Alfred Adler

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In the world of psychology, Alfred Adler is very well known. He has been credited, along with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, as being one of the "greatest founding influences of modern psychology." He is also best known as the founder of Individual Psychology.

Alfred Adler was born on February 7, 1870 in a small town in Austria. He was the third out of six children, born to a Jewish grain merchant and his wife. As a boy, Alfred was unable to walk until the age of four due to a condition called rickets. When he was five he suffered a near fatal bout with pneumonia. Due to these events in his life, Alfred became highly motivated to become a physician. As a young lad growing up, Alfred was known to be outgoing, popular and a very involved scholar. Upon completing his elementary education years, he attended the University of Vienna, where he graduated with a medical degree in 1895.

In 1897, he married an intellectual and social activist from Russia whom he met while attending college, by the name of Raissa Timofeyewna Epstein. They later went on to have four children, two of whom later became psychiatrists.

Adler began his medical career as an ophthalmologist. He later went on to practice general medicine in a lower class area of Vienna. During this time many of his patients were circus performers, as his office was across from a local amusement park and circus. Adler would spent time studying the many variations of their strengths and weaknesses which provided him with many insights on his organ inferiority theory.

Not long after, Adler changed over his practice to psychiatry. His ideas were becoming known and through a personal invitation, he joined a discussion group, led by Sigmund Freud. Over the course of the next several years, Adler wrote several papers relating to the field of psychology. He had also published a book which discussed the need to view and interpret the patient as a whole person. Many of his ideas conflicted with Freud's theories and by 1911 Adler has left the discussion groups and set out on his own.

In 1912, Adler published the book, "The Neurotic Constitution" where he introduced the term and spoke of his theory called "individual psychology." Adler believed that every person was unique and that no previous theory applied to all people. His theory included four aspects which are, the development of personality, striving towards superiority, psychological health, and the unity of personality. The ideas of self actualization that he spoke of were well received, and thought of highly by many psychologists.

Once Adler had broken away from Freud, he went on to create an independent school of psychology. He gained much success along the way, a journey that spanned over 25 years. He traveled and lectured all around the country with the hope of creating a movement that would rival other professionals in the field of psychology.

During World War I, Adler served as a physician with the Austrian army. Adler's experiences during the war only strengthened his theories. Adler saw first hand the devastating, and at times horrifying effects of war. During the time that he served in the army, not only would he work on the Russian front, but later he worked in the children's hospitals. It was during this time that Adler began to address a new theory, one that in his opinion a person must consider personality dysfunction in childhood in order to obtain the best results of alleviating the individuals personal suffering, as well as to address the social injustices.

Following the time after the war, Adler opened up several child guidance centers in Vienna, and later several clinics opened abroad. In 1932, Adler accepted a professorship at the Long Island College of Medicine in the United States.

Adler continued to tour the country lecturing. In 1937, while lecturing in Aberdeen, Scotland, Alfred Adler suffered a major heart attack and died at the age of 67.

Throughout the course of Adler's life, he changed the world of psychology moving it to what it is today. He has published over 300 books and articles . Organizations all around the world promote Adler's views towards mental and social well-being, including the International Committee of Alderian Summer Schools and Institutes (ICASSI), the North American Society for Alderian Psychology (NASAP) and the International Association for Individual Psychology.

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