Alfred Adler Institutes of San Francisco and Northwestern Washington

Remembrances of Alfred Adler, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung,
and Other Early Contributors to Psychology

An Interview With Sophia de Vries

Highlights of Her 47 Years of Practicing Adlerian Psychology, Including Recollections of: Charlotte Bühler - Rudolf Dreikurs - August Eichorn - Martha Holub - Ludwig Klages - Fritz Künkel - Ida Loewy - Maria Montessori - Alexander Müller - Edward Schneider - Lydia Sicher - Blanche Weill

Sophia De Vries Interviewed by Henry Stein, on May 20, 1980, in San Francisco

Copyright 1996, Henry T. Stein, Ph.D., Reproduction Prohibited Without Permission


  • Education in Holland
  • Working with difficult children
  • Discovering Adler's ideas through Fritz Künkel
  • Künkel popularized Adlerian ideas
  • Started studying Adlerian psychology in 1934
  • Lydia Sicher, faithful defender of Adlerian Psychology
  • Adler's conflict with Freud
  • Neo-Freudians now closer to Adler
  • Summer lectures with Sicher
  • Study analysis with Sicher
  • Friendship and supervision with Alexander Müller
  • Teaching Adlerian Psychology in Holland
  • Müller very philosophical
  • Ortega y Gasset similar to Adler
  • Existentialism
  • Visit with Müller in Zurich
  • For original Adlerians, helping people came first, not making money
  • Much of Müller's and some of Sicher's work not yet translated
  • Studying with Charlotte Bühler at her clinic
  • Bühler-Hetzer developmental test for children
  • Adlerian child guidance clinics
  • Ida Loewy and Martha Holub
  • Ida Loewy's work with children
  • Children brought other children to clinics
  • Adler's lectures in Holland for professionals
  • Following Adler around Europe
  • Exposure to Freudian ideas
  • Freudian lecturer, August Eichorn
  • Rudolf Dreikurs more rigid and strict than other Adlerians
  • Karl Bühler
  • Dutch Adlerians form a group
  • Adler's theories banned during the war
  • Adlerians practiced in secret during war
  • Fooling the Nazis
  • Dutch Adlerians active again after war
  • Adlerian programs for judges, educators, doctors, and social workers
  • Guest lectures by Adler, Jung, Klages, and others
  • Refusing oath of allegiance to Hitler
  • Jung's knowledge of history
  • Results of Jung's cases
  • Adler's ideas more practical than Jung's
  • Klages'ideas about character and handwriting
  • Professor Aldervelt
  • Adler's humor
  • First meeting with Adler
  • Adler's lecture style
  • Adler adjusted to audience
  • Adler lectured without notes
  • Sitting with Adler in coffee shops
  • Adler's phenomenal memory
  • Example of Adler's style of dealing with adversary
  • Adler's case load
  • Adler knew about his heart condition
  • Adler's casual appearance
  • Adler's secretary
  • Anecdote about Adler's lecture that upset some Freudians
  • de Vries advises Adler of his impact on audience
  • Adler apologizes to audience for jokes
  • de Vries immigration to United States in 1948
  • Practiced in Southern California
  • Moved to Oakland in 1954
  • Adlerian group in Los Angeles
  • Work at Lincoln Child Center with disturbed children
  • San Francisco Bay Area Adlerian Group
  • Edward Schneider
  • Blanche Weill
  • Maria Montessori
  • Meeting of Adler and Montessori
  • Montessori schools in the United States
  • Need for creativity
  • Photograph of Sophia de Vries
  • STEIN: Sophia, could you tell me first a little about your early training and education before starting with Adlerian Psychology. How you were first trained and for what?

    DE VRIES: That, of course, was in Holland and I had gone to a teachers college where there was a lot of psychology offered and an awful lot of practice of what to do with children who were in need of special treatment. And after I got my Bachelors degree and tried out what I wanted to do, I started working, at the suggestion of the Director of the college, with difficult children, who either were sick and couldn't go to school, or who had difficulty with learning or with their behavior. And, it was very gratifying because I had enough leeway to apply all sorts of new things, and to my astonishment, later, when I had met Künkel in Holland, there were a lot of things that he said should be done with difficult children and that was my introduction to Adler! So that is how I came to Adler, through Künkel, and through the lectures Künkel gave in Holland.

