Freud and Klein, Jung, and Rogers Theories Comparison


This essay reviews the main beliefs of four psychological thinkers, Freud and Klein, Jung, and Rogers, and one psychological approach, Transpersonal Psychology. In each case I outline the theory, also noting points of agreement and disagreement between them, sometimes drawing on my own experience.

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Each theory is reviewed under the following headings:

Main ideas
Work of and with the therapist
Similarities and differences with other views

Following the discussion of each theory, I offer some concluding remarks.

Freud and Klein’s psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud was born in Moravia in 1856, and died in England in 1939. His primary training was medical and scientific, and he consistently maintained that his theory was to be understood as a scientific one. Among the most important scientific influences on his work came from the principle of the conservation of energy in physics. According to Helmholz the total quantity of energy in a system is constant – unless new energy is added, or energy is lost, the existing quantity can only change in form and distribution. Freud’s initial creative insight can be regarded as supposing that human psychology can be understood as an energy system. This enabled him to offer an explanatory account of the behaviour of neurotic people in terms of the causes of their behaviour, instead of supposing that this behaviour was mysterious, random or inexplicable (Brown 1961, p2-3; Thornton 2006).

Melanie Klein was born in Vienna in 1882 (making her a generation younger than Freud) and died in London in 1960. Klein was a pioneer in applying psychoanalytic techniques to children, maintaining that play behaviour could provide the same sort of data as free association, and also argued (an idea that Freud came to accept) that people were also driven towards death, or the ending of life, as well as to the preservation of life (Brown 1961, p71f).

Freud revised and modified his ideas repeatedly during his long career. It would take more space than this whole essay to review the changes, and I have other thinkers and approaches to discuss. In the following sub-section I outline some of the central commitments of Freud as they remain influential in practice today, making (for reasons of space) only limited reference to Klein.

Main ideas

Following Brown (1961) the following are the main components of Freud’s views:

(1) Psychic determinism: Freud was inspired by the principle of conservation of energy in physics, and maintained that human psychology was an energy system. What this meant specifically was that behaviours that had previously been regarded as accidental or meaningless (including dreams, tics, yawning, paralyses and slips of the tongue) could be seen as possible symptoms: the psychoanalytic observer could seek to interpret them as symptoms on the hypothesis that they represented energy that might not have been ‘allowed’ to itself themselves directly.

(2) The role of the unconscious: The symptomatic individual is typically unaware of the causes of her or his symptoms, and this is partly because they are not the sort of things that the subject wants to acknowledge. The thought of a desired outcome or action is ‘repressed’ because it is not acceptable, but the energy associated with it has to go somewhere (see (1) above) and so is substituted for something else with a non-obvious relationship. (If it was obvious, and so obvious to the patient, it wouldn’t successfully be repressed.) Work is required to make the processes apparent, and to determine what to do about them.

(3) Goal-oriented nature of behaviour: All behaviour is for something, and repressed wishes cannot generally be released in ways irrelevant to the target desire. This is part of why symptoms can be informative. Freud describes a woman who had been disgusted by a person allowing a dog to drink from a glass, but refused to express the disgust because it would have been rude and had become unable to drink water from glasses herself. This refusal was, he claims, uncovered as a symptom by following up on her muttering about her “lady friend” during free-association under hypnosis, where the ‘forgotten’ episode was recalled, and after this the symptom disappeared (1962, p 36).

(4) The developmental or historical approach: There is a characteristic cycle to human psychological development, closely associated with sexuality. ‘Sex’ here is understood widely, to include the full range of pleasurable sensation over various regions of the body. Freud maintained that ordinarily people went through a series of ‘stages’, the first three broadly associated with a region of the body: oral (first 18 months), then anal (18 months to 3 years), then phallic (ages 3 to 6 years), and a ‘latency’ period during which ‘pregenital desires were largely repressed’ (Prochaska and Norcross 2003, p35). Finally during adolescence a ‘genital’ stage begins. Each of these stages involves various kinds of conflict (over access to the breast, toilet training, etc.) and these formative conflicts are, according to Freud, often the basis of later neurosis. Also we face an ongoing conflict between our instincts (for pleasure and life, but also for aggressive conflict and death) and the demands of social and institutional living, which begin in the family. This conflict between ‘libido’ and ‘reality’ is a major source of repression, but makes individuals unlikely to know why they are behaving as they are. The ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ individual is not immune to the conflict (being so, for Freud, would require abandoning civilisation, or lacking the instincts) but is more flexible and fluent at handling the conflict, more aware of what she or he is doing when denying an instinctual urge, and better able to participate in determining how restrained urges can be substituted or managed without repression.

