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Alfred Adler (1870 – 1937)

AdlerAdler was born just outside of Vienna on February 7, 1870. Alfred Adler was born the second of six children in Penzing, Austria on February 7, 1870, the son of a Jewish grain merchant. Sickly as a child, he did not walk until age four because of rickets; at age five Adler developed pneumonia and was diagnosed as unlikely to survive. He did recover, but was so profoundly shaken by the experience that he resolved to become a doctor himself someday in order to help the suffering caused by such illness and disease.

After graduating with a medical degree in 1895 from the University of Vienna, he began his career as an ophthalmologist, but soon switched to general practice in a less affluent area of Vienna near an amusement park and circus. Working with people from the circus, Adler was inspired by the performers’ unusual strengths and weaknesses. It has been suggested that Adler began to develop his insights on compensation and inferiority during this time.

Alfred Adler was a physician, psychotherapist, and the founder of Adlerian psychology, sometimes called individual psychology. He is considered the first community psychologist, because his work pioneered attention to community life, prevention, and population health. Adlerian psychology emphasizes the human need and ability to create positive social change and impact.

Adler’s theories of personality development, especially his belief that the most basic human drive is the striving from an initial state of inadequacy, or what he termed “inferiority”, toward “superiority”, or self-actualization. Adler’s work stressed the importance of nurturing feelings of belonging and striving for superiority. He held equality, civil rights, mutual respect, and the advancement of democracy as core values. He was one of the first practitioners to provide family and group counseling and to use public education as a way to address community health. He was among the first to write about the social determinants of health and of mental health.

Adapted from:  NNDB, http://www.nndb.com/people/256/000097962/

Adler University, https://www.adler.edu/page/about/history/about-alfred-adler

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