Viktor Frankl

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Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl2.jpg
Frankl in 1965
Viktor Emil Frankl

(1905-03-26)26 March 1905
Died2 September 1997(1997-09-02) (aged 92)
Vienna, Austria
Resting place Zentralfriedhof, Vienna, Austria, Old Jewish Section
EducationDoctorate in Medicine, 1931, Doctorate in Philosophy, 1948
Alma mater University of Vienna
OccupationNeurologist, psychiatrist
Known for Logotherapy
Existential analysis
Spouse(s)Tilly Grosser, m. 1941
Eleonore Katharina Schwindt, m. 1947
Children1 daughter

Viktor Emil Frankl (26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997) [1] was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor. [2]


He was the founder of logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy which describes a search for a life meaning as the central human motivational force. [3] Logotherapy is part of existential and humanistic psychology theories. [4]

Frankl published 39 books. [5] The autobiographical Man's Search for Meaning , a best-selling book, is based on his experiences in various Nazi concentration camps. [6]

Early life

Frankl was born the middle of three children to Gabriel Frankl, a civil servant in the Ministry of Social Service, and Elsa (née Lion). [1] His interest in psychology and the role of meaning developed when he began taking night classes on applied psychology while in junior high school. [1] As a teenager he began corresponding with Sigmund Freud.[ citation needed ] After graduation from high school in 1923, he studied medicine at the University of Vienna. During his studies, he specialized in neurology and psychiatry, with a focus on depression and suicide.

In 1924, Frankl's first scientific paper was published in The International Journal of Psychoanalysis. [7] In the same year, he was president of the Sozialistische Mittelschüler Österreich, the Social Democratic Party of Austria's youth movement for high school students. [1] During this time Frankl began questioning the Freudian approach to psychoanalysis. He joined Alfred Adler's circle of students and had his second scientific paper, Psychotherapy and Worldview (Psychotherapie und Weltanschauung) published in Adler's International Journal of Individual Psychology in 1925. [1] Frankl was expelled from Adler's circle [2] when he insisted that meaning was the central motivational force in human beings. From 1926, he began refining his theory, which he termed logotherapy. [8]



Between 1928 and 1930, while still a medical student, he organized youth counselling centers [9] to address the high numbers of teen suicides occurring around the time of end of the year report cards. The program was sponsored by the city of Vienna and free of charge to the students. Frankl recruited other psychologists for the center, including Charlotte Bühler, Erwin Wexberg and Rudolf Dreikurs. In 1931 not a single Viennese student died by suicide. [10] [ unreliable source? ]

After obtaining his M.D. in 1930, Frankl gained extensive experience at Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital where he was responsible for the treatment of suicidal women. In 1937, he began a private practice, but the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938 limited his ability to treat patients. [1] In 1940 he joined Rothschild Hospital, the only hospital in Vienna still admitting Jews, as head of the neurology department. Prior to his deportation to the concentration camps, he helped numerous patients avoid the Nazi euthanasia program that targeted the mentally disabled. [2] [11]

In 1942, just nine months after marrying his wife, Frankl and his family were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. His father died there of starvation and pneumonia. In 1944, Frankl and the surviving members of his family were taken to Auschwitz, where his mother and brother were gassed. His wife died later of typhus in Bergen-Belsen. Frankl himself spent a total of three years in four different concentration camps. [6]

Following the war, he became head of the neurology department of the Vienna Polyclinic Hospital and established a private practice in his home. He actively worked with patients until his retirement in 1970. [2]

In 1948, Frankl earned a PhD in philosophy from the University of Vienna. His dissertation, The Unconscious God, examines the relation of psychology and religion. [12] In this, Frankl advocates for the use of the Socratic dialogue (self-discovery discourse) to be used with clients, to get in touch with their spiritual unconscious. [13]

Grave of Viktor Frankl in Vienna Grave of Viktor Frankl 02.jpg
Grave of Viktor Frankl in Vienna

In 1955, Frankl was awarded a professorship of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna, and as visiting professor, he lectured at Harvard University (1961), at Southern Methodist University, Dallas (1966), and at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh (1972). [8]

Throughout his career, Frankl argued that the reductionist tendencies of early psychotherapeutic approaches dehumanised the patient, and advocated for a rehumanisation of psychotherapy. [14]

The American Psychiatric Association awarded Frankl the 1985 Oskar Pfister Award for his contributions to religion and psychiatry. [14]

Man's Search for Meaning

Soon after his return to Vienna[ clarification needed ], he wrote Man’s Search for Meaning over a nine-day period. [15] The book, originally titled A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp, was released in German in 1946.

The English translation of Man's Search for Meaning was published in 1959 and became an international bestseller. [2] Frankl saw this success as a symptom of the "mass neurosis of modern times" since the title promised to deal with the question of life's meaningfulness. [16]

In 1991, Man's Search for Meaning was listed as one of the ten most influential books in the U.S. by respondents in a survey conducted for the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club. [17]

Logotherapy and existential analysis

Frankl developed logotherapy and existential analysis, which are based on philosophical and psychological concepts, particularly the desire to find a meaning in life and free will. [18] [19] Frankl identified three main ways of realizing meaning in life: by making a difference in the world, by having particular experiences, or by adopting particular attitudes.

The primary techniques offered by logotherapy and existential analysis are: [20] [18] [19]

His acknowledgement of meaning as a central motivational force and factor in mental health is his lasting contribution to the field of psychology. It provided the foundational principles for the emerging field of positive psychology. [23]

Decorations and awards

Personal life

In 1941 he married Tilly Grosser, who was a station nurse at Rothschild Hospital. Soon after they were married she became pregnant, but they were forced to abort the child. Tilly died in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. [2] [1]

His father Gabriel, originally from Pohořelice, Moravia, died in the Theresienstadt Ghetto concentration camp on 13 February 1943, aged 81, from starvation and pneumonia. His mother and brother, Walter, were both killed in Auschwitz. His sister, Stella, escaped to Australia. [2] [1]

In 1947 he married Eleonore "Elly" Katharina Schwindt. She was a practicing Catholic, and the couple respected each other's religious backgrounds, going to both church and synagogue, and celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah. They had one daughter, Gabriele, who went on to become a child psychologist. [2] [4] [24]

Frankl died of heart failure in Vienna on 2 September 1997 and was buried in the Jewish section of the Vienna Central Cemetery. [25]


His books in English are:

See also

Related Research Articles

In psychotherapy, paradoxical intention is the deliberate practice of a neurotic habit or thought, undertaken to identify and remove it. The concept was termed by Dr. Viktor Frankl, the founder of Logotherapy, who advocated for its use by patients experiencing severe forms of anxiety disorders.

Alfred Adler Austrian psychotherapist (1870–1937)

Alfred Adler was an Austrian medical doctor, psychotherapist, and founder of the school of individual psychology. His emphasis on the importance of feelings of inferiority, the inferiority complex, is recognized as an isolating element which plays a key role in personality development. Alfred Adler considered a human being as an individual whole, therefore he called his psychology "Individual Psychology".

<i>Mans Search for Meaning</i> 1946 book by Viktor Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positive about, and then immersively imagining that outcome. According to Frankl, the way a prisoner imagined the future affected his longevity. The book intends to answer the question "How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?" Part One constitutes Frankl's analysis of his experiences in the concentration camps, while Part Two introduces his ideas of meaning and his theory called logotherapy.

Logotherapy was developed by neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, on a concept based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find a meaning in life. Frankl describes it as "the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy" along with Freud's psychoanalysis and Adler's individual psychology.

Existential psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy based on the model of human nature and experience developed by the existential tradition of European philosophy. It focuses on concepts that are universally applicable to human existence including death, freedom, responsibility, and the meaning of life. Instead of regarding human experiences such as anxiety, alienation and depression as implying the presence of mental illness, existential psychotherapy sees these experiences as natural stages in a normal process of human development and maturation. In facilitating this process of development and maturation, existential psychotherapy involves a philosophical exploration of an individual's experiences stressing the individual's freedom and responsibility to facilitate a higher degree of meaning and well-being in their life.

Eugene Gendlin

Eugene T. Gendlin was an American philosopher who developed ways of thinking about and working with living process, the bodily felt sense and the "philosophy of the implicit". Though he had no degree in the field of psychology, his advanced study with Carl Rogers, his longtime practice of psychotherapy and his extensive writings in the field of psychology have made him perhaps better known in that field than in philosophy. He studied under Carl Rogers, the founder of client-centered therapy, at the University of Chicago and received his PhD in philosophy in 1958. Gendlin's theories impacted Rogers' own beliefs and played a role in Rogers' view of psychotherapy. From 1958 to 1963 Gendlin was Research Director at the Wisconsin Psychiatric Institute of the University of Wisconsin. He served as an associate professor in the departments of Philosophy and Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago from 1964 until 1995.

This article is a compiled timeline of psychotherapy. A more general description of the development of the subject of psychology can be found in the History of psychology article. For related overviews see the Timeline of psychology and Timeline of psychiatry articles.

Medard Boss was a Swiss psychoanalytic psychiatrist who developed a form of psychotherapy known as Daseinsanalysis, which united the psychotherapeutic practice of psychoanalysis with the existential-phenomenological philosophy of friend and mentor Martin Heidegger. During his medical studies in Vienna, he initiated his psychoanalytic training by undergoing some psychoanalytic sessions with Sigmund Freud, an analysis he later continued at length in Zurich with Swiss psychoanalyst Hans Behn Eschenburg.

Irvin D. Yalom American existential psychiatrist (born 1931)

Irvin David Yalom is an American existential psychiatrist who is emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, as well as author of both fiction and nonfiction.

Meaning in existentialism is descriptive; therefore it is unlike typical, prescriptive conceptions of "the meaning of life". Due to the methods of existentialism, prescriptive or declarative statements about meaning are unjustified. The root of the word "meaning" is "mean", which is the way someone or something is conveyed, interpreted, or represented. Each individual has his or her own form of unique perspective; meaning is, therefore, purely subjective. Meaning is the way something is understood by an individual; in turn, this subjective meaning is also how the individual may identify it. Meaning is the personal significance of something physical or abstract. This would include the assigning of value(s) to such significance.

<i>The Doctor and the Soul</i>

The Doctor and the Soul is a book by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, the Vienesse psychiatrist and founder of logotherapy.

<i>The Unconscious God</i>

The Unconscious God is a book by Viktor E. Frankl, the Viennese psychiatrist and founder of Logotherapy. The book was the subject of his dissertation for a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1948.

Noogenic neurosis is a term in logotherapy denoting a form of neurosis stemming from "existential frustration". The term was coined by Dr. Viktor Frankl, the founder of logotherapy.

The tragic triad is a term used in logotherapy, coined by Dr. Viktor Frankl. The tragic triad refers to three experiences which often lead to existential crisis, namely, guilt, suffering or death. The concept of the tragic triad is used in identifying the life meanings of patients, or the relatives of patients, experiencing guilt, suffering or death. These life meanings are analyzed using logotherapy's existential analysis with the intent of assisting the patient overcome their existential crisis by discovering meaning or purpose in the experience.

<i>Existential Psychotherapy</i> (book)

Existential Psychotherapy is a book about existential psychotherapy by the American psychiatrist Irvin D. Yalom, in which the author, addressing clinical practitioners, offers a brief and pragmatic introduction to European existential philosophy, as well as to existential approaches to psychotherapy. He presents his four ultimate concerns of life—death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness—and discusses developmental changes, psychopathology and psychotherapeutic strategies with regard to these four concerns.

Paul T. P. Wong

Paul T. P. Wong is a Canadian clinical psychologist and professor. His research career has gone through four stages, with significant contributions in each stage: learning theory, social cognition, existential psychology, and positive psychology. He is most known for his integrative work on death acceptance, meaning therapy, and second wave positive psychology. He has been elected as a fellow for both the American Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association.

Joseph B. Fabry was an Austrian-American writer associated with the Logotherapy movement.

The International Network on Personal Meaning (INPM) is a nonprofit organization devoted to advancing meaning-centred research and interventions. It was founded by Paul T. P. Wong in 1998. Inspired by Viktor Frankl's logotherapy, Wong wanted to expand Frankl's vision to include the contemporary positive psychology movement. Therefore, the INPM provides a "big tent" for both existential-humanistic psychologists and positive psychologists in their biennial International Meaning Conferences and their journal, the International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy.

Jürgen Kriz

Jürgen Kriz is a German psychologist, psychotherapist and emeritus professor for psychotherapy and clinical psychology at the Osnabrück University, Germany. He is a prominent thinker in systems theory and the founder of the person-centered systems theory – a multi-level concept for the understanding of processes in psychotherapy, counseling, coaching and clinical psychology.

