about alfred adler
Alfred Adler was a physician, psychotherapist, and the founder of Adlerian psychology, sometimes called individual psychology. He is considered the first community psychologist, since his work was a pioneer in attention to community life, prevention and health of the population. Adlerian psychology emphasizes the human need and capacity to create positive social change and impact.
Adler’s work emphasized the importance of fostering feelings of belonging and striving for superiority. he upheld equality, civil rights, mutual respect, and the advancement of democracy as core values. he was one of the first professionals to provide family and group counseling and to use public education as a way to approach community health. he was one of the first to write about the social determinants of health and mental health. His values and concepts drive our mission, work and values at Adler University today.
adler was born on the outskirts of vienna on february 7, 1870. after graduating with a medical degree from the university of vienna in 1895, he began his career as an ophthalmologist, but soon switched to general practice in a less prosperous area of vienna near an amusement park and a circus. Working with circus people, Adler was inspired by performers’ unusual strengths and weaknesses. It has been suggested that Adler began to develop his ideas about compensation and inferiority during this time.
in 1907 adler was invited to meet sigmund freud. Adler and Freud, along with Rudolf Reitler and Wilhelm Stekel, began meeting weekly during the “Wednesday Night Meetings” that eventually grew to start the psychoanalytic movement. together they formed the vienna psychoanalytic society, of which adler was the first president.
although freud considered adler to be one of his first disciples, adler never saw himself that way and broke with freud and freudian psychoanalysis in 1911. many of adler’s concepts and ideas were separate from freud’s , particularly with regard to the importance of the social realm. Adler used these ideas to shape individual psychology and founded the Society for Individual Psychology in 1912.
After serving as a medic in the Austrian Army in World War I, Adler established a series of child guidance clinics in Austria and embarked on extensive speaking tours in the United States and Europe. With great success, he successfully promoted his psychological concepts by emphasizing the social concern, or gemeinschaftsgefühl.
after his austrian clinics closed due to his jewish heritage, adler immigrated to the united states where he began a professorship at long island medical school. In 1937, while on a speaking tour in Aberdeen, Scotland, Alfred Adler died of a heart attack. His body was cremated in Edinburgh, but the ashes were never recovered. they were rediscovered in a coffin in warriston crematorium and returned to vienna for burial in 2011.
its concepts and impact
Adler’s goal was to create a psychological movement that advocated a holistic view of the individual and social equality. In this way, Adler’s theory of personality and humanity differed significantly from Freud’s, as well as from much of mainstream psychology today. adler believed that the social and community realm is as important to psychology as the internal realm of the individual.
Adler was one of the first psychotherapists to discard the symbolic sofa in favor of two chairs, to create a sense of equality between patient and physician. Adler also focused heavily on family dynamics, specifically parenting and family constellation, as a preventative means of addressing potential future psychological problems. With a practical and goal-oriented approach, Alfred held to a theory of the three tasks of life—occupation, society, and love—that intertwine with each other. success and health in any and all of life’s tasks depend on cooperation.
perhaps the most influential concept of adler, and the one that drives adler university today, is that of social interest. Not to be confused with another form of extroversion, social interest should be viewed as an individual’s personal interest in promoting the well-being of others. collaborating and cooperating with each other as individuals and communities can progress for the benefit of society as a whole.
although adler’s psychological theory was developed nearly a century ago, many of his concepts are still carried on through adler university. Its concepts based on social interest, social justice, equality, and the importance of education guide Adler University’s commitment to social change, from our curriculum, practice, internships, programming, and experiential offerings for students. , faculty and alumni, to our hundreds of partnerships working with local communities to improve community mental health.
through this, adler university fulfills its mission to continue the pioneering work of alfred adler by graduating socially responsible professionals, engaging communities, and promoting social justice. learn more about our history by exploring our timeline.