Difference Between Adler and Freud

Psychology and Neurology both come under Neuropsychology, which is related to our nervous system and brain. Neuropsychology finds out how a person’s cognitive and behaviour works.


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It focuses on the injuries and illnesses of the brain that affect our minds. Neuropsychology is a very new branch of science that was discovered in the 1980s.

Alfred Adler and Sigmund Freud are colleagues who helped to fortify psychoanalytic movements.

Key Takeaways

  1. Adler and Freud were two pioneers of psychology who had different theories about human behavior and development.
  2. While Freud focused on the unconscious mind and repressed sexual desires as the main motivators of human behavior, Adler believed in the importance of social context and the drive for self-improvement.
  3. Unlike Freud, who saw therapy as a means of uncovering repressed memories, Adler believed in the power of therapy to help individuals understand their current behavior and develop strategies for personal growth.

Adler vs Freud

Adler was a psychiatrist who focused on the importance of social factors in individual psychology, emphasizing the concept of striving for superiority and the influence of birth order. Freud was a neurologist who developed psychoanalysis, highlighting unconscious desires, childhood experiences, and the role of sexuality in human behavior.

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Alfred Adler is an Austrian doctor who is also a psychotherapist and psychologist. His theories are very different from Freudian theories.

He believes that a human being is an individual whole i.e. complete in itself, and thus he names his psychology Individual Psychology. Adler gives importance to feelings of our inner mind i.e. inferiority and inferiority complex, which became a key role in the field of Personality Development.

Sigmund Freud is a neurologist who belongs from Austria, and he gave the theory of Psychoanalysis, which is a clinical method of treating Psychopathology by creating a dialogue between patient and psychoanalyst. He redefined the term sexuality and gave Oedipus Complex, which forms the basis of psychoanalytic theory.

He gave the concept of the unconscious mind, which consists of id, ego and superego.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAdlerFreud
Known forIndividual psychology, Superiority complex, Inferiority complex etc.Psychoanalysis, including the theories of id, ego and super-ego, Oedipus complex etc.
FieldPsychotherapist, psychiatrist
Neurology, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis
AwardsNo AwardGoethe Prize (1930)
WorksThe Science of Living, Understanding Human Behaviour, The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler etc.On Aphasia, The Interpretation of Dreams, Studies on Hysteria etc.
School of ThoughtThe Adlerian SchoolPsychoanalytic School

What is Adler?

Alfred Adler is best known for forming his school of thought known as the Adlerian School or Individual Psychology. He gave various theories, and one among them is inferiority and inferiority complex, which forms a greater part of humans in their personality.

Initially, he was a colleague of Sigmund Freud but later broke off to form his school. He is also one of the founding members of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.

He also helped Freud to develop Psychoanalysis.

Adler was very much instrumental in developing Psychotherapy. He aimed to focus on individual beings as a whole.

That is why he referred to his outlook as Individual Psychology. He was born on 7th February 1870 in Vienna, Austria.

As a child, he had many health-related problems, so he decided to become a physician. He completed his graduation from the University of Vienna.

He was also the President of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society for some time. He was also played a key role in developing psychoanalysis.

After his disagreement, he pointed out that he was not a disciple of Freud. He gave the theory that every individual to overcome inferiority works to achieve superiority.

He also gave the concept of ‘Style of Life’. His theories are considered important in therapy and child development.

He influenced many famous psychologists like Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Karen Horney, Rollo May, Albert Ellis etc. His works include The Neurotic Constitution, The Education of Children, Understanding human nature, Understanding Life, The Practice and Theory of individual Psychology etc.

alfred adler

What is Freud? 

Sigmund Freud was born to Jewish parents in the Austrian empire in 1856. He is an Austrian neurologist.

He qualified for his doctorate in medicine in 1881 from the University of Vienna. He became the founder of the psychoanalytic school of thought.

During the founding of psychoanalysis, he came across two therapeutic techniques transference and the use of free association. He redefined the meaning of sexuality which led to the further development of the Oedipus complex, which became a major tenet in Psychoanalytic theory.

His most famous analysis of dreams on which he wrote the book also The Interpretation of Dreams gave him the model for symptoms formations and underlying mechanisms of repression. He also gave the theory of the Unconscious mind in which he divided the state of mind into three parts id, ego and superego.

Freud also postulated the theory of libido i.e. sexual activity, energy, mental processes etc.

Freud’s work has greatly changed Western thought. Many people are influenced by him and his works.

He was greatly inspired by famous people like Plato, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Darwin etc. Freud also researched the area of cerebral palsy, which at that time was known as Cerebral paralysis.

He credits his discovery of psychoanalytic methods to Josef Breuer. Breuer case study of Anna O’ was very much helpful for Freud.

He used to take cocaine as he believed that it cures many physical and mental problems.


Main Differences Between Adler and Freud

  1. Alfred Adler is known famously for giving concepts like Individual psychology, Superiority complex, Inferiority complex etc. Sigmund Freud is known famously for giving concepts like Psychoanalysis, including the theories of id, ego and super-ego, Oedipus complex etc.
  2. Adler field of interest is Psychotherapist and psychiatrist. Freud field of interest is Neurology, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.
  3. Adler got no awards during his lifetime. Freud got Goethe Prize in 1930, which is a prestigious award in Germany.
  4. Adler famous works consist of The Science of Living, Understanding Human Behaviour, The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler etc. Freud famous works consist of On Aphasia, The Interpretation of Dreams, Studies on Hysteria etc.
  5. Adler belonged to The Adlerian School of thought. Freud belonged to the Psychoanalytic School of thought.
  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26301340
  2. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1926-01004-001
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