, particularly his theory of sexuality, as well as the instinct orientation of psychoanalysis and its genetic psychology...

  • Erich Fromm
    Erich Fromm
    Erich Seligmann Fromm was a Jewish German-American social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. He was associated with what became known as the Frankfurt School of critical theory.-Life:Erich Fromm was born on March 23, 1900, at Frankfurt am...

  • Frieda Fromm-Reichmann
    Frieda Fromm-Reichmann
    Frieda Fromm-Reichmann was a German psychiatrist and contemporary of Sigmund Freud who emigrated to America during World War II.-Life and work:...

  • Harry Stack Sullivan
    Harry Stack Sullivan
    Harry Stack Sullivan was a U.S. psychiatrist whose work in psychoanalysis was based on direct and verifiable observation .-Life and works:Sullivan was a child of Irish immigrants and allegedly grew up in an...

  • Clara Thompson
    Clara Thompson
    Clara Mabel Thompson studied medicine at Johns Hopkins University and in her last year she was introduced to psychoanalysis. In the future years she developed as a psychoanalyst working with people like William Alanson White, Adolf Meyer, Harry Stack Sullivan, Joseph Cheesman Thompson, and Sándor...

  • Abram Kardiner
    Psychological anthropology
    Psychological anthropology is an interdisciplinary subfield of anthropology that studies the interaction of cultural and mental processes. The subfield tends to focus on ways in which humans' development and enculturation within a particular cultural group—with its own history, language, practices,...

Others with possible neo-Freudian links

  • Jessica Benjamin
    Jessica Benjamin
    Jessica Benjamin is an American psychoanalyst and feminist.She is currently on the faculty of New York University's Postdoctoral Psychology Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy...

  • Nancy Chodorow
    Nancy Chodorow
    Nancy Julia Chodorow is a feminist sociologist and psychoanalyst. She has written a number of influential books, including The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender ; Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory ; Femininities, Masculinities, Sexualities: Freud and Beyond ;...

  • Richard Hakim
  • Thomas Ogden
  • David Rapaport
  • Alex Unger
  • Mark Blechner
  • Franz Alexander
    Franz Alexander
    Franz Gabriel Alexander was a Hungarian-American psychoanalyst and physician, who is considered one of the founders of psychosomatic medicine and psychoanalytic criminology.- Life :...

  • T. M. French

Related publications

  • Thompson, Clara M. (1950). Psychoanalysis: Evolution and development. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons.

  • Mitchell, S.A., & Black M.J. (1995). Freud and beyond: a history of modern psychoanalytic thought. USA: Basic Books.