Klein (Fordham 1995, p47f), as noted, pioneered the application of analytic techniques with small children, partly by observing their play behaviour, and partly through discussion.[1] Fordham describes one of her case studies, of a child called Richard, during the second world war. Richard was ten years old at the time. Klein interprets his conflicting responses to parents (e.g. a castration anxiety related to being lied to about a circumcision procedure – Fordham 1995, p51) and his construction of an account of the insides of people’s bodies, including his own, and that of his parents, especially that of his mother prior to his birth.

Work of and with the therapist

The Freudian analyst helps partly by listening, or simply by being there while the patient free-associates and works through the things she or he says during the process. In Freud’s view this process could enable the unconscious to be brought to consciousness, and patients come to understand how it is that they partly resist abandoning their symptoms (because they’re goal-oriented, even if non-optimal). The hope is that the unsymptomatic individual will be better able to satisfy her or his ‘drives’.

The analyst does more than simply listen, of course, and her or his questioning and participation uses or facilitates a variety of procedures (Prochaska and Norcross 2003, p39), including ‘confrontation’, ‘clarification’, ‘interpretation’ and ‘working through’, which are intended to help uncover repression (manifest in resistance to free association), and to manage the common ‘transference’ where uncovered drives are directed at the analyst, who is a highly convenient and sympathetic target for them.

The healthy individual, for Freud, is one who is flexibly able to navigate the inevitable conflict between ego and reality. As Adam Phillips puts it:

“Freudians believe we are inevitably violated both from within and without: our egos are violated by our desires and what happens to us. So the Freudian cannot imagine a life without defences, but only a life spent trying to protect himself from this life in order to be able to go on living it, with sufficient pleasure” (2000, p161-2).

Similarities and differences with other views

Freud’s work exerted massive influence on later psychology, and he interacted directly with a number of the figures I’ll consider later. I’m going to use this ‘similarities and differences’ sub-section cumulatively, as I add detail about the different theories, and so have no more to say in this first round.

I find one of Freud’s most basic ideas, the psychic determinism, interesting and exciting. If he’s correct, then a skilled observer can find meaning in patterns of behaviour that would otherwise be regarded as random noise. I’ve been given reason to observe patterns in my own behaviour more thoughtfully as a result of this – I’m not generally a tardy person, and now when I ‘forget’ something that I need for some unpleasant task (a piece of paper I need for some boring administrative matter at the bank) or am late more than once for a meeting a particular person, I at least wonder whether these episodes aren’t in some way motivated, and what I’m both remembering and forgetting while I do it.

Jung’s analytical psychology

Carl Jung was born in Switzerland in 1875, where he died in 1961. He initially collaborated intensely with Freud, but in 1910 resigned as Chairman of the International Psychoanalytical Association. His approach is called ‘analytical psychology’ partly in order to make clear that it involves a departure from Freud’s psycho-analysis.

Main ideas

Jung shared with Freud the notion that an important part of the psychology of an individual person was the unconscious, and that dreams and other behaviour provides clues about what was going on there. As Fordham (1995, p79f) notes, Jung was dissatisfied with what he took to be the mechanical nature of Freudian explanations, and preferred to think of the process of analysis as one of interpretation, leading to understanding of meaning rather than causal processes. He regarded symbols are much more important than Freud did. In addition he disagreed with Freud about the importance of the libido and sexual drives, maintaining that, especially in later life, people tended towards an additional stage of development, which involved realisation of the self in relation to the ‘collective unconscious’ which is an inherited part of the unconscious, shared with others. This process was, according to Jung, significantly spiritual and even religious.

This notion of the collective unconscious was a clear departure from Freud. Jung claimed to find recurring and universal ‘archetypes’ (of key processes such as death and marriage – Brooke 1991, p16) in world mythologies, folklore and religion, and maintained that dreams should be interpreted in the context of this common inheritance, a process that he called ‘amplification’ (Fordham 1995, p87). For Jung, neurosis was often related to a failure to pursue ‘self-knowledge’ which in turn involved achieving a better level of connectedness with what he took to be human universals.

