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Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler

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  • alfred adler

Best Known For:

  • Individual Psychology
  • The concept of the inferiority complex
  • President of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, 1910


Alfred Adler was born February 7, 1870.


He died May 28, 1937.

Early Life:

Alfred Adler was born in Vienna, Austria. He suffered rickets as a young child which prevented him from walking until the age of four. Due to his health problems as a child, Adler decided he would become a physician and, after graduating from the University of Vienna in 1895 with a medical degree, began his career as an ophthalmologist and later switched to general practice.

Career and Later Life:

Alder soon turned his interests toward the field of psychiatry, and in 1902 Sigmund Freud invited him to join a psychoanalytic discussion group. This group met each Wednesday in Freud's home and would eventually grow to become the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. After serving as President of the group for a time, Adler eventually departed due in part to his disagreements with some of Freud's theories.

While Adler had played a key role in the development of psychoanalysis, he was also one of the first major figures to break away to form his own school of thought. He was quick to point out that while he had been a colleague of Freud's, he was in no way a disciple of the famous Austrian psychiatrist.

In 1912, Alfred Adler founded the Society of Individual Psychology. Adler's theory suggested that every person has a sense of inferiority. From childhood, people work toward overcoming this inferiority and asserting their superiority over others. Adler referred to this as 'striving for superiority' and believed that this drive was the motivating force behind human behaviors, emotions, and thoughts.

Contributions to Psychology:

Alfred Adler's theories have played an essential role in a number of areas including therapy and child development. Alder's ideas also influenced other important psychologists including:

Today, his ideas and concepts are often referred to as Adlerian psychology.

While Adler had converted to Christianity, his Jewish heritage led to the Nazi's closing down his clinics during the 1930s. As a result, Adler emigrated to the United States to take a professor position at the Long Island College of Medicine. In 1937, Adler went on a lecture tour and suffered a fatal heart attack in Aberdeen, Scotland.

His family lost track of his cremated remains shortly after his death and the ashes were presumed lost before being discovered in 2007 at a crematorium in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2011, 74 years after his death, Adler's ashes were returned to Vienna, Austria. In an interview with The Guardian, his granddaughter explained, "Vienna was essentially Adler's home, his birth home and there was the triangle, you know, Adler, Jung and Freud, and all had that sense of coming out of that place, so there's something rather fitting about him going back there."

Selected Publications

Adler, A. (1925). The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology. London: Routledge.

Adler, A. (1956). The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler. H. L. Ansbacher and R. R. Ansbacher (Eds.). New York: Harper Torchbooks.


Boeree, C.G. (1997). Alfred Adler. http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/adler.html

Rattner, J. (1983). Alfred Adler. New York: F. Ungar.

Carrell, S. (2011). Ashes of psychoanalysis co-founder Alfred Adler found after 74 years. The Guardian.
History of Psychology
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