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 completed her psychiatric residency in 1911. During World War I she ran a clinic treating brain-injured German soldiers.

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.[1]

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'.[2] Other famous clients include Rollo May.[3]

Fromm-Reichmann also treated Karl Hermann Brunck.[4] 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." [5]

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." [6]

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'.[7]

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'.[8] 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'.[9] She also noted 'the increasing presence of "domineering" mothers'.[10]

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. ^ Mcglashan, Thomas H. and Fenton, Wayne S. (1998) Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, 1889–1957, Journal of Psychiatry, 155, p123 [1]
  2. ^ Hannah Green, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (London 1964) p. 185
  3. ^ A conversation with Dr. Rollo May [videorecording], Interviewed by Gladys Natchez. c1987.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Hope Hale Davis, Great Day Coming: A Memoir of the 1930s (1994) page 165
  6. ^
  7. ^ Janet Malcolm, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (London 1988) p. 25
  8. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 253
  9. ^ Fenichel, Neurosis p. 438
  10. ^ Fenichel, Neurosis p. 506

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]