Alfred Adler was an Austrian psychologist and psychiatrist, born in Vienna, and educated at Vienna University. After leaving the university he studied and was associated with Sigmund Freud. In 1911 Adler left the orthodox psychoanalytic school to find a neo-Freudian school of psychoanalysis. After 1926 he was a visiting professor at Columbia University, and in 1935 he and his family moved to the United States. In his analysis of individual development, Adler stressed the sense of inferiority, rather than sexual drives, as the motivating force in human life. According to Adler, conscious or subconscious feelings of inferiority (to which he gave the name inferiority complex), combined with compensatory defense mechanisms, are the basic causes of psychopathological behavior. The function of the psychoanalyst, furthermore, is to discover and rationalize such feelings and break down the compensatory, neurotic will for power that they engender in the patient. Adler's works include The Theory and Practice of Individual Psychology (1918) and The Pattern of Life (1930).
Alfred Adler believed that Freud overemphasized the importance of sexual and aggressive drives. Adler was particularly interested in sibling relationships, birth order, and relationships with parents. He would ask patients about their early memories and use this information to analyze their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. He helped his patients by encouraging them to meet important life goals: love, work, and friendship.
For Adler and modern therapists who draw from his work, interest in others and participation in society are important goals of therapy. Adlerian therapists see therapy in part as educational, and they use a number of innovative action techniques to help patients change mistaken beliefs and interact more fully with family members and others.