Fordham quotes a passage from Jung illustrating his rejection of aspects of Freud’s view:

“The symptoms of a neurosis are not simply the effects of long-past causes, whether ‘infantile sexuality’ or the infantile urge to power; they are also attempts at a new synthesis of life – unsuccessful attempts, let it be added in the same breath, but attempts nevertheless, with a core of value and meaning. They are seeds that fail to sprout owing to the inclement conditions of an inner and outer nature” (Quoted in Fordham 1995, p81).

Work of and with the therapist

Although some of the tools of the Jungian therapist (free association, dream analysis) are the same as those of the Freudian, there are important differences in the point and intended outcome of the process.

Because the Jungian believes in the collective unconscious, dreams and associations are not understood merely as expressions of a constrained energy system, but also as indications of a relationship with universal sources of human meaning, including spiritual ones. Interpretation is partly a process of ‘amplification’ (Fordham 1995, p87) informed by the therapist’s understanding of the collective unconscious. As Fordham notes, Jung ‘did not enter into details of the analyst-patient relation’ and suggests that Jung may not have been especially ‘interested’ in this, relying ‘rather heavily on the analyst’s native intelligence’ (Fordham 1995, p127).

Similarities and differences with other views

The main differences I can see between Jung and Freud are the ones I’ve noted: Jung was less impressed by the role of the libido, and more inclined to take seriously the spiritual content of what his subjects said. The healthy subject after Jungian therapy is generically similar to the patient after psycho-analysis, except that for Jung such a person, if an adult, will be willingly involved in the spiritual. Fordham quotes Jung saying that the ‘fascination which psychic life exerts upon modern man’ holds ‘the promise of a far-reaching spiritual change in the Western world’ (Fordham 1995, p91).

The dispute with Freud regarding whether analysis produced causal explanations or interpretations seems to me like it could be unnecessary. A symptom could at the same time have a cause (because of being the substituted expression of a desire) and a symbolic meaning (because associations between ideas help determine what gets substituted). It seems right to take somewhat more seriously the spiritual experience of people (I’ll say more about this under transpersonal therapy) but that doesn’t have to mean supposing that what subjects report is true. Freud’s patient (described above) was for a while disgusted by all glasses of water, but not because there was actually anything wrong with them.

Rogers’ Person Centred Therapy

Carl Rogers was born in the United States of America in 1902, where he also died in 1987. His work, which therefore came after the main contributions of Freud and Jung described above, emphasised the humanistic idea that therapist’s technical skills were less important than their humanity, which he understood to require bringing dispositions such as ‘unconditional positive regard’ and ‘genuineness’ to the therapeutic process.

Main ideas

According to Rogers people are driven by a single ‘tendency toward actualization’ (Prochaska and Norcross 2003, p142), which is a tendency to develop capacities so as to ‘maintain or enhance the organism’. This tendency needs to be able to tell what maintains or enhances, and accordingly Rogers postulated an ‘organismic valuing process’ that distinguishes between experiences that are good and bad for growth. This tendency leads us to distinguish ourselves from the world (this is roughly similar to some of Freud’s thinking about the formation of infant identity through recognising the independence of the world) and come to need ‘positive regard’ for ourselves.

Our main source of regard, not only positive, to begin with is other people, especially parents. We learn that their approval depends to some extent on what we do, and there can be a mis-match between what is actualizing in general (in the sense of good for growth by the lights of the organismic valuation process) and what is actualizing in the sense of leading to positive regard from others. To put one of my own experiences in these terms, we might learn that we get positive regard by not taking the last cup-cake, even though we intensely want it and are bewildered by the fact that nobody else seems to want it at all. This tension creates ‘conditions of worth’ (Prochaska and Norcross 2003, p143) that distort the expression of the tendency to actualise.

