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Alfred Adler

(1870—1937) Austrian psychologist and psychiatrist

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Austrian psychiatrist who founded a school of thought based on the psychology of the individual and introduced the concept of the inferiority feeling (later called inferiority complex).

Adler qualified in medicine from the University of Vienna Medical School in 1895 and practised ophthalmology before taking up psychiatry. Initially he was a prominent member of Freud's circle of psychoanalysts, but differences in their ideas became evident early in the association. In 1907 Adler first put forward the idea that people attempt to compensate psychologically for physical disabilities and the feelings of inferiority that they produce; an inability to compensate adequately causes neurosis and mental illness. He disagreed with Freud that mental illness was caused by sexual conflicts in infancy and confined the role of sexuality to a small part in the greater striving to overcome feelings of inferiority.

By 1911, his break with Freud was complete and he and his followers formed their own school to develop the ideas of individual psychology, maintaining that an individual's main motive is to seek perfection in order to achieve superiority and overcome feelings of inadequacy. Adler's methods of psychotherapy were supportive and aimed to encourage good human relationships and greater social interest, thus helping patients who were emotionally disabled by their inferiority feelings to become mature and socially useful. In 1921 Adler founded the first child guidance clinic in Vienna and went on to establish many more.

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