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Fritz Perls
Fritz Perls.jpg
July 8 1893
Berlin, Germany
March 14 1970

Friedrich (Frederick) Salomon Perls (July 8 1893, Berlin - March 14 1970, Chicago), better known as Fritz Perls, was a noted German-born psychiatrist and psychotherapist of Jewish descent.

He coined the term 'Gestalt Therapy' for the approach to therapy he developed with his wife Laura Perls from the 1940s, and he became associated with the Esalen Institute in California in 1964. His approach is related but not identical to Gestalt psychology and the Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy of Hans-Juergen Walter.

At Gestalt Therapy's core is the promotion of awareness, the awareness of the unity of all present feelings and behaviors, and the contact between the self and its environment.

Perls has been widely evoked outside the realm of psychotherapy for a quotation often described as the "Gestalt prayer". This was especially true in the 1960s, when the version of individualism it expresses received great attention.


Fritz Perls was born in Berlin in 1893. He was expected to go into law like his distinguished uncle Herman Staub, but instead studied medicine. After a time spent in the German Army in the World War I trenches, he graduated as a doctor. Perls gravitated to psychiatry and the work of Freud and the early Wilhelm Reich.

In 1930 he married Laura, they had two children together, Renate and Stephen.

In 1933, soon after the Hitler regime came into power, Fritz Perls, Laura and their first child Renate fled to the Netherlands, and one year later they emigrated to South Africa, where Fritz Perls wrote Ego, Hunger, and Aggression in 1941 (published 1942). His wife Laura contributed to the book, but she is usually not mentioned. In 1942 Fritz went into the South African army where he served as an army psychiatrist with rank of captain until 1946.

In the early 1950s, the Perls moved to New York, where Fritz Perls wrote Gestalt Therapy with Paul Goodman writer and Ralph Hefferline in 1951. Paul Goodman did most of the actual writing. Fritz Perls moved to California in 1960, where he continued to offer his workshops as a member of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, until he left the USA to start a Gestalt community at Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island, Canada, in 1969. Fritz Perls died almost a year later on 14th March 1970 in Chicago of heart failure after surgery at the Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago.


About Fritz Perls

  • Petruska Clarkson, Jennifer Mackewn: "Fritz Perls", 1993, SAGE Publications.

See also

Influenced by Laura and Fritz Perls (Students)

External links


Writings and Lectures by Fritz Perls:

  • Psychiatry in a New Key from the Unpublished Manuscripts of Fritz Perls
  • Finding Self Through Gestalt Therapy, a transcript of a talk given at the Cooper Union by Frederick Perls in 1957
  • Planned Psychotherapy by Frederick Perls. A talk given in the late 1940s at the William Alanson White Institute in New York City, "Planned Psychotherapy" predates the articulation of Gestalt therapy by a few years. Perls discusses in detail his developing use of focusing on the "here and now."

Interview with Fritz Perls:

ca:Fritz Perls de:Fritz Perls es:Fritz Perls fr:Fritz Perls gl:Fritz Perls pt:Fritz Perls

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