    STEIN: What kind of man do you recall Künkel being?

    DE VRIES: Künkel was an excellent speaker, and he could present the Adlerian Psychology in a very easy, comfortable manner, so that it was accepted by people very readily. I would say he had a popular way of expressing himself, which was nice. And he was very much in demand for lectures and all the big schools asked him to come and lecture for the faculty, not only, but also for the parents. So there was immediately at beginning of making the ideas of Adler popular in a way that they wanted to hear more about it. And then later, when I studied Adler more thoroughly, I knew that the groundwork was there, I mean there was fertile ground to start working. That was actually the idea. I did not pick it up until later because first it was marriage, and, my children, and I had the feeling as a young mother that you had to be with your children. So it was not until 1934 that I continued studying Psychology, and went very deeply into the Adlerian Psychology. In 1935 I was in Vienna, and I took courses there with the different famous people: the first assistant that Dr. Adler had, that was Dr. Lydia Sicher (she always took over for him when he went to the United States).

    STEIN: Do you have an early impression of Lydia Sicher? In those days?

    DE VRIES: Very clear, very outspoken, always improvising what she said, going very far, both in the practical technical side of Psychology as well as the philosophical side of Adlerian

    Psychology. And, forceful in her presentation, an absolute faithful defender of Adlerian Psychology! She knew it inside out!

    STEIN: You say a defender, was there a lot of resistance at the time?

    DE VRIES: Oh, yes, oh, yes. From the Freudian part, there was still an awful lot of attack, and after Adler had left the Freudian group, I think there came more attacks then at any other time, yet, Freud had accepted the ideas that Adler had but given it a different name, in his own theories. And Adler always kidded about that and said, "Freud has again made a prisoner, and now he can't get rid of him." Which was one of the ideas that Adler had, and it is undoubtedly true that Adlerian Psychology has had a tremendous effect on Freudian ideas as they are used now, because the neo-Freudians come very close to the neo-Adlerians. I have worked together with some neo-Freudians and we agreed completely about what had to be done, and about the insight, we only gave it a different wording. That was my feeling, we used a different kind of language for it.

    STEIN: When you first studied with Lydia Sicher was this a course open to the public, or to professionals only? What was the nature of that?

    DE VRIES: That was...I do not recall all the other people who were there, she always had groups of people, and you went for a certain time, and signed up, for instance, I was there during the whole summer, and you signed up for the whole summer and went to all the lectures that she gave on a specific topic, and then you followed it up with the next and the next and the next. So this was a continuum. I also took my analysis with Lydia Sicher because it was found that you cannot practice well unless you have gone through a study analysis yourself. So I did that. And then another one was Alexander Müller, who was one of the close co-workers of Adler. And that was the beginning of a very long cooperation and friendship because later Müller came to Holland and we worked together for quite a long time. In the beginning, when I went back to Holland, he had supervised my work for two years, which was also a thing that was absolutely necessary. And then later, many, many years later, when I was already teaching Individual Psychology in the Dutch Adlerian group, we both were teachers in the same years that the students had to take, and at one time there was a course that lasts for three years and finally it was brought back to two years. But that was a very thorough going from one thing to the other and have different people who were thoroughly trained in Adlerian Psychology to teach others how to do this. Followed by exams, written and oral. So, we really tested them out, and there were some that fell by the wayside, that were not good enough in our idea and were not permitted to practice. We didn't give them a certificate.

    STEIN: What was Müller like when you first started working with him?

