Fritz Perls

Fritz Perls

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Fritz Perls'
Start a new discussion about 'Fritz Perls'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Friedrich Salomon Perls (July 8
1893, Berlin – March 14, 1970, Chicago), better known as Fritz Perls, was a noted German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

-born psychiatrist
Psychiatrist
A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. All psychiatrists are trained in diagnostic evaluation and in psychotherapy...

 and psychotherapist
Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy is a general term referring to any form of therapeutic interaction or treatment contracted between a trained professional and a client or patient; family, couple or group...

 of Jewish descent.

Perls coined the term 'Gestalt therapy
Gestalt therapy
Gestalt therapy is an existential/experiential form of psychotherapy that emphasizes personal responsibility, and that focuses upon the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist-client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person's life, and the self-regulating...

' to identify the form of psychotherapy that he developed with his wife Laura Perls
Laura Perls
Laura Perls in Pforzheim, was a noted German-born psychologist and psychotherapist who helped establish the Gestalt school of psychotherapy....

 in the 1940s and 1950s. Perls became associated with the Esalen Institute
Esalen Institute
Esalen Institute is a residential community and retreat in Big Sur, California, which focuses upon humanistic alternative education. Esalen is a nonprofit organization devoted to activites such as meditation, massage, Gestalt, yoga, psychology, ecology, and spirituality...

 in 1964, and he lived there until 1969. His approach to psychotherapy is related but not identical to Gestalt psychology
Gestalt psychology
Gestalt psychology or gestaltism is a theory of mind and brain of the Berlin School; the operational principle of gestalt psychology is that the brain is holistic, parallel, and analog, with self-organizing tendencies...

, and it is different from Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy
Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy
Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy is a method of psychotherapy based strictly on Gestalt psychology. It was developed by the German Gestalt psychologist and psychotherapist Hans-Jürgen P...

.

The core of the Gestalt Therapy process is enhanced awareness of sensation, perception, bodily feelings, emotion and behavior, in the present moment. Relationship is emphasized, along with contact between the self, its environment, and the other.

Perls has been widely cited outside the realm of psychotherapy
Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy is a general term referring to any form of therapeutic interaction or treatment contracted between a trained professional and a client or patient; family, couple or group...

 for a quotation often described as the "Gestalt prayer
Gestalt prayer
The "Gestalt prayer" is a 56-word statement by psychotherapist Fritz Perls that is taken as a classic expression of Gestalt therapy as way of life model of which Dr. Perls was a founder....

". This was especially true in the 1960s, when the version of individualism
Individualism
Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses "the moral worth of the individual". Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing most external interference upon one's own...

 it expresses was prevalent.

Life


Fritz Perls was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1893. Perls “grew up” on the bohemian scene in Berlin, participated in Expressionism and Dadaism, and experienced the turning of the artistic avant-garde toward the revolutionary left. Deployment to the front line, the trauma of war, anti-Semitism, intimidation, escape, and the Holocaust are further key sources of biographical influence.

He was expected to practice law like his distinguished uncle Herman Staub, but instead he studied medicine. Perls joined the German Army during World War I, and spent time in the trenches. After the war he graduated as a medical doctor, and became an assistant to Kurt Goldstein
Kurt Goldstein
Kurt Goldstein was a German Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist who was a pioneer in modern neuropsychology. He created a holistic theory of the organism based on Gestalt theory which deeply influenced the development of Gestalt therapy...

, who worked with brain injured soldiers. Perls gravitated toward psychoanalysis. He had a brief and unsatisfactory meeting with Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

, and went through an analysis with Wilhelm Reich
Wilhelm Reich
Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, known as one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry...

.

In 1930 Fritz Perls married Laura Perls
Laura Perls
Laura Perls in Pforzheim, was a noted German-born psychologist and psychotherapist who helped establish the Gestalt school of psychotherapy....

