was an Austrian medical doctor, psychologist, and founder of
the school of individual psychology.
He was born
in Austria and raised in Vienna, he trained as a doctor at the
University of Vienna Medical School and qualified in 1895. Adler
became interested in psychology as it related to physical disorders.
He met the famous psychologist Sigmund
Freud in 1902 and they formed the Vienna Psychoanalytic
Society with Adler as a president.
Adler was influenced by the mental construct ideas of Hans Vaihinger
and developed a theory of organic inferiority and compensation
(hypertrophy, see inferiority complex), with the "masculine
protest" as the natural outcome in male-dominated society.
Adler came to disagree with Freud's theories: the divergence
became public in 1911 at the Weimar Psychoanalytic Congress.
Adler contended with Sigmund
Freud's belief in the dominance of the sex instinct and
whether ego drives were libidinal, he also attacked Freud's
ideas over repression. Adler believed that the repression theory
should be replaced with the concept of ego-defensive tendencies
- the neurotic state derived from inferiority feelings and over
compensation of the masculine protest, Oedipal complexes were
insignificant. Adler left the Vienna society and formed the
Society of Free Analytic Research, renamed the Society of Individual
Psychology in 1912.
a book defining his key ideas in 1912: Über den nervösen
Charakter. He argued that human personality could be explained
teleologically, separate strands dominated by the guiding purpose
of the individual's unconscious self ideal to convert feelings
of inferiority to superiority (or rather completeness). The
desires of the self ideal were countered by social and ethical
demands. If the corrective factors were disregarded and the
individual over-compensated then an inferiority complex would
occur, the individual would become egocentric, power-hungry
and aggressive or worse.
were halted by World War I, during which he served as a doctor
with the Austrian Army. Post-war his influence increased greatly
into the 1930s, he established a number of child guidance clinics
from 1921 and was a frequent lecturer in Europe and the United
States, becoming a visiting professor at Columbia University
in 1927. Therapeutically his methods avoided the concentration
on adult psyche by attempting to pre-empt the problems in the
child by encouraging and promoting social interest and but avoiding
pampering and neglect. In adults the therapy relied on the exclusion
of blame or a superior attitude by the practitioner, the reduction
of resistance by raising awareness of individual behaviour and
the refusal to become adversarial. Common theraputic tools included
the use of humour, historical instances and paradoxical injunctions.
Adler's popularity was related to the comparative optimisim
and comprehensibility of his ideas compared to those of Freud
Jung. He famously commented The test of one's behavior pattern;
relationship to society, relationship to one's work, relationship
In 1934 the Austrian government closed most of Adler's clinics
and in 1935 Adler left Austria for a professorship at the Long
Island College of Medicine. His death in Aberdeen, Scotland,
1937, was a blow to the influence of his ideas although a number
of them were taken up by neo-Freudians.
Nonetheless, there exists presently several schools dedicated
to carrying on the work of Alfred Adler such as The Adler School
of Professional Psychology which was founded as The Alfred Adler
Institute of Chicago by Adler's protoge, Rudolf Dreikurs. There
are also various organizations promoting Dr. Adler's orientation
towards mental and social wellbeing. These include ICASSI and
the North American Society for Adlerian Psychology (NASAP).
publications were The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology
(1927) and Understanding Human Nature (1927).