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Individual Psychology Pioneer Adler Visits America

US universities invited Adler to speak on individual psychology. His experiences are positive and successful, so he decides to settle in the US.

Editor's Note: Bob Herrmann-Keeling, Ph.D., of Higganum is the only practitioner of Adlerian psychology and psychotherapy in Connecticut. This blog serializes 72 brief articles on the life and contributions to psychology of Dr. Alfred Adler.

Up to now: After splitting with Freud in 1911, Adler forms Individual Psychology which he and his followers develop into one of the most significant and influential psychologies of the 20th century. He become known around the world for his ideas presented in books, lectures, And classes. American schools soon want him to come and speak.

A number of prestigious American universities had invited him to speak, including Harvard, Brown, and Chicago. Despite misgivings about sailing so far away, in
September of 1926, he took the S.S. Majestic from Southampton, England  to New York. He spent his time perfecting his English so he could address his audiences in their language. (When Freud spoke at Clark University in Worcester, Mass, he spoke only in German and had to be translated.)

Adler spent his first few weeks lecturing at New York hospitals and churches and in meeting new friends, among them Dr. Ira Ewile, a pediatrician and educator who had established a child guidance clinic attached to Mt. Sinai hospital.

When reporters heard he was in town, they interviewed him about Europe’s political woes. To one he provided the headline, "Mussolini Spurred to his Fight for Power by Pique Over Inferiority as a Child, Says Dr. Alfred Adler.” (His command of American English was not yet perfect, however; reporters ribbed him about it, but were clearly taken by him.)

Important to Individual Psychology was his statement to one reporter that “the behavior patterns of persons can be studied from their relation to three things: to
society, to work, to sex.” These would become the three Tasks of Life in Adlerian thought. He expanded on them in his lecture on January 11, 1927, to the prestigious New York Academy of Medicine.

Adler spend the next weeks lecturing to various groups. He also met with many of his admirers, who would go on to become key leaders in American education. From New York City he went to Chicago, where he received an enthusiastic reception. All his lectures were standing room only. For his lectures at the Field Museum (capacity: 2500) the same number had to be turned away because there were no seats for them! And this for a special lecture for teachers!

After additional Midwest lectures with similar sold-out results, he returned to
New England for more lectures and meetings, then to New York, and then sailed for home on April 11. He was a very satisfied man.

So, in 1928, when he embarked on his second US visit, he assumed it wold be much like the first. However, this time his way had been prepared by the publication of his book, Understanding Human Nature, which became a runaway best seller. More than one hundred thousand copies in three printings (in just six months) had been bought by an enthusiastic public! So he was surprised to find a large crowd awaiting him as he disembarked, with reporters crowding around to shout questions at him. And then, waiting for him at his hotel, there was a major press conference with more reporters' questions and interviews.

His third American tour, in 1929, included lectures in California. then it was back to New York, where he taught two classes of forty lectures each, demonstrated his interviewing method (which became his book, The Pattern of Life) and established a series of parenting-education centers. More than forty thousand parents took part in the classes and workshops in the first six months.

After three whirlwind tours of the US, including making many contacts with important business people, Adler returned to Austria believing he and his Individual Psychology had found a new home.

Next time: Adler settles in the US; dies on tour of Europe.

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