    DE VRIES: Müller was very philosophical and went into a lot of comparison with other psychologies, and with a lot of philosophy, and he projected, for instance, Ortega y Gasset as one of the people who was very close to Adler. If you read Ortega y Gasset, then you find that, yes, this fits very much. Then later he talked about Heiddeger, who was the beginner of the Existentialism, he was the real Existentialist. Sartre was not recognized as a real Existentialist by Alexander Müller. He said, "That's a deviation and that's not the real thing," because the philosophy was different. So, he was a tremendously generous person, I have known him and his wife as close friends for many, many years. And later when he went to live in Zurich, in Switzerland, and established an Adlerian chapter there, I have visited him. And we talked always shop for quite a long time and then we had a pleasant visit. So, until his death I have known him and kept up correspondence. Very fine man and... All these people did not think in the first place about making money, but they thought about helping people. And I have found that that is different from what sometimes is found in the United States.

    STEIN: Is there perhaps a reason why Sicher and Müller did not write that much, at least as my experience has been that we don't see that much in English...

    DE VRIES: Well, Müller has published, but in German and the books have not been translated, and a lot of articles are in the Individual Psychology International periodicals by Lydia Sicher. And she lectured an awful lot, and these lectures have been taken... but she talked later in English because she was in Southern California. She was in... established a group in Los Angeles and that's where I met her again when I came to the United States. Not all of it has been published and some of the things have been written in German and have not been translated, so there is a lot to be done in translations.

    STEIN: I'd like to go back to the summer in Vienna, 1935, that sounds like a very intense, busy time.

    DE VRIES: Oh, yes, because I also wanted to get a specific certificate, and that was in the "Kinderübernahmstelle" from Charlotte Bühler. That was a place where children were placed for adoption, or who had to be placed in a home. And they were evaluated, and Charlotte Bühler, with Hildegard Hetzer had made a different kind of tests that were especially good in testing these children in their development. So it was not an IQ test, but it was, "How well is their hearing developed, and their seeing, their putting two and two together, their small muscle development, their large muscle development?," all these different facets. And you had to go through quite a rigorous amount of working in the clinic before you got a certificate that you knew what it was all about and you could do this. And I did it and got my certificate. So that is what I did as practical work, and then I went to all the different places where the Adlerians were having guidance clinics and participated in those, they were open to the public. The first thing that was always asked was, "Is there anybody in the audience you know?" This was asked of the child, or of the parent, and then they looked around and they said, "No, nobody I know," alright then people can stay, and if there was somebody they know then that person had to leave. Which was fair. And then the child was also told that if there was something he had to say that he did not want anybody else to hear, then they would step outside, in another room. And that happened a couple of times. There was always someone who wrote down what the child said. The child had had a physical before he came in, to be sure that physically he was alright, or that abnormalities were noted, and then the counseling was done in front of the people who were interested in hearing this and learning more about it. So there were an awful lot of psychology students who came, especially to hear what was going on.

    STEIN: Do you recall who was the Psychologist, or Psychiatrist who gave these demonstrations?

    DE VRIES: Ah... I was there with Ida Loewy who was very famous, an excellent Adlerian, and Martha Holub both excellent. And there was always a physician and there was someone who wrote everything down. So there were three people.

    STEIN: Do you have any other impressions of these people, did you have any sustained contact with them?

    DE VRIES: Ida Loewy died, we had her over in Holland quite a few times to lecture and she was marvelous. She had a keen knowledge and a keen intuition and she knew exactly how to approach a child from the very beginning and win the child over. It was amazing what she could get out in the first half hour that she saw a child, and immediately went in the same direction, the way Adler had taught us actually, because he did the same thing. But all these people had absorbed so much from Adler what to do that this gave a clear picture of how you should approach it. It was always very gentle. It was never an attack, it was gentle. And immediately, the essence of the interview was on cooperation. So within the first half hour I would say you could always notice that the child was already cooperating. And as proof of this, I want you to know that many of the children brought in other children who had difficulties. It was the children who brought other children in, because they felt here you really get support, here you are being helped, and you don't have to be naughty or whatever anymore, and you don't have to have difficulties in your learning anymore, it immediately disappears. And also after the child was brought in, the parent was brought in and was talked to, and the parents would be given advise, that punishment doesn't help, and that you have to have cooperation, that you have to treat the child like your best friend. And not as someone you can subject to all kinds of punishment or setting up rules that don't count for anybody except for that child, that doesn't help. It was always, "How do you make the parent cooperative with the child?" And the child cooperative with the parent? And these people knew exactly how to do this. I have learned an awful lot there.

