Adler, Alfred (1870-1937)
Adler, Alfred (1870-1937)
Psychiatrist known for his theory of individual psychology and for his pioneering work with children and families.
Alfred Adler was born in a middle-class suburb of Vienna, Austria, in 1870 and decided on medicine as his calling at an early age. After graduating from the University of Vienna medical school in 1895, he at first practiced ophthalmology but later switched to psychiatry. In 1902 Adler became part of Sigmund Freud's circle, joining the discussion group that later became the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and rising in its ranks to eventually become its president and editor of its journal. However, after 1907 Adler's growing disagreement with Freud's theories, especially with their heavy emphasis on the role of sexuality in personality formation, alienated him from the ranks of Freudians.
In 1926 Adler began dividing his time between Vienna and the United States, where he was appointed visiting lecturer at Columbia in 1927. In 1932 he became a lecturer at the Long Island College of Medicine and emigrated to the United States with his wife. Adler died suddenly in 1937 in Aberdeen, Scotland, while on a lecture tour. Today there are more than 100 professional Adlerian organizations and 34 training institutes in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
In 1911, Adler and his followers left the Psychoanalytic Society to form their own group and develop the system of individual psychology, a holistic, humanistic therapeutic approach that views the individual as primarily a social rather than a sexual being and places more emphasis on choices and values than Freudian psychology. At the center of Adlerian psychology is the individual striving toward perfection and overcoming feelings of inferiority (a concept later popularized—somewhat mistakenly—as the "inferiority complex"). During World War I, Adler served in military hospitals for three years. After the war, he became interested in child psychology and established a network of public child guidance Clinics in the Vienna school system, offering what was probably the very first family counseling. A therapist would interview family members before a selected audience of parents and teachers and provide feedback about their situation. There were 28 of these facilities in operation until the Nazis ordered them closed in 1934. Adlerian parent study groups still meet throughout the United States and Canada.
Christensen, Oscar C, ed. Adlerian Family Counseling: A Manual for Counselor, Educator, and Psychotherapist. Minneapolis: Educational Media Corp., 1993.
Hoffman, Edward. The Drive for Self: Alfred Adler and the Founding of Individual Psychology. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1994.
Manaster, Guy J., ed. Alfred Adler, As We Remember Him. Chicago: North American Society of Adlerian Psychology, 1977.
Rattner, Josef. Alfred Adler. New York: F. Ungar, 1983.
Stepansky, Paul E. In Freud's Shadow: Adler in Context. Hillside, NJ: Analytic Press, 1983.