Business NLP Blog

Frederick Perls: German Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist

A short biography on Frederick Perls

Frederick Perls, born July 8, 1893 in Berlin, Germany and is well known for being a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. He is most known for his work on the Gestalt Therapy, which was a process that was supposed to help the patient have more of an awareness of their body’s feelings, emotions and its behavior.
Gestalt emphasizes the way someone interacts with their environment. It is considered to be a humanistic type of psychotherapy. The Gestalt therapy was the most popular during the 1960, 70s and 80s when many centers opened and training was popular in it as an applied science of psychology.

Frederick Perl’s Life At Home
During World War I, Perls served in the German Army. Right after the war he graduated from medical school and became a doctor in 1926 and worked with brain injured military soldiers who had been hurt in the war. It was around that time that he found he enjoyed working as a psychoanalyst.

Married Life of the Perls Family
Perl married Lore “Laura” Posner in 1930 and they had two children: Stephen and Renate. They had to leave Poland and move to the Netherlands in 1933 due to Hitler’s quest against the Jews during the Holocaust.
They ended up living in South Africa for a few years, where he had a stint between 1942 and 1946 with the South African military and served as a psychiatrist and a captain in the Army. Then the family moved to the U.S. and lived in New York after his stint in the Army.

By 1960 he and the family had moved to California, where he worked at the Esalen Institute at Big Sur, Calif. Perls taught and lectured at various seminars and workshops there and later, quite a few of his pupils ended up famous in their own right as well in the psychiatric field.

Nine years later he moved to Canada to live, but sadly he died only two year later while still working on a Gestalt community he had organized in Vancouver. He was a patient in New York when he died of a heart attack.
Perls Books and Other Accomplishments

He wrote and published, “Ego, Hunger and Aggression” in 1942, and his work on the Gestalt therapy process was published five years later and was called, “Gestalt Therapy, Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality.”

This book is now considered the Gestalt Therapy Bible. Perls developed it, but the book was actually written with the help of two others: Paul Goodman and Ralph Hefferline (Professor of Psychology at the Columbia University).

His wife wrote several chapters of his first book and was active in training therapists in the Gestalt Therapy during the time she lived in New York.

He started a Gestalt Institute in Manhattan and traveled around the U.S. conducting Gestalt workshops in the 1950s. During the 1960s he started having the workshops in California after he had moved there.

Perls wrote two other books, his own biography in 1969, called, “In and Out the Garbage Pail” and another in 1969 on Gestalt, called,” Gestalt Therapy Verbatim.”

He also wrote what is known as the Gestalt Prayer: “I do my thing and you do yours. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, then it is beautiful. If not, it can't be helped.”

Perls was a unique and interesting man with a history of going against the grain and developing his own way of doing things and because of that, he will forever be known for new ideas such as his Gestalt therapy.

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