    STEIN: Did you actually see Adler doing one of these demonstrations?

    DE VRIES: No, Adler that year was not there, and later I studied with him when he gave his courses in Holland. Because Adler traveled a great deal and especially for the people who had been in Vienna and who were already in practice he gave courses in Holland that were only for professionals. And then you got to the depth of things, and you came with your questions and he had examples and there was a general exposition of his theories, connected with the examples that he always had, to make it very clear. So that was later, in Holland. And then when he came to Holland, we followed him around in all the cities where he lectured. I wanted to say that while I was in Vienna I also went to the Freudian school and that was a.... Freud was not showing himself anymore, he was not loving people as much as Adler did. Adler always wanted to see everybody he had seen before, even if it was years ago. But here was another one, taking care of things, and what was his name now again, hum....I'll tell you in a minute. And we were shown the cases in an anteroom, the counselor talked with the patient, then closed the door and came to us and explained what the conversation had been and which phase of the development and which phase of the treatment the person was. Eichorn, of course, Eichorn, he was the one. He was a very fine man, and very pleasant, had a warm approach and it was strictly the Freudian terminology, so it was good to make a comparison. Adler very much wanted us to study the different psychologies and compare it to what we knew of his theories. Because he said it is much better that you know these things and when you are being asked about it that you can give an answer. So he wanted us to study everything. And everything that came out new, he studied himself. All the time.

    STEIN: That same summer in Vienna, which sounds busier every comment, did you have contact with the other schools, with the Jungian...

    DE VRIES: Not there, no, not there, but I also met Dreikurs, and took a short course with him.

    STEIN: Do you remember your first impression of Dreikurs?

    DE VRIES: Yes... he was different in this respect, that he made more of a "military" impression. The others were in the Viennese, German, I would almost call it softer, or gentler or more, had more sense of humor, I don't know what it was, but he was more rigid and strict and his movements were, his body movements were even different. But he was very excellent as a teacher, and he knew his theory. He was a doctor, there, and he was very highly respected as a doctor.

    STEIN: Have we pretty much covered that summer in Vienna?

    DE VRIES: Yes, I also went to lectures in the University of course by Carl Bühler, which was important.

    STEIN: This was Charlotte Bühler's husband?

    DE VRIES: Yes, yes. They both were professors. So that was that time, and as I said, I got what I wanted and then came back to Holland and started doing all sorts of...started all sorts of courses for parents, and working with children and lecturing a great deal.

    STEIN: Were there many other Adlerians in Holland at the time, or in your vicinity?

    DE VRIES: Well, people started studying, there were not so many who were...there were of course, Dr. Delhay, Dr. Ronge, Dr. Spaander Duyvis, and Dr. Müller. These were people who had studied Adler too and we formed a group between all of us to promote Adlerian Psychology and then we came, we had the unfortunate interference of the war. And the theories of Freud and of Adler were absolutely taboo, only Jung was permitted (because he was not Jewish) by the Nazis. Nevertheless, we continued practicing, on the sneak, and after the war was over, we started again establishing the group, that we had taken every list, we had burned every list of Adlerians, and we all remembered the names, I mean in a small country you know each other. But there was nothing to be found that would be held against one of us. And that's why we secretly could continue practicing.

    STEIN: Good planning.