Work of and with the therapist

The aim of therapy according to Rogers is to ‘provide a relationship which [the client/patient] may use for his own personal growth’ (Rogers 1961, p32), which is a matter of freeing up the tendency we all have to actualisation. According to Prochaska and Norcross (2003, p146f) that there are five conditions – besides being in the relationship itself – for ‘therapeutic personality changes’: Vulnerability, Genuineness, Unconditional Positive Regard, Accurate Empathy, Perception of Genuineness. Vulnerability concerns the client’s awareness of her or his own state of ‘incongruence’ and hence vulnerability to anxiety. Genuiness is the required state of the therapist, who should be ‘freely and deeply themselves’ (Prochaska and Norcross 2003, p147) while in the therapeutic process, to be ‘aware of [her or his] own feelings, in so far as possible, rather than presenting an outward facade of one attitude, while actually holding another’ (Rogers 1961, p33). At the same time the therapist must express the ‘unconditional positive regard’ which is the corrective to the conditional positive regard from others that Rogerians take to be the cause of incongruence, a process in turn demanding accurate empathy of the ‘client’s inner world’ (Prochaska and Norcross 2003, p147) which involves not filtering empathy through personal reactions (and so is an additional demand over and above genuineness’. Finally the client must recognise the genuineness of the therapist.

In this environment, it is up to the client what to talk about. In this ‘non-directive’ (as in, not directed by the therapist) environment, the client will, according to Rogers, realise a capacity that everyone has to ‘move forward toward maturity’ (Rogers 1961, p35). The result is supposed to be that the client becomes ‘more integrated, more effective’ and to show ‘fewer of the characteristics which are usually termed neurotic or psychotic, and more of the characteristics of the healthy, well-functioning person’ (Rogers 1961, p36). Part of this depends on the unconditional positive regard of the therapist, through which the client can come to reassess her or his incongruence. In a hypothetical monologue from a client in therapy, Rogers writes:

“But now that I’ve shared some of this bad side of me, he despises me. I’m sure of it, but it’s strange I can find little evidence of it. Do you suppose that what I’ve told him isn’t so bad? Is it possible that I need not be ashamed of it as a part of me? I no longer feel that he despises me. It makes me feel that I want to go further, exploring me, perhaps expressing more of myself…” (Rogers 1961, p67).

When the process works, the subject becomes a ‘fully functioning individual’ (Prochaska and Norcross 2003, p156) who trusts her or his own actual emotional responses to what they experience, and the courses of action that they spontaneously feel are best. Such a person lives fully in the present – not filtering the present through past hurts, or leaving any of the present out.

Similarities and differences with other views

A Freudian would likely object that the Rogerian approach involving unconditional positive regard provides ‘a transference relationship that has all the elements of an idealized maternal love’ (Prochaska and Norcross 2003, p164), and also think that Rogers’ style of therapy missed out on important tools (free association) that Freud had showed could be useful. That said, the subject at the end of successful Rogerian therapy is similar to that supposed by Freud – aware of his or her own actual emotions, authentically accepting of how they deal with them, not limited by distortions from previous experience. Some of the conflicts Freudians think are important (for example over access to the breast, or toilet training) can be described in terms of conditional positive regard. It also seems to me that Rogers has done a great deal of good by devoting so much attention to thinking about the relationship between client and therapist, and the demands on the therapist.

Freudians would probably also agree with the fact that Rogers apparently didn’t take religion very seriously. A Jungian, on the other hand, might complain that Rogers doesn’t take the spiritual anywhere nearly seriously enough, and that his approach neglects important information about human psychology that are to be found in mythology and folklore. (Earlier in a passage quoted above, Jung notes that ‘modern man’ has become ‘unhistorical’ (Fordham 1995, p91).

Finally, Rogers’ concern with self­actualisation, though, seems to me to make too much of what might be a specifically North American, or middle class, pre-occupation with the individual (Prochaska and Norcross make a similar point – 2003, p164).

Transpersonal Psychology

Transpersonal psychology is the name for a wide range of different approaches to therapy. Unlike the approaches discussed above, it is not primarily associated with a single influential figure. Lajoie and Shapiro (1992) reviewed some of the literature over the period 1969-1991, and report no less than forty different descriptions of what transpersonal psychology amounts to. Although in some ways the term is new, some argue that the ideas it stands for are not. Kasprow and Scotton, for example, trace the roots of transpersonal psychology at least to William James who had argued that the test of spiritual experience should be its effect on people, rather than pre-emptively supposing with Freud that it was a kind of regressive defence (Kasprow and Scotton 1999, p12, 13, 15). They claim that what distinguishes transpersonal psychology, and gives it its name, is concern with ‘difficulties associated with developmental stages beyond that of the adult ego’, and it is this movement beyond the ego that merits the label ‘transpersonal’. As we saw above, Jung too was concerned with psychological development beyond adulthood, and with mystical experience (Fordham 1995, p135). He is often noted as an influence on transpersonal psychology. Another key figure is Abraham Maslow, born in 1908 and who died in 1970, so with a productive life largely overlapping with that of Rogers.