 (born, Lore Posner), and they had two children together, Renate and Stephen. In 1933, soon after the Hitler regime came to power, Fritz Perls, Laura and their eldest child Renate fled to the Netherlands, and one year later they emigrated to South Africa, where Fritz Perls started a psychoanalytic training institute. In 1942 he joined the South African army, and served as an army psychiatrist with the rank of captain, until 1946. While in South Africa, Perls was influenced by the "holism" of Jan Smuts
Jan Smuts
Jan Christiaan Smuts, OM, CH, ED, KC, FRS, PC was a prominent South African and British Commonwealth statesman, military leader and philosopher. In addition to holding various cabinet posts, he served as Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948...

. During this period Fritz Perls wrote his first book, Ego, Hunger, and Aggression (published in 1942 and re-published in 1947). Laura Perls wrote two chapters of the book, but she was not given any recognition for her work when it was re-published in the United States.

Fritz and Laura Perls left South Africa in 1946 and ended up in New York, where Fritz Perls worked briefly with Karen Horney
Karen Horney
Karen Horney born Danielsen was a German-American psychoanalyst. Her theories questioned some traditional Freudian views, particularly his theory of sexuality, as well as the instinct orientation of psychoanalysis and its genetic psychology...

, and Wilhelm Reich
Wilhelm Reich
Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, known as one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry...

. After living through a peripatetic episode, during which he lived in Montreal and served as a cruise ship psychiatrist, Perls finally settled in Manhattan. Perls wrote his second book with the assistance of New York intellectual and author, Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman (writer)
Paul Goodman was an American sociologist, poet, writer, anarchist, and public intellectual. Goodman is now mainly remembered as the author of Growing Up Absurd and an activist on the pacifist Left in the 1960s and an inspiration to that era's student movement...

, who drafted the theoretical second part of the book based upon Perls' hand-written notes. Perls and Goodman were influenced by the work Kurt Lewin
Kurt Lewin
Kurt Zadek Lewin was a German-American psychologist, known as one of the modern pioneers of social, organizational, and applied psychology....

 and Otto Rank
Otto Rank
Otto Rank was an Austrian psychoanalyst, writer, teacher and therapist. Born in Vienna as Otto Rosenfeld, he was one of Sigmund Freud's closest colleagues for 20 years, a prolific writer on psychoanalytic themes, an editor of the two most important analytic journals, managing director of Freud's...

. Along with the experiential first part, written with Ralph Hefferline
Ralph Hefferline
Ralph Franklin Hefferline was a psychology professor at Columbia University.Hefferline became a patient of Fritz Perls around 1946...

, the book was entitled Gestalt Therapy and published in 1951. Thereafter, Fritz and Laura Perls started the first Gestalt Institute in their Manhattan apartment, and Fritz Perls began traveling throughout the United States in order to conduct Gestalt workshops and training.

In 1960 Fritz Perls left Laura Perls behind in New York and moved to Los Angeles, where he practiced in conjunction with Jim Simkin
Jim Simkin
James Solomon Jim Simkin was an early seminal figure in the history of Gestalt Therapy.Simkin received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Michigan, and practiced in New Jersey. He also was Chief Psychologist at a large VA hospital. Like most psychotherapists of his...

. He started to offer workshops at Esalen Institute
Esalen Institute
Esalen Institute is a residential community and retreat in Big Sur, California, which focuses upon humanistic alternative education. Esalen is a nonprofit organization devoted to activites such as meditation, massage, Gestalt, yoga, psychology, ecology, and spirituality...

 in Big Sur
Big Sur
Big Sur is a sparsely populated region of the Central Coast of California where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. The name "Big Sur" is derived from the original Spanish-language "el sur grande", meaning "the big south", or from "el país grande del sur", "the big...

, California, in 1963. Perls became interested in Zen
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

 during this period, and incorporated the idea of mini-satori
Satori
is a Japanese Buddhist term for enlightenment that literally means "understanding". In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to a flash of sudden awareness, or individual enlightenment, and is considered a "first step" or embarkation toward nirvana....