    DE VRIES: We fooled the Nazis as much as possible. And maybe as Adlerians we could easily see through what they were doing. You see, they functioned in a compartmentalized way. And one office functioned by its own, and had its pride in bringing out the best. And the other office, exactly the same, and the third one exactly the same. But they didn't connect so much with each other. So the one didn't know about the other. And we found that out very quickly. They confiscated everything. They confiscated, for instance, bicycles. Well, I needed a bicycle, so I went to one office to get a permit for my bicycle. And they asked me what I needed it for and I said, "I'm a psychologist." Oh, that was alright, they didn't ask what kind of a psychologist, because that belonged to another office. So you didn't ask that question! And then I had my bicycle, which was very dangerous, because I knew that it could be taken any time. And after I had used it for the purpose I needed it (that was to go to another city for the funeral of a member of the family) we took the bicycle apart, hid it again. And then, of course, one day they came to the door and said, "You have a bicycle," and I said, "Well, you know you confiscate bicycles on the road, how could I keep a bicycle?" This was a question, and the man turned around and walked off. So I kept my bicycle, be it in pieces! (laughter) That was the way we treated the Nazis! You know?

    Well, after that we started with Individual Psychology again. And reopened the course for Adlerian Psychology.

    STEIN: Do you have any idea what year this would be?

    DE VRIES: This was a .... well, in 1945. And I was one of the teachers at the school that was for people who had gone through studies already at the University and who wanted to know more specifically about Adlerian Psychology, because they needed it for their work. So we had judges, and juvenile judges especially, and we had educators, many teachers, we had social workers, we had some young doctors, all these people came to learn more about Adlerian Psychology, and applied it in their work. They had to study hard, because we were very tough on them! And we demanded that everything that could be read, was studied. After one year they had an exam, and first written and then oral, and after the second year, there was another exam. That's how we did it.

    STEIN: What city in Holland did you....?

    DE VRIES: That was in Amsterdam. And I practiced in Amersfoort which was west of Amsterdam.

    STEIN: Now, had you... this was 1945... had you worked with Klages yet? You had mentioned him to me.

    DE VRIES: Well, you see, we had in Holland the International School for Philosophy, and it is just like someone who is famous and lives in San Francisco, and lectures in Los Angeles, it is about that distance in Europe to go to Holland, and lecture in a specific center that is meant as a focal point for learning. And that was the International School for Philosophy. So we had Adler lecture there, we had Jung come there, there was Maeder, there was Klages, there was Kretschmer, Mennicke, I mean, all these people came to lecture there.

    STEIN: Amazing! What year was this?

    DE VRIES: Well, that was...a... it was before the war, and it was after the war, because during the war they were closed. So immediately after the war we picked up where we left off and did all these things. And I do not know exactly when I heard Klages, whether it was before or after the war, and Kretschmer, and all these people but it was very important for a general study, (don't forget I was still going for my Ph.D. in those days, and I still had to finish that) I could not do it during the war because you were supposed to give an oath of allegiance to Hitler, and I refused to do that and I said "no", then no Ph.D., "I am not going to do this." So I stopped studying all together, at the University - not by myself. And, from all these people we learned a great deal - Jung was very interesting, he presented a lot of cases, and it was fascinating to hear him give his explanations, and his knowledge about antiquity, and history, was phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal!! And every symbol from a dream, or a memory that people had, he could explain as something that had happened before that was our common unconscious. And that is where it came from. Now, the other side of the coin was, that after he had presented so many cases, the last day, we asked him, "Dr. Jung, would you please tell us, how did these cases come out?" And he said, "Oh, well some were very unfortunate because, the case I mentioned to you the first day later committed suicide, and the case I mentioned to you the next day was also a suicide," and he had several suicides, and that did something, you know, that took something away from the splendor of his presentation.

    STEIN: It sounded almost as if his interest was in the aesthetic or the artistic, almost more than the therapeutic side.

    DE VRIES: I have talked to someone who had a treatment by him. This was actually a good friend, who had gone to Zurich, and had had a treatment, and he said, "It is fascinating, because I know exactly now why I do the things I do," but he still did the same things. And this was for us Adlerians different because we saw that the people who had certain pitfalls in their lives, or who did certain things that they were not too happy with themselves, did not keep these symptoms, after they had had a treatment by Adler or one of his excellent co-workers, they changed.

    STEIN: Did you find any of the theory of Jung useful to you? Did you adopt any of it? Or did you use it mostly for comparison's sake?

