Alfred Adler Institutes of San Francisco and Northwestern Washington


Remembrances of Alfred Adler, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung,
and Other Early Contributors to Psychology

An Interview With Sophia de Vries

Highlights of Her 47 Years of Practicing Adlerian Psychology, Including Recollections of: Charlotte Bühler - Rudolf Dreikurs - August Eichorn - Martha Holub - Ludwig Klages - Fritz Künkel - Ida Loewy - Maria Montessori - Alexander Müller - Edward Schneider - Lydia Sicher - Blanche Weill

Topics Covered in the Interview:

Education in Holland - Working with difficult children - Discovering Adler's ideas through Fritz Künkel - Künkel popularized Adlerian ideas - Started studying Adlerian psychology in 1934 - Lydia Sicher, faithful defender of Adlerian Psychology - Adler's conflict with Freud - Neo-Freudians now closer to Adler - Summer lectures with Sicher - Study analysis with Sicher - Friendship and supervision with Alexander Müller - Teaching Adlerian Psychology in Holland - Müller very philosophical - Ortega y Gasset similar to Adler - Existentialism - Visit with Müller in Zurich - For original Adlerians, helping people came first, not making money - Much of Müller's and some of Sicher's work not yet translated - Studying with Charlotte Bühler at her clinic - Bühler-Hetzer developmental test for children - Adlerian child guidance clinics - Ida Loewy and Martha Holub - Ida Loewy's work with children - Children brought other children to clinics - Adler's lectures in Holland for professionals - Following Adler around Europe - Exposure to Freudian ideas - Freudian lecturer, August Eichorn - Rudolf Dreikurs more rigid and strict than other Adlerians - Karl Bühler - Dutch Adlerians form a group - Adler's theories banned during the war - Adlerians practiced in secret during war - Fooling the Nazis - Dutch Adlerians active again after war - Adlerian programs for judges, educators, doctors, and social workers - Guest lectures by Adler, Jung, Klages, and others - Refusing oath of allegiance to Hitler - Jung's knowledge of history - Results of Jung's cases - Adler's ideas more practical than Jung's - Klages'ideas about character and handwriting - Comparisons of Jung and Adler - Professor Aldervelt - Adler's humor - First meeting with Adler - Adler's lecture style - Adler adjusted to audience - Adler lectured without notes - Sitting with Adler in coffee shops - Adler's phenomenal memory - Example of Adler's style of dealing with adversary - Adler's case load - Adler knew about his heart condition - Adler's casual appearance - Adler's secretary - Anecdote about Adler's lecture that upset some Freudians - de Vries advises Adler of his impact on audience - Adler apologizes to audience for jokes - de Vries immigration to United States in 1948 - Practiced in Southern California - Moved to Oakland in 1954 - Adlerian group in Los Angeles - Work at Lincoln Child Center with disturbed children - San Francisco Bay Area Adlerian Group - Edward Schneider - Blanche Weill - Maria Montessori - Meeting of Adler and Montessori - Montessori schools in the United States - Need for creativity

Sophia De Vries Interviewed by Henry Stein, on May 20, 1980, in San Francisco

Copyright 1996, Henry T. Stein, Ph.D., Reproduction Prohibited Without Permission

STEIN: Sophia, could you tell me first a little about your early training and education before starting with Adlerian Psychology. How you were first trained and for what?

DE VRIES: That, of course, was in Holland and I had gone to a teachers college where there was a lot of psychology offered and an awful lot of practice of what to do with children who were in need of special treatment. And after I got my Bachelors degree and tried out what I wanted to do, I started working, at the suggestion of the Director of the college, with difficult children, who either were sick and couldn't go to school, or who had difficulty with learning or with their behavior. And, it was very gratifying because I had enough leeway to apply all sorts of new things, and to my astonishment, later, when I had met Künkel in Holland, there were a lot of things that he said should be done with difficult children and that was my introduction to Adler! So that is how I came to Adler, through Künkel, and through the lectures Künkel gave in Holland.

STEIN: What kind of man do you recall Künkel being?