(a brief awakening) into his practice. He also traveled to Japan, where he stayed in a Zen monastery. Eventually, he settled at Esalen, and even built a house on the grounds. One of his students at Esalen was Dick Price
Dick Price
Richard “Dick” Price -- co-founded Esalen Institute in 1962.Dick Price was a veteran of the Beat Generation. He ran Esalen in Big Sur for many years, sometimes virtually single-handed. He was an explorer of the Santa Lucia Mountains that define the Big Sur coast...

, who developed Gestalt Practice
Gestalt Practice
Gestalt Practice - Pratique Gestalt, Gestaltpraxis, Prática Gestalt, Γκεστάλτ-πρακτική, Гештальт-практика, ゲシュタルト・プラクティス-Gestalt Practice:Gestalt Practice is a contemporary form of personal exploration and integration developed by Dick Price at Esalen Institute...

, based in large part upon what he learned from Perls. In 1969 Perls left Esalen and started a Gestalt community at Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is a large island in British Columbia, Canada. It is one of several North American locations named after George Vancouver, the British Royal Navy officer who explored the Pacific Northwest coast of North America between 1791 and 1794...

, Canada. Fritz Perls died of heart failure in Chicago, on March 14, 1970, after heart surgery at the Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital.

About Fritz Perls

  • Petruska Clarkson, Jennifer Mackewn: "Fritz Perls", 1993, SAGE Publications ISBN 978-0-8039-8453-0

  • Bernd Bocian: "Fritz Perls in Berlin 1893 - 1933. Expressionism - Psychonalysis - Judaism", 2010, EHP Verlag Andreas Kohlhage, Bergisch Gladbach. ISBN 978-3-89797-068-7

See also

  • Gestalt therapy
    Gestalt therapy
    Gestalt therapy is an existential/experiential form of psychotherapy that emphasizes personal responsibility, and that focuses upon the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist-client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person's life, and the self-regulating...

  • Kurt Goldstein
    Kurt Goldstein
    Kurt Goldstein was a German Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist who was a pioneer in modern neuropsychology. He created a holistic theory of the organism based on Gestalt theory which deeply influenced the development of Gestalt therapy...

  • Wilhelm Reich
    Wilhelm Reich
    Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, known as one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry...

  • Laura Perls
    Laura Perls
    Laura Perls in Pforzheim, was a noted German-born psychologist and psychotherapist who helped establish the Gestalt school of psychotherapy....

  • Paul Goodman (writer)
    Paul Goodman (writer)
    Paul Goodman was an American sociologist, poet, writer, anarchist, and public intellectual. Goodman is now mainly remembered as the author of Growing Up Absurd and an activist on the pacifist Left in the 1960s and an inspiration to that era's student movement...

  • Jim Simkin
    Jim Simkin
    James Solomon Jim Simkin was an early seminal figure in the history of Gestalt Therapy.Simkin received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Michigan, and practiced in New Jersey. He also was Chief Psychologist at a large VA hospital. Like most psychotherapists of his...

  • Phenomenology
  • Existentialism
    Existentialism
    Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

  • Kurt Lewin
    Kurt Lewin
    Kurt Zadek Lewin was a German-American psychologist, known as one of the modern pioneers of social, organizational, and applied psychology....

  • Otto Rank
    Otto Rank
    Otto Rank was an Austrian psychoanalyst, writer, teacher and therapist. Born in Vienna as Otto Rosenfeld, he was one of Sigmund Freud's closest colleagues for 20 years, a prolific writer on psychoanalytic themes, an editor of the two most important analytic journals, managing director of Freud's...

  • Esalen Institute
    Esalen Institute
    Esalen Institute is a residential community and retreat in Big Sur, California, which focuses upon humanistic alternative education. Esalen is a nonprofit organization devoted to activites such as meditation, massage, Gestalt, yoga, psychology, ecology, and spirituality...

