Frieda Fromm-Reichmann

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Frieda Fromm-Reichmann (October 23, 1889, Karlsruhe – April 28, 1957, Rockville, Maryland) was a German psychiatrist and contemporary of Sigmund Freud who emigrated to America during World War II.

Life and work[edit]

Fromm-Reichmann was born to Alfred and Klara Reichmann in Karlsruhe, German Empire. She was raised in an Orthodox middle-class German Jewish family. She was the eldest daughter in a family of all girls. Because Alfred Reichmann had no son, Frieda was granted privileges other Orthodox Jewish women were not allowed. Her father Alfred encouraged her to go to medical school and become a doctor. Frieda attended the medical school in Königsberg in 1908. She was one of the first women to study medicine. She completed her psychiatric residency in 1911. During World War I she held her first position as a physician treating brain-injured German soldiers. She worked under Kurt Goldstein, who is her most influential teacher. She learned two important principles: the impact of brain trauma on healthy men and the adaptive capacity of the brain. She also studied neurology and dementia praecox.

Dr. Fromm-Reichmann's approach to treatment emerged from her research with Kurt Goldstein. To further her psychotherapy skills, she pursued psychoanalytic training at the Berlin Institute. Her understanding of anxiety in soldiers helped her understand schizophrenia later and was the "hallmark of her life's work". She used "whatever worked with each individual" and relied "on the patients own inherent capacity for healing to guide the treatment". She also recognized the role of trauma in mental illness and started to understand the dynamics of the therapeutic relationship.[citation needed]

In 1924, she set up a private psychoanalytic practice in Heidelberg, but it closed in 1928. She helped found the Frankfurt Chapter of the German Psychoanalytic Society and established the Psychoanalytic Training Institute of Southwestern Germany [1]

When Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany and Jews began to be persecuted, Frieda moved to France and then later to the United States where her husband Erich Fromm, from whom she had long been separated, got her a job as a psychiatrist at Chestnut Lodge, a mental hospital in Maryland.[2] She was a resident psychiatrist for 22 years and spent her entire American career at the Chestnut Lodge. She focused on early life experiences that affected her patients and their ability to understand the world. Dr. Fromm-Reichmann viewed her patients as people who need help overcoming an illness. She believed a psychiatric hospital could be a therapeutic institution.

She suffered from a hereditary deafness and died from a heart attack in 1957.

Her most famous patient was Joanne Greenberg, who wrote a fictionalized autobiography of her time at the mental hospital entitled I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, which offers a very attractive portrayal of her as "Dr Fried": 'She is brainy...but after you know her a while, you'll find out that with little Clara Fried, brains are only the beginning'.[3] Other famous clients include Rollo May.[4]

Fromm-Reichmann also treated Karl Hermann Brunck.[5] His wife was told, "No one really knows (why he was suffering from this mental illness)... All we can say for sure about his sort of illness is that it has its roots in the failure of the parents - commonly the mother figure - to provide emotional security in infancy. This causes a weak ego organization, inability to give and receive love on an adult level." [6]

Brunck made several attempts to kill himself. Hope Hale Davis wrote that in 1937 "the most elementary routine precautions had been neglected, and Hermann had used a belt to hang himself." [7]

She is described as one of the few notable exceptions to Freud's maxim of charging for missed appointments:'"I feel that it is not the psychiatrist's privilege to be exempt from the generally accepted custom of our culture in which one is not paid for services not rendered", she wrote in her book Principles of Intensive Psychotherapy'.[8]

She published articles on Migraine, Stereotypies, and Domineering Mothers, as well as on work with psychotics. On migraine, 'Fromm-Reichmann [1937] is of the opinion that the symptom is produced when an unconscious hostile tendency is directed in particular at the destruction of an object's intelligence ("mental castration") and guilt feelings turn this tendency instead against one's own head'.[9] With psychotics, 'Fromm-Reichmann sees in stereotypies a compromise between a tendency to express certain (tender or hostile) object impulses and the tendency to repress these impulses for fear of rebuff'.[10] She also noted 'the increasing presence of "domineering" mothers'.[11]

Fromm-Reichmann joined Fromm, Clara Thompson, Harry Stack Sullivan, David Rioch, and Janet Rioch to found the William Alanson White Institute, a famed psychoanalytic institute in New York City.


  • "Principles of Intensive Psychotherapy" by Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, Publisher: University Of Chicago Press, 1960, ISBN 0-226-26599-4
  • Hornstein, Gail A. (2000). To Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the World: The Life of Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. New York: Other Press.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Mcglashan, Thomas H; Fenton, Wayne S. (1998). "Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, 1889–1957". Journal of Psychiatry 155: 123. 
  3. ^ Hannah Green, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (London 1964) p. 185
  4. ^ A conversation with Dr. Rollo May [videorecording], Interviewed by Gladys Natchez. c1987.
  5. ^ "Karl Hermann Brunck". Retrieved 2016-04-28. 
  6. ^ Hope Hale Davis, Great Day Coming: A Memoir of the 1930s (1994) page 165
  7. ^ "Hope Hale Davis". Retrieved 2016-04-28. 
  8. ^ Janet Malcolm, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (London 1988) p. 25
  9. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 253
  10. ^ Fenichel, Neurosis p. 438
  11. ^ Fenichel, Neurosis p. 506

Further reading[edit]

  • D. A. Dewsbury/M. Wertheimer, Portraits of pioneers in psychology (2006)

External links[edit]