A Science Odyssey
People and Discoveries

Frieda Fromm-Reichmann
1889 - 1957

Frieda Reichmann grew up in East Prussia in a family where education was prized and where she gained a broad background in music and culture. She wanted to pursue medicine, however, and earned her MD in 1914, just in time to be deluged with the casualties of World War I. She worked with a specialist taking care of brain-injured patients and came to appreciate their "catastrophic reactions" to the battlefield -- an understanding she would later use with psychiatric patients.

Her war work directed her interests into the field of psychiatry, and in the years that followed, she worked at a sanitarium near Dresden that practiced relaxation therapy. While there she discovered the work of Sigmund Freud, which gave new direction to her thinking. It seemed to offer answers to many of the puzzles that nagged her throughout her work thus far. She then trained to be a psychoanalyst, and set up private practice in Heidelberg. With her husband, psychologist and writer Erich Fromm, she established the Psychoanalytic Training Institute of Southwestern Germany.

In 1933 Fromm-Reichmann fled from the new Nazi government first to France, then Palestine (now Israel), before emigrating to the United States in 1935. She took a temporary position at a private sanitarium in Maryland that summer. The two-month appointment at Chestnut Lodge would last 22 years!

There she was given great flexibility in treating psychotic patients. She used an intensive analysis that was empathetic, sensitive, and honest. Through the years she adjusted her Freudian views away from sexuality as a prime-mover to emphasize early life experiences patients had had that interrupted their ability to understand themselves and the world. She explained her theory and technique in Principles of Intensive Psychotherapy (1950). One of Fromm-Reichmann's patients who had been severely ill responded so dramatically and positively to treatment that she wrote a popular book about the experience: I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1964). Fromm-Reichmann received many professional awards and honors. She died at home at Chestnut Lodge at age 67.

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