    DE VRIES: Let me say I have a great admiration for it but I cannot in a practical way apply it to help a person to change, whereas in a practical way I can apply the Adlerian ideas and technique that Adler used to help a person overcome his difficulties. Because these difficulties are here now, in our society and I do not see why we should go back ages, for instance, a time in Spain in 700, I remember that that was one of the cases that he remembered, because the person had had a dream about a dagger, and he said, "That kind of dagger that you described was used in Spain in 1700," and I don't see how that can help a person get over depressions that he had nowadays. I don't see that logic. I think its very interesting, its fascinating! But I practically cannot use it and I admire the people who can, I cannot.

    STEIN: Did anything from Klages stay with you as a useful idea?

    DE VRIES: Well, his typology of people were kind of helpful, but it is also like another characterization that you give and of course he had a lot of expression that was useful about people's movement. And the movement in writing, for instance, and what was expressed in writing. And as such, I think there is quite a value in it. One should definitely study these theories and see what one can use and what is enlightening, and I think this is personal for people. He was also a very learned person, he kept very much to himself. There were quite a few of those speakers who came to the International School who kept to themselves. There were some who did not. Jung always had a large crowd of admirers sitting at his feet. And then when the lectures were over he disappeared in his room. And Adler was always practically followed by a crowd to his room and then he said, "And now I'm going to close the door just for a moment." But the minute he came out again there was another crowd, so he was always seen with people (laughter), and ...he provoked that himself because he usually opened his arms very wide and said, "Here are all my friends again!" And so, if you are being made a friend of Adler, what can you do, but be there? And, Klages also was very much on his own, Kretschmer, all these people, Mennike was not, Mennike was a man... he was a general, I would say, philosopher, and gave overall pictures of contemporary philosophy and compared it with what another speaker had said in another course, and things like that, very helpful. He was the Director of the International School for Philosophy in Amersfoort.

    And then there was Leiter Aldervelt, Professor Aldervelt of Amsterdam who I followed very closely. And he was very much in favor of Adlerian Psychology, he taught us a lot of Bergson, he taught us of others for comparison, and you better read all of these books in the original language too. No one in Holland would ever permit you to read a book in a translation. You had to read the French in the original French, and the German in the original German. Which was very helpful because you got to the feeling of what the expression in that language meant. And then Adler had his fun with Viennese German, especially when he talked about cases of children who spoke that kind of Viennese, and then he imitated that sometimes, which was always quite hilarious. And he spoke that with the children because it made them feel more comfortable.

    STEIN: Can you recall your first meeting with Adler, or your exposure to him?

    DE VRIES: I think the first time that I ever saw Adler was when he lectured, and then you saw this short man coming to the floor with the friendliest expression on his face that you can imagine, and immediately starting to talk and, he had a beautiful voice, and it was absolutely silent so you could hear what he was saying very clearly, and he presented what he had to say very logically, very much in sequence. He never had any notes, he always improvised. And there was a tremendous applause, and then usually, there was another hour of questions from everybody. And he was very generous with his time, very generous. And he had a tremendous amount of energy because he lectured in the mornings and in the afternoons and in the evenings. And he immediately caught on to the type of audience he had. I heard him, of course every time he spoke, also in the Universities for the students and for the faculty. Then he used a different choice of words then when he spoke for the general public. He adjusted his language to the type of people he saw in front of him. So he could much more, use much more theoretical language when he was talking for students and professionals than when he was talking to lay people. And he did so.

    STEIN: So he had such an enormous sensitivity...

    DE VRIES: Tremendous sensitivity..

    STEIN: Individuals and groups...

    DE VRIES: Yes, caught people right away and actually that example was so strong that you couldn't help but try to follow that. And he also told all of us, "Now look, if you want to teach or to speak in public, never speak with notes, you have to know what you are going to say and go ahead and do it, so you improvise it." And he demanded that from every one, or demanding I should not say, but he advised everybody to do this. And it was very helpful.