  • Gestalt Practice
    Gestalt Practice
    Gestalt Practice - Pratique Gestalt, Gestaltpraxis, Prática Gestalt, Γκεστάλτ-πρακτική, Гештальт-практика, ゲシュタルト・プラクティス-Gestalt Practice:Gestalt Practice is a contemporary form of personal exploration and integration developed by Dick Price at Esalen Institute...

  • Dick Price
    Dick Price
    Richard “Dick” Price -- co-founded Esalen Institute in 1962.Dick Price was a veteran of the Beat Generation. He ran Esalen in Big Sur for many years, sometimes virtually single-handed. He was an explorer of the Santa Lucia Mountains that define the Big Sur coast...

  • Barry Stevens
    Barry Stevens
    Barry Stevens may refer to:* Barry Stevens , American basketball player and coach* Barry Stevens , American scientist, author, business developer and entrepreneur...


People influenced by Laura and Fritz Perls

  • Claudio Naranjo
    Claudio Naranjo
    Claudio Naranjo is a Chilean psychiatrist who is considered a pioneer in integrating psychotherapy and the spiritual traditions. He is one of the three successors named by Fritz Perls , and a developer of the Enneagram of Personality and founder of the Seekers After Truth Institute...

  • Dick Price
    Dick Price
    Richard “Dick” Price -- co-founded Esalen Institute in 1962.Dick Price was a veteran of the Beat Generation. He ran Esalen in Big Sur for many years, sometimes virtually single-handed. He was an explorer of the Santa Lucia Mountains that define the Big Sur coast...

  • Edwin Nevis
  • Brian J. Mistler
    Brian J. Mistler
    -References:...

  • Jack Lee Rosenberg - IBP Integrative Body Psychotherapy
    IBP Integrative Body Psychotherapy
    Integrative Body Psychotherapy was founded by Dr. Jack Lee Rosenberg, further developed with Diana Asay, a Jungian Analyst, and Dr. Marjorie Rand, and formally presented to the public as a new therapeutic approach in their book, Body, Self and Soul - Sustaining Integration...

  • Richard Bandler
    Richard Bandler
    Richard Wayne Bandler is an American author and trainer in the field of self-help. He is best known as the co-inventor of Neuro-linguistic programming , a collection of concepts and techniques intended to understand and change human behavior-patterns...

     - co-founder of Neuro-Linguistic Programming
    Neuro-linguistic programming
    Neuro-linguistic programming is an approach to psychotherapy, self-help and organizational change. Founders Richard Bandler and John Grinder say that NLP is a model of interpersonal communication and a system of alternative therapy which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective...

  • John Grinder
    John Grinder
    John Grinder, Ph.D., is an American linguist, author, management consultant, trainer and speaker. Grinder is credited with the co-creation with Richard Bandler of the field of Neuro-linguistic programming. He is co-director of Quantum Leap Inc., a management consulting firm founded by his partner...

     - co-founder of Neuro-Linguistic Programming
    Neuro-linguistic programming
    Neuro-linguistic programming is an approach to psychotherapy, self-help and organizational change. Founders Richard Bandler and John Grinder say that NLP is a model of interpersonal communication and a system of alternative therapy which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective...

  • Brad Blanton
    Brad Blanton
    W. Brad Blanton is an author, seminar leader, and twice candidate for United States House of Representatives , both times as an Independent running against Republican incumbent Eric Cantor in Virginia's Seventh Congressional District...


External links


Biographical:

Writings and lectures by Fritz Perls:
  • Psychiatry in a New Key from the Unpublished Manuscripts of Fritz Perls
  • Finding Self Through Gestalt Therapy, a transcript of a talk given at the Cooper Union by Frederick Perls in 1957
  • Planned Psychotherapy by Frederick Perls. A talk given in the late 1940s at the William Alanson White Institute in New York City, "Planned Psychotherapy" predates the articulation of Gestalt therapy by a few years. Perls discusses in detail his developing use of focusing on the "here and now."


Interview with Fritz Perls: