Fromm-Reichmann, Frieda (1889-1957)

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Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, psychoanalyst and physician, was born on October 23, 1889, in Karlsruhe, Germany, and died on April 28, 1957, in her cottage on the grounds of Chestnut Lodge, Rockville, Maryland, in the United States.

Fromm-Reichmann was the oldest of three daughters. Her father was a Jewish bank personnel manager and her mother founded a girls' school, which well prepared Frieda to be among the very first German university-trained women. She graduated in 1913 from the University of Koenigsberg medical school where her dissertation mentor was Kurt Goldstein, with whom she worked during World War I. As a major in the Prussian Army she ran a hospital for soldiers with brain injuries. She then joined the psychotherapy staff of the Lahmann Sanitorium, Weisser Hirsch, under J. H. Schultz's directorship (1920-1924).

Fromm-Reichmann received her psychoanalytic training at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute (1925), where her training analyst was Hanns Sachs. She opened her own sanatorium where kosher food was served (nicknamed the "Thorapeuticum"), working closely with Georg Groddeck, as well as Sándor Ferenczi. She was married to Erich Fromm, who was ten years younger than she. This marriage lasted for about four years. Along with Karl Landauer, Heinrich Meng, Georg Groddeck, Siegfried Füchs, and Franz Stein, they founded the Frankfurter Institut. With the onset of World War II she went first to Alsace-Lorraine, (1933-1934) then Palestine (1934), and in 1935 to the United States.

At Chestnut Lodge, as its Director of Psychotherapy, she helped its owner and medical director, Dexter M. Bullard, Sr., make it the premier center for the psychoanalytically-oriented treatment of schizophrenia, and worked closely with Harry Stack Sullivan. She was a training analyst of the Washington-Baltimore Psychoanalytic Institute and president of its Society (1939-1941), and a popular teacher at the Washington School of Psychiatry.

Her central thesis was that psychotic patients' communications are understandable, that they magnify their sense of their destructive potential and thus isolate themselves, suffering enormous loneliness and dread. If the therapist understands his or her counter-transference and thus is not made anxious by the psychotic patient, recovery is possible. Essentially all psychiatrists trained during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s read her book Principles of Intensive Psychotherapy. Joanne Greenberg, a patient of hers who recovered from schizophrenia, wrote the bestseller I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, in which Fromm-Reichmann appears as Dr. Fried.

Ann-Louise S. Silver

See also: Germany; Psychotic transference; Schizophrenia; Sigmund Freud Institut; United States.


Bullard, Dexter. (1959). Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Selected papers of Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Fromm-Reichmann, Frieda. (1950). Principles of intensive psychotherapy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Greenberg, Joanne. (1964). I never promised you a rose garden. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Hornstein, Gail A. (2000). To redeem one person is to redeem the world: The life of Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. New York: The Free Press.

Silver, Ann-Louise. (Ed.). (1989). Psychoanalysis and psychosis ; Madison, CT: International Universities Press.

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Fromm-Reichmann, Frieda (1889-1957)

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