DE VRIES: Künkel was an excellent speaker, and he could present the Adlerian Psychology in a very easy, comfortable manner, so that it was accepted by people very readily. I would say he had a popular way of expressing himself, which was nice. And he was very much in demand for lectures and all the big schools asked him to come and lecture for the faculty, not only, but also for the parents. So there was immediately at beginning of making the ideas of Adler popular in a way that they wanted to hear more about it. And then later, when I studied Adler more thoroughly, I knew that the groundwork was there, I mean there was fertile ground to start working. That was actually the idea. I did not pick it up until later because first it was marriage, and, my children, and I had the feeling as a young mother that you had to be with your children. So it was not until 1934 that I continued studying Psychology, and went very deeply into the Adlerian Psychology. In 1935 I was in Vienna, and I took courses there with the different famous people: the first assistant that Dr. Adler had, that was Dr. Lydia Sicher (she always took over for him when he went to the United States).

STEIN: Do you have an early impression of Lydia Sicher? In those days?

DE VRIES: Very clear, very outspoken, always improvising what she said, going very far, both in the practical technical side of Psychology as well as the philosophical side of Adlerian

Psychology. And, forceful in her presentation, an absolute faithful defender of Adlerian Psychology! She knew it inside out!

STEIN: You say a defender, was there a lot of resistance at the time?

DE VRIES: Oh, yes, oh, yes. From the Freudian part, there was still an awful lot of attack, and after Adler had left the Freudian group, I think there came more attacks then at any other time, yet, Freud had accepted the ideas that Adler had but given it a different name, in his own theories. And Adler always kidded about that and said, "Freud has again made a prisoner, and now he can't get rid of him." Which was one of the ideas that Adler had, and it is undoubtedly true that Adlerian Psychology has had a tremendous effect on Freudian ideas as they are used now, because the neo-Freudians come very close to the neo-Adlerians. I have worked together with some neo-Freudians and we agreed completely about what had to be done, and about the insight, we only gave it a different wording. That was my feeling, we used a different kind of language for it.

STEIN: When you first studied with Lydia Sicher was this a course open to the public, or to professionals only? What was the nature of that?

DE VRIES: That was...I do not recall all the other people who were there, she always had groups of people, and you went for a certain time, and signed up, for instance, I was there during the whole summer, and you signed up for the whole summer and went to all the lectures that she gave on a specific topic, and then you followed it up with the next and the next and the next. So this was a continuum. I also took my analysis with Lydia Sicher because it was found that you cannot practice well unless you have gone through a study analysis yourself. So I did that. And then another one was Alexander Müller, who was one of the close co-workers of Adler. And that was the beginning of a very long cooperation and friendship because later Müller came to Holland and we worked together for quite a long time. In the beginning, when I went back to Holland, he had supervised my work for two years, which was also a thing that was absolutely necessary. And then later, many, many years later, when I was already teaching Individual Psychology in the Dutch Adlerian group, we both were teachers in the same years that the students had to take, and at one time there was a course that lasts for three years and finally it was brought back to two years. But that was a very thorough going from one thing to the other and have different people who were thoroughly trained in Adlerian Psychology to teach others how to do this. Followed by exams, written and oral. So, we really tested them out, and there were some that fell by the wayside, that were not good enough in our idea and were not permitted to practice. We didn't give them a certificate.

STEIN: What was Müller like when you first started working with him?

DE VRIES: Müller was very philosophical and went into a lot of comparison with other psychologies, and with a lot of philosophy, and he projected, for instance, Ortega y Gasset as one of the people who was very close to Adler. If you read Ortega y Gasset, then you find that, yes, this fits very much. Then later he talked about Heiddeger, who was the beginner of the Existentialism, he was the real Existentialist. Sartre was not recognized as a real Existentialist by Alexander Müller. He said, "That's a deviation and that's not the real thing," because the philosophy was different. So, he was a tremendously generous person, I have known him and his wife as close friends for many, many years. And later when he went to live in Zurich, in Switzerland, and established an Adlerian chapter there, I have visited him. And we talked always shop for quite a long time and then we had a pleasant visit. So, until his death I have known him and kept up correspondence. Very fine man and... All these people did not think in the first place about making money, but they thought about helping people. And I have found that that is different from what sometimes is found in the United States.

STEIN: Is there perhaps a reason why Sicher and Müller did not write that much, at least as my experience has been that we don't see that much in English...

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