Main ideas

Like Rogers, Maslow was a kind of humanist Rogers’ whose client centred therapy is a form of humanistic psychology, and he and Maslow agreed that people had innate potential and desire for self-actualisation. Maslow is especially famous for his periodically revised ‘hierarchy of needs’ describing a number of groupings of needs he took to be common to all people, some of which (e.g. for sleep) needed to be satisfied before others. In the original formulations (Maslow 1943, 1954) the top level of needs was for ‘self-actualization’ which included morality and creativity. Later in his life he proposed that the top level included a state that some self-actualised people might achieve, which he called ‘transcendence’ (Maslow 1971). ‘Transcendence’ here is self-transcendence, and so refers to the same phenomenon as the ‘transpersonal’ in transpersonal psychology. As Kasprow and Scotton (1999, p13) put it, “transpersonal approaches are concerned with accessing and integrating developmental stages beyond the adult ego and with fostering higher human development” and this involves dealing with “matters relating to human values and spiritual experience” including “altruism … and profound feelings of connectedness”.

Work of and with the therapist

Because transpersonal psychology is a large collection of approaches, there is more variation in how practitioners work. This makes it very difficult to offer a short summary. In general practice is humanist – very simply put it’s Rogers with a spiritual aspect, or Rogers mixed with some elements of Jung, including focus on symbolic interpretation of imagery. But there are a number of distinctive tools used by some practitioners that are not generally used by proponents of the approaches described above, including use of ‘altered states of consciousness’ besides those of hypnosis and being on the therapist’s couch, including by means of some of the tools used traditionally and in shamanistic and religious practice to achieve altered states, including “fasting, dancing, prayer, relaxation, sex, ritual and drugs” (Kasprow and Scotton 1999, p18).

Given the focus on transcendent experience, it isn’t surprising that a significant fraction of transpersonal practice relates to experiences like bereavement (Golsworthy and Coyle, 2001)[2] or that it has been found generally useful in pastoral counselling (Sutherland, 2001).[3]

Similarities and differences with other views

Now that all four approaches have been described, it is possible to say something more general about relationships between them. Freud and Rogers are both relatively secular in orientation. Jung and Transpersonal psychology both take spiritual and transcendent experience more seriously. Rogers and at least some transpersonal psychologists (including Maslow) are clearly humanist. Despite their differences, they have in some ways similar conceptions of the healthy human being, who is free from some forms of conflict, and able to cope flexibly with life. They differ on what the world is like, in particular over the status of transcendent experience, and over the degree of individualism to be aimed for (with Rogers seeming the most individualistic).


Brooke, R. 1991. Jung and Phenomenology, London: Routledge.

Brown, J.A.C. 1961. Freud and the Post-Freudians, London: Pelican.

Fordham, M. 1995. Freud, Jung, Klein: The fenceless field, London: Routledge.

Freud, S. 1962. Two Short Accounts of Psychoanalysis (translated and edited by James Strachey), London: Penguin.

Golsworthy, R. and Coyle, A. 2001. Practitioners’ accounts of religious and spiritual dimensions in bereavement therapy, Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 14(3), pp 183–202.

Kasprow, M.C. and Scotton, B.W. 1999. A Review of Transpersonal Theory and Its application to the Practice of Psychotherapy. Journal ofPsychotherapy Practiceand Research, 8(1), pp 12-23.

Lajoie, D. H. & Shapiro, S. I. (1992).Definitions of transpersonal psychology: The first twenty-three years. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 24(1), pp 79-98..

Maslow, A.H. 1943. A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review, 50 pp 370-96.

Maslow, A.H 1954. Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper.

Maslow, A.H. 1971. The farther reaches of human nature. New York: Penguin.

Phillips, A. 2000. Promises, Promises. London: Faber and Faber.

Prochaska, J.O. and Norcross, J.C. 2003. Systems of Psychotherapy: A Transtheoretical Analysis, Pacific Grove: Thomson.

Rogers, C.R. 1961. On Becoming a Person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy, London: Constable.

Sutherland, M. 2001. Developing a transpersonal approach to pastoral counselling, British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 29(4), pp 381-390.

Thornton, S.P. 2006. Sigmund Freud [Internet Enclycopedia of Philosophy], URL: (Accessed 8 September 2008).


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