Alfred Adler Biography

(Austrian Psychotherapist and Founder of the School of ‘Individual Psychology’)

Birthday: February 7, 1870 (Aquarius)

Born In: Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus, Vienna, Austria

Alfred Adler was a renowned physician and psychotherapist who contributed greatly to the field of human psychology. He is the founder of the school of Individual Psychology which considers each human being as an individual whole. He developed a holistic approach to the study of a person’s psychology, taking into account the overall environment the person is associated with. His methods greatly influenced the counselling and psychiatric strategies developed in the 20th century. The highly acclaimed doctor had decided quite early in life that he wanted to pursue medical profession. Bouts with a series of childhood diseases and the loss of a brother at a young age motivated him to become a physician. He started his career as an ophthalmologist but soon switched to general practice. During the course of his work he came into contact with the celebrated psychologist Sigmund Freud with whom he used to discuss ideas and opinions. However, the two great men’s ideas often conflicted and Adler broke away from Freud to establish an independent school of psychotherapy, The Adlerian School, whose main premise was the Individual Psychology. He was the first psychiatrist to understand the significance of the environment in molding a human being’s personality. He believed that the inferiority complex of individuals plays an important role in personality development.

Quick Facts

Died At Age: 67


Spouse/Ex-: Raissa Epstein

children: Alexandra, Kurt

Born Country: Austria

Quotes By Alfred Adler Psychologists

Died on: May 28, 1937

place of death: Aberdeen, Scotland

Ancestry: Hungarian Austrian

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

City: Vienna, Austria

Founder/Co-Founder: The school of individual psychology

More Facts

education: University Of Vienna

  • 1

    What were Alfred Adler's main contributions to psychology?

    Alfred Adler's main contributions to psychology include the development of individual psychology, the concept of the inferiority complex, the importance of social interest, and the idea of striving for superiority.

  • 2

    How did Alfred Adler differ from Sigmund Freud in terms of their theories?

    Alfred Adler differed from Sigmund Freud in that he focused more on the individual's social context and the pursuit of personal goals, rather than solely on unconscious desires and drives.

  • 3

    What is the concept of the inferiority complex in Alfred Adler's theory?

    The concept of the inferiority complex in Adler's theory refers to an individual's feelings of inadequacy and insecurity that stem from early experiences of helplessness and inferiority.

  • 4

    How did Alfred Adler view the role of birth order in shaping personality?

    Alfred Adler believed that birth order played a significant role in shaping an individual's personality, with firstborns typically being more responsible and driven, middle children seeking attention, and youngest children being more carefree.

  • 5

    How did Alfred Adler's concept of social interest influence his approach to therapy?

    Alfred Adler's concept of social interest emphasized the importance of community and relationships in fostering mental health, leading him to focus on helping individuals develop a sense of belonging and purpose in therapy.

Childhood & early Life
Alfred Adler was one of the seven children born to a Jewish grain merchant and his wife.
He was afflicted by rickets as a small child and could not walk until he was four. He suffered from a bout of pneumonia when he was five. These childhood illnesses motivated him to become a physician.
He received his primary education from classical secondary school. He studied medicine at the University of Vienna Medical School and earned his degree in 1895. During his college days he became involved with a group of socialists. Career
Adler began his career as an ophthalmologist, but soon shifted to general medicine. He had been interested in socialism from a young age and wrote articles for socialist newspapers.
He received an invitation from the renowned psychiatrist Sigmund Freud in 1902 to join an informal group ‘Wednesday Society’, the members of which discussed the various aspects of psychoanalysis.
He was made the president of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in 1910. By this time, differences were building up between Adler and Freud, and he disassociated himself from the group after a year.
In 1912, Adler founded the Society for Individual Psychology. Even though he had broken away from Freud’s group due to differences in their thoughts and views, the two men had a mutual admiration and respect for each other. He renamed his school The Society for Individual Psychology in 1913.
During the World War I (1914-1918) he served in hospital service for three years. After the war, he established a child guidance clinic in Vienna, and set up educational consulting teams in public schools for child guidance.
In 1924, he accepted the post of a lecturer at the Pedagogical Institute, Vienna. He also toured frequently and gave lectures in various institutions all over the U.S and Europe. He became a visiting professor at Columbia University in 1927.
He shifted to New York in 1932 for a professorship at the Long Island College of Medicine when Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party rose to power in Austria. He spent the rest of his life touring and lecturing.
Adler was a prolific writer and had published more than 300 books and articles. The most significant of his works are: ‘The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology’ (1927), ‘Understanding Human Nature’ (1927), and ‘What Life Could Mean to You’ (1931).
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Major Works
He founded the Adlerian School of Individual Psychology. Initially called ‘Free Psychoanalysis’, his works adopted a holistic approach to the study of human psychology and personality.
He defined a set of fictive goals that are largely unconscious. He believed that human psychology is psychodynamic and can be explained teleologically. He was of the view that the conscious and the unconscious work in union with each other to achieve the fictive goals.
He considered inferiority complex or the feeling of inferiority a major factor in determining the development of an individual’s personality. He identified inferiority complex as one of the main factors that lead to behavioral problems in children.
Personal Life & Legacy
He met Raissa Epstein, a Russian social activist, while studying in Vienna. The couple got married in 1897. They were blessed with four children. His daughter Alexandra was a psychiatrist and social activist while another daughter Valentine, was a writer and activist.
While on a visit to the University of Aberdeen in Scotland in 1937, he suffered a sudden heart attack and died. He was 67.
The Adler School of Professional Psychology, Chicago, was founded in 1952 to further the pioneering work of the great psychologist.
Facts About Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler had a unique perspective on birth order, believing that it played a significant role in shaping individual personalities and behaviors.

Adler was a strong advocate for the importance of social interest, emphasizing the significance of community and social connections in fostering mental health.

Despite facing personal struggles in his own life, Adler remained dedicated to his work and continued to make significant contributions to the field of psychology.

Adler was known for his emphasis on the concept of "fictional finalism," which highlighted the importance of personal goals and aspirations in driving human behavior.


See the events in life of Alfred Adler in Chronological Order

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