Adler, Alfred

(1870–1937)
   Among Sigmund Freud’s most important students, Adler followed his mentor’s early career trajectory as well. He trained as a physician and psychiatrist and worked in the laboratory of the brain specialist Theodore Meynert (1833–1892). Unlike Freud, Adler actually studied with Richard von Krafft- Ebing. Sickly as a child and raised in impoverished circumstances, Adler was fascinated by the compensatory adaptations the human body makes to disabilities.
   Adler broke with Freud around 1912 because of their differences over the origin of neuroses and the role of human volition in dealing with them. Whereas Freud saw the condition as the result of repressed sexual urges and trauma, Adler described it as a by-product of social maladaptation developed from the child’s will to survive. Depending on an individual’s experience with this process, he or she could acquire an inferiority complex, a term he coined to describe the exaggerated need for approval. Adler’s therapy was to give such persons a more secure sense of self, thus enabling them to conduct their lives in more realistic ways.
   A social democrat, Adler welcomed the establishment of the First Austrian Republic in 1918 for the opportunity it presented to promote mental health among a wider public. Encouraged by Otto Glöckel, the director of Vienna’s schools, he helped to develop guidance clinics for elementary school pupils. In 1929, Adler began lecturing on child psychiatry at the Vienna Pedagogical Institute. He continued to do this semiannually after 1932 as he expanded his career to New York and Great Britain. He was giving a talk in Glasgow when he died.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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