    STEIN: Were you able to spend any personal time with Adler? He sounds like a man that had just hundreds of people wanting to talk with him...

    DE VRIES: Oh yes, oh yes, that was it, yes. It was always a short time, for instance after a lecture also in Holland we still went to a place where he could have his coffee, and where we all sat together in a restaurant, and then one person would sit next to him, and you had maybe a couple of minutes, and then the next person would sit next to him to ask a question and this went on and on and on. And he remembered what you had talked about, maybe half a year ago, or if you had been stuck with a case and you had asked him something. Then he would ask when he saw you again, "How did the case continue?" things like that.

    STEIN: Phenomenal memory!

    DE VRIES: Absolutely fantastic! Absolutely fantastic! Yes. That deep interest in people. I also was present at the lecture where there was a Freudian psychiatrist who was attacking him very much, after the lecture, with very sharp questions, and he gave very quiet answers, and also gave a comparison between the Freudians ideas and the Adlerian ideas. And the man was kind of angry because he didn't win his case. And you could feel in the general public that people were on the side of Adler. And when the lecture was over Adler stepped off the podium, went to this psychiatrist and extended his hand and said, "I hope this was not too unpleasant for you." He lived what he preached, absolutely.

    STEIN: He seemed to be on a very demanding schedule...(DE VRIES: Tremendous! Tremendous!) of lecturing people, did he have time, during this, for much of a private practice?

    DE VRIES: He did have time, because the cases that he had he took from day to day, and he also...of course, when he was settled. The time for instance when he was in New York, and was teaching there, he could have a private practice too, but when he had cases while he was traveling he usually took them from one to the next day, and the next and the next and could do something so quickly, that someone else could either take over, or it was already settled, and he later could come back. But was busy in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, there was not a dull moment. And later everybody said, "We have really asked too much of him," because he was always ready to give, before his death, you know? And he knew that his heart was not working so well any more and did not pay any attention to it. He should have.

    STEIN: Did he take good care of himself? I mean he worked very hard, do you have an idea, did he eat well, have enough sleep?

    DE VRIES: Oh yes, oh yes. And he, yes, he did... (laughter) there was only one thing that he sometimes forgot, and that was his a... (laughter) appearance!

    STEIN: Was it very casual...?

    DE VRIES: No, this was very funny. One time I sat next to him after a lecture and I said, "Dr. Adler, there is something that you really have to do. Send this coat please to the cleaners, tonight." He said, "What, what, have I been sloppy!" and he looked at himself, he said, (whispered) "Thank you very much! It will be done right away!" Because he had different spots on his coat. He didn't pay attention to these things, no. So there he needed a little help, but he traveled also with a secretary and then the secretary took care of a lot of things.

    STEIN: Did he smoke cigars?

    DE VRIES: He did smoke, yeah, he did smoke.

    STEIN: I guess the cigar ashes may have also dropped....

    DE VRIES: Yes, (laughter)

    STEIN: You had mentioned to me once an anecdote which I think might be helpful to share, about Adler lecturing, and your offering him a suggestion, or a recommendation, or correction, about the effect he was having on an audience....

