I am trying to make a list of the main accepted branches of psychoanalysis to quiz a friend of mine. I don't know much about it and to learn more I need to know the main areas. So far I have

  • Freudian Psychology
  • Object Relations Theory
  • Relations Theory
  • Self-psychology

Does anyone know of a basic list of the main branches? My friend said these were the main ones, but I couldn't find a source to substantiate that and I want to verify these are indeed considered the main branches.

EDIT: By a "branch" or "school", I mean a general umbrella term people use to aggregate related trains of thought. In physics, this might be "general relativity" or "quantum mechanics".


1 Answer 1


In the context of the question I think it makes sense to limit the scope to earlier developments in psychoanalysis. Thompson (1957) gives an overview of what can be called psychoanalytic schools. She includes:

  • Freudian psychoanalysis
  • Individual psychology (Alfred Adler)
  • Analytical psychology (Carl Gustav Jung)
  • Object relations theory (Sándor Ferenczi, Otto Rank)
  • (Wilhelm Reich)
  • Karen Horney (sometimes denoted »Culturalist Psychoanaysis«)
  • Erich Fromm (sometimes denoted »Culturalist Psychoanaysis«)
  • Harry Stack Sullivan (sometimes denoted »Culturalist Psychoanaysis«)

On the other hand, several psychoanalytic psychologies can be distinguished. Following a systematization by Gottfried Fischer, there are:

  • Drive theory/drive psychology (psychodynamic theory)
  • Ego psychology (Freudian psychoanalytic psychology/structural theory)
  • Object relations theory
  • Self psychology

Newer psychoanalytic schools comprise e. g. Lacanian psychoanalysis, interpersonal psychoanalysis and relational psychoanalysis – but for a more comprehensive list see Kernberg (2001) and Gabbard (2009).


  • Frosh, Stephen (2012). A Brief Introduction to Psychoanalytic Theory. London: Palgrave.
  • Gabbard, Glen O. (2009) Textbook of Psychotherapeutic Treatments. American Psychiatric Publishing. (Ch. 1: Theoretical Models of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy)
  • Kernberg, Otto F. (2001). Recent Developments in the Technical Approaches of English-Language Psychoanalytic Schools. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, Volume LXX, Issue 3, 519–547.
  • Thompson, Clara Mabel (1957). The different schools of psychoanalysis. American Journal of Nursing, 57, 1304–1307.
  • Thompson, Clara Mabel & Mullahy, Patrick (1951). Psychoanalysis: Evolution and Development (3rd ed.). New York: Hermitage House.

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