Elisabeth Lukas is an Austrian psychiatrist and is one of the central figures in Logotherapy, a branch of psychotherapy founded by Viktor Frankl. Lukas is an author of 30 books, translated into 16 languages.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Frankl, Viktor Emil (11 August 2000). Viktor Frankl Recollections: An Autobiography. Basic Books. ISBN   978-0-7382-0355-3.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Haddon Klingberg (16 October 2001). When life calls out to us: the love and lifework of Viktor and Elly Frankl. Doubleday. p. 155. ISBN   978-0-385-50036-4.
  3. Längle, Alfried (2015). From Viktor Frankl's Logotherapy to Existential Analytic psychotherapy; in: European Psychotherapy 2014/2015. Austria: Home of the World's Psychotherapy. Serge Sulz, Stefan Hagspiel (Eds.). p. 67.
  4. 1 2 Redsand, Anna (18 December 2006). Viktor Frankl: A Life Worth Living. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN   978-0-618-72343-0.
  5. "Viktor Frankl – Life and Work". Viktor Frankl Institute Vienna. 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  6. 1 2 Schatzmann, Morton (5 September 1997). "Obituary: Viktor Frankl". The Independent (UK).
  7. "List of books and articles about Viktor Frankl | Online Research Library: Questia". Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  8. 1 2 "Viktor Frankl Biography". Viktor Frankl Institute Vienna.
  9. Batthyány, Alexander (Ed.) (2016). Logotherapy and Existential Analysis. Proceedings of the Viktor Frankl Institute Vienna, Volume 1. Springer International. pp. 3–6. ISBN   978-3-319-80568-9.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  10. Frankl, Viktor E. (Viktor Emil), 1905-1997. (2005). Frühe Schriften, 1923-1942. Vesely-Frankl, Gabriele. Wien: W. Maudrich. ISBN   3-85175-812-9. OCLC   61029472.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. Neugebauer, Wolfgang (2002). Von der Zwangssterilisierung zur Ermordung. Zur Geschichte der NS-Euthanasie in Wien Teil II. Wien/Köln/Weimar: Böhlau. pp. 99–111. ISBN   978-3205993254.
  12. Boeree, George. "Personality Theories: Viktor Frankl." Shippensburg University. Accessed 18 April 2014.
  13. Lantz, James E. "Family logotherapy." Contemporary Family Therapy 8, no. 2 (1986): 124-135.
  14. 1 2 Frankl, Viktor (10 August 2000). Man's search for ultimate meaning. Perseus Pub. ISBN   978-0-7382-0354-6.
  15. "The Life of Viktor Frankl". Viktor Frankl Institute of America.
  16. Frankl, Viktor (2010). The Feeling of Meaninglessness. Marquette University Press. ISBN   9780874627589.
  17. Fein, Esther B. (20 November 1991). "New York Times, 11-20-1991". The New York Times.
  18. 1 2 Frankl, Viktor (2014). The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy. New York: Penguin/Plume. ISBN   978-0-14-218126-3.
  19. 1 2 "What is Logotherapy/Existential Analysis".
  20. Frankl, Viktor (2019). The Doctor and the Soul. From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN   978-0-525-56704-2.
  21. Frankl, Viktor E. (1975). "Paradoxical intention and dereflection". Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice. 12 (3): 226–237. doi:10.1037/h0086434 via
  22. Ameli, M., & Dattilio, F. M. (2013). "Enhancing cognitive behavior therapy with logotherapy: Techniques for clinical practice". Psychotherapy. 50 (3): 387–391. doi:10.1037/a0033394. PMID   24000857.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. Viktor Frankl’s Meaning-Seeking Model and Positive Psychology Chapter from book 'Meaning in Positive and Existential Psychology' (pp.149-184) accessed 26 May 2020
  24. Scully, Mathew (1995). "Viktor Frankl at Ninety: An Interview". First Things. Archived from the original on 1 May 2012.
  25. Noble, Holcomb B. (4 September 1997). "Dr. Viktor E. Frankl of Vienna, Psychiatrist of the Search for Meaning, Dies at 92". The New York Times. p. B-7. Retrieved 6 September 2009.