Fromm–Reichmann grew up in East Prussia and gained an excellent education including music and culture and earned an MD degree in 1914 right before World War I. She treated patients who had had brain–damage because of the war, and she learned how to appreciate their catastropic reactions to the battlefield.
Her work during the war pushed her in the direction of psychiatry, and she worked at a sanitarium near Dresden where she practiced techniques including relaxation therapy. She was impressed with the work of Sigmund Freud and found much of his thinking beneficial to explaining puzzles which she had confronted with her patients. She fled Germany in 1933 because of Nazi oppression and emigrated to the United States. Her thinking moved away from the importance of Freudian notions of the primacy of sexual motivations to a theory that early–life experiences were fundamental in shaping personality. Her work emphasized the importance of patients learning about themselves and their world.
Insights into technique
Her influential book Principles of Intensive Psychotherapy in 1950 explained her theory. In one anecdote, she draws attention to cross-cultural differences to which psychotherapists must pay attention. While treating an American woman with a diagnosis of psychosis, the patient took out makeup and began using it. Fromm-Reichman, from her German experience, was shocked, thinking this a private act.
She later realized, however, that this was an extremely positive sign for the culture and the time; the woman had not applied makeup for years, and the symbolism was that she was attempting to integrate into normal life, not to deny the conventions of normal behavior.
In a later book written in 1964 entitled I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, she described how she had helped a severely ill patient recover substantially. She was married to the psychologist and writer Erich Fromm.
- Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, NPR, 2010-04-28. Retrieved on 2010-04-28.