Viktor Frankl

Viktor Emil Frankl (26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997)[1] was an Austrian psychiatrist who founded logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy that describes a search for a life's meaning as the central human motivational force.[2] Logotherapy is part of existential and humanistic psychology theories.[3]

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 placeZentralfriedhof, Vienna, Austria, Old Jewish Section
EducationDoctorate in Medicine, 1931, Doctorate in Philosophy, 1948
Alma materUniversity of Vienna
OccupationNeurologist, psychiatrist
Known forLogotherapy
Existential analysis
Spouse(s)Tilly Grosser, m. 1941
Eleonore Katharina Schwindt, m. 1947
Children1 daughter

Logotherapy was promoted as the third school of Viennese Psychotherapy, after those established by Sigmund Freud, and Alfred Adler.[citation needed]

Frankl published 39 books.[4] He was a Holocaust survivor.[5]The autobiographical Man's Search for Meaning, a best-selling book, is based on his experiences in various Nazi concentration camps.[6]

Early lifeEdit

Frankl was born the middle of three children to Gabriel Frankl, a civil servant in the Ministry of Social Service, and Elsa (née Lion), a Jewish family.[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, when he asked for permission to publish one of his papers.[7][8] 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.[9] 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 published his second scientific paper, "Psychotherapy and Worldview" ("Psychotherapie und Weltanschauung"), in Adler's International Journal of Individual Psychology in 1925.[1] Frankl was expelled from Adler's circle[5] when he insisted that meaning was the central motivational force in human beings. From 1926, he began refining his theory, which he termed logotherapy.[10]



Between 1928 and 1930, while still a medical student, he organized youth counselling centers[11] to address the high number 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.[12][unreliable source?]

After earning 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 opportunity 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.[5][13]

In 1942, just nine months after his marriage, 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 transported to Auschwitz, where his mother and brother were murdered in the gas chambers. His wife died later of typhus in Bergen-Belsen. Frankl spent three years in four 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 worked with patients until his retirement in 1970.[5]

In 1948, Frankl earned a PhD in philosophy from the University of Vienna. His dissertation, The Unconscious God, examines the relationship between psychology and religion,[14] and advocates for the use of the Socratic dialogue (self-discovery discourse) for clients to get in touch with their spiritual unconscious.[15]

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, lectured at Harvard University (1961), Southern Methodist University, Dallas (1966), and Duquesne University, Pittsburgh (1972).[10]

Throughout his career, Frankl argued that the reductionist tendencies of early psychotherapeutic approaches dehumanised the patient, and advocated for a rehumanisation of psychotherapy.[16]

The American Psychiatric Association awarded Frankl the 1985 Oskar Pfister Award for his contributions to religion and psychiatry.[16]

Man's Search for MeaningEdit

While head of the Neurological Department at the general Polyclinic Hospital, Frankl wrote Man’s Search for Meaning over a nine-day period.[17] 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.[5] 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.[18] Millions of copies were sold in dozens of languages. In a 1991 survey conducted for the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Man's Search for Meaning was named one of the ten most influential books in the US.[19]

Logotherapy and existential analysisEdit

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.[20][21] 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:[22][20][21]

  • Paradoxical intention: clients learn to overcome obsessions or anxieties by self-distancing and humorous exaggeration.
  • Dereflection: drawing the client's attention away from their symptoms, as hyper-reflection can lead to inaction.[23]
  • Socratic dialogue and attitude modification: asking questions designed to help a client find and pursue self-defined meaning in life.[24]

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.[25] Frankl's work has also been endorsed in the Chabad philosophy of Hasidic Judaism[26]

Decorations and awardsEdit

Personal lifeEdit

In 1941, Frankl 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.[27] Tilly died in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.[5][1]

Frankl's 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.[5][1]

In 1947, Frankl married Eleonore "Elly" Katharina Schwindt. She was a practicing Catholic. The couple respected each other's religious backgrounds, both attending church and synagogue, and celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah. They had one daughter, Gabriele, who went on to become a child psychologist.[5][3][28] Although it was not known for 50 years, his wife and son-in-law reported after his death that he prayed every day and had memorized the words of daily Jewish prayers and psalms.[29][26]

Frankl died of heart failure in Vienna on 2 September 1997. He is buried in the Jewish section of the Vienna Central Cemetery.[30]


His books in English are:

  • Man's Search for Meaning. An Introduction to Logotherapy, Beacon Press, Boston, 2006. ISBN 978-0807014271 (English translation 1959. Originally published in 1946 as Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager, "A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp")
  • The Doctor and the Soul, (originally titled Ärztliche Seelsorge), Random House, 1955.
  • On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders. An Introduction to Logotherapy and Existential Analysis, Translated by James M. DuBois. Brunner-Routledge, London & New York, 2004. ISBN 0415950295
  • Psychotherapy and Existentialism. Selected Papers on Logotherapy, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1967. ISBN 0671200569
  • The Will to Meaning. Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy, New American Library, New York, 1988 ISBN 0452010349
  • The Unheard Cry for Meaning. Psychotherapy and Humanism, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2011 ISBN 978-1451664386
  • Viktor Frankl Recollections: An Autobiography.; Basic Books, Cambridge, MA 2000. ISBN 978-0738203553.
  • Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning. (A revised and extended edition of The Unconscious God; with a foreword by Swanee Hunt). Perseus Book Publishing, New York, 1997; ISBN 0306456206. Paperback edition: Perseus Book Group; New York, 2000; ISBN 0738203548
  • Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything Beacon Press, Boston, 2020. ISBN 978-0807005552

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Frankl, Viktor Emil (2000). Viktor Frankl Recollections: An Autobiography. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0738203553. Archived from the original on 22 March 2015. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b Redsand, Anna (2006). Viktor Frankl: A Life Worth Living. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0618723430. Archived from the original on 22 March 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  4. ^ "Viktor Frankl – Life and Work". Viktor Frankl Institute Vienna. 2011. Archived from the original on 14 May 2020. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Haddon Klingberg (2001). When life calls out to us: the love and lifework of Viktor and Elly Frankl. Doubleday. p. 155. ISBN 978-0385500364. Archived from the original on 23 March 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  6. ^ a b Schatzmann, Morton (5 September 1997). "Obituary: Viktor Frankl". The Independent (UK). Archived from the original on 1 September 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Viktor Frankl | Biography, Books, Theory, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 16 June 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  8. ^ Hatala, Andrew (2010). "Frankl and Freud: Friend or Foe? Towards Cultural & Developmental Perspectives of Theoretical Ideologies" (PDF). Psychology and Society. 3: 1–25. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  9. ^ "List of books and articles about Viktor Frankl". Archived from the original on 18 July 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Viktor Frankl Biography". Viktor Frankl Institute Vienna. Archived from the original on 13 May 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  11. ^ Batthyány, Alexander, ed. (2016). Logotherapy and Existential Analysis. Proceedings of the Viktor Frankl Institute Vienna, Volume 1. Springer International. pp. 3–6. ISBN 978-3319805689.
  12. ^ Frankl, Viktor E. (Viktor Emil), 1905–1997 (2005). Frühe Schriften, 1923–1942. Vesely-Frankl, Gabriele. Wien: W. Maudrich. ISBN 3851758129. OCLC 61029472.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Boeree, George. "Personality Theories: Viktor Frankl." Archived 3 November 2019 at the Wayback Machine Shippensburg University. Accessed 18 April 2014.
  15. ^ Lantz, James E. "Family logotherapy." Contemporary Family Therapy 8, no. 2 (1986): 124–135.
  16. ^ a b Frankl, Viktor (2000). Man's search for ultimate meaning. Perseus Pub. ISBN 978-0738203546. Archived from the original on 22 March 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  17. ^ "The Life of Viktor Frankl". Viktor Frankl Institute of America. Archived from the original on 6 August 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  18. ^ Frankl, Viktor (2010). The Feeling of Meaninglessness. Marquette University Press. ISBN 978-0874627589.
  19. ^ Fein, Esther B. (20 November 1991). "New York Times, 11-20-1991". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 28 April 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  20. ^ a b Frankl, Viktor (2014). The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy. New York: Penguin/Plume. ISBN 978-0142181263.
  21. ^ a b "What is Logotherapy/Existential Analysis". Archived from the original on 13 May 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  22. ^ Frankl, Viktor (2019). The Doctor and the Soul. From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0525567042.
  23. ^ Frankl, Viktor E. (1975). "Paradoxical intention and dereflection". Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice. 12 (3): 226–237. doi:10.1037/h0086434.
  24. ^ 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.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ Viktor Frankl’s Meaning-Seeking Model and Positive Psychology Archived 19 July 2021 at the Wayback Machine Chapter from book 'Meaning in Positive and Existential Psychology' (pp. 149–184)
  26. ^ a b Biderman, Jacob. "The Rebbe and Viktor Frankl".
  27. ^ Bushkin, Hanan; van Niekerk, Roelf; Stroud, Louise (31 August 2021). "Searching for meaning in chaos: Viktor Frankl's story". Europe's Journal of Psychology. 17 (3): 233–242. doi:10.5964/ejop.5439. ISSN 1841-0413. PMC 8763215. PMID 35136443.
  28. ^ Scully, Mathew (1995). "Viktor Frankl at Ninety: An Interview". First Things. Archived from the original on 1 May 2012.
  29. ^ Klingberg 2001[page needed]
  30. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 12 October 2009. Retrieved 6 September 2009.

External linksEdit