    DE VRIES: Oh, that was, yes, that was something in the International School for Philosophy, where he was to talk quite a few days, I think, Friday, a Saturday and a Sunday, and there were a lot of Freudians there who finally said, "Now we want to get a good impression of what the differences are between the Adlerian and the Freudian psychology." And Adler was very casual about these things, he was such an excellent speaker, so he could permit himself to forget what he was to speak about, and he was introduced by Dr.Ronge and while they were walking up to the podium he said, "What did you say you wanted me to talk about?" And then Dr. Ronge said, "The difference between the theories of Freud and Adler," and he said, "Oh really?," and then he started. And evidently, he was in that kind of a mood that he remembered a lot of things, (he gave a very good expose) but he also threw in his Viennese humor. And this was very, very, funny for us, but not for the Freudians who were there, because he could make these remarks, and they were light, but it was still, you know, like a joke is at someone. And there were very few questions after the lecture was over. And the Freudians were furious, they were absolutely furious. So, I said to Dr. Ronge, "You have to go and tell him that he shouldn't do this." He said, "Look, I am not going to do this because this is one very sore thing, and I am already happy that he is talking about the differences, so let's not say anything." I said, "You have to because this is not successful, we don't get enough questions from these people." And I asked someone else, "No", nobody wanted to do it. And I said, "Well, then, I'll do it," but by that time he had disappeared and I didn't find him anymore. And then he came back after lunch, and while he was walking up to the podium, (that was the only moment I could grab him) I said, "Dr. Adler, I have something to say to you." And he said, "Not now, I'm going to talk", I said, "But that's what its all about." He said, "What"? I said, "Well, there are so many Freudians here, and you have made some very nice jokes, but the Freudians don't particularly like it." And then he said, "If you think you can do better, why don't you go and talk?" I said, "You know I can't do that." He said, "Well, I have spoken because of truth," and I replied, "And I am speaking because of the good cause." he just had to make a few more steps, he turned around, and he addressed the crowd and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, if this morning I have said something that didn't sound right to some of you, please excuse me."e; And that was it. He gave a magnificent lecture. There was more than an hour of questions by everybody, it was a stupendous success. And then, he walked out and he came straight to me, he said, "You know, that was your success." (Laughter)

    STEIN: You must have felt pleased!

    DE VRIES: Well, he did so... I mean this shows the greatness of the man, you know? Who all of a sudden realized, "Yes, I shouldn't have made so many Viennese jokes, it is better to leave that out."

    STEIN: Have we pretty much covered the important individuals that you remember, and the events or programs prior to, say 1950?

    DE VRIES: Yes, this is practically prior to my immigration to the United States, I came here in 1948. And then started in Southern California where Lydia Sicher at that time was, and they asked me immediately if I would lecture there and if I also would take cases there. That was in Westwood, and I started practice, and had my private practice in San Marino, until I moved up, in 1954, to Oakland. So I lectured there, and....all sorts of things. I also recall, I don't know which year that was that I gave a lecture one time at one of our conferences, Individual Psychology conferences, but I don't know which year, it was in Los Angeles.

    STEIN: Was there much of an active group in Los Angeles at the time?

    DE VRIES: Yes, yes, there was quite an active group around Lydia Sicher. My objection was that it was kept a little bit in the same way it had been in Vienna. And you cannot make, remake Vienna in the United States. They always were short of money, and they let people pay very, very little. So if they had started an American fee system it would have been better. And the thing would have functioned a lot better. But to let the person pay, for instance at that time, 50 cents for treatment for an hour, you couldn't exist. That couldn't be done. So we always had to raise money one way or the other in order to take care of the patients. And that part I didn't like. That was the way it had been done in Vienna, and Lydia Sicher wanted to continue this. And I think in America, you have to do it the way Americans are used to it. So that was my objection. Her lectures were always excellent and we asked, by that time Dreikurs was already in America, we asked Dreikurs to come down and give lectures, and there were several others who could lecture, I lectured myself quite a bit. And gave courses, and then it was extended. And then, as I said, I later moved to Oakland, in '54, and started private practice, and in '56 to '73, that was 17 years, I also worked in Lincoln Child Center with very disturbed children, and lectured quite a bit, and still kept some private practice. Then pretty soon, we established the Bay Area San Francisco Adlerian group, that later has been taken over.

    STEIN: Who were among the people who were initially involved in that first group formation of the San Francisco Bay Area Society for Adlerian Psychology?

    DE VRIES: I think that Lucy Ackerkneckt for some time ... and it was a...what's his name, in, the teacher in ...what's his name?

    STEIN: Schneider?

    DE VRIES: Yes, Edward Schneider was in here, Edward Schneider was in there, yes. And there were a couple of other people.

    STEIN: Ted Grubbe?

    DE VRIES: Yes, also, yes, and there were a few other people, and they all have died...

    STEIN: Schneider has passed away?

    DE VRIES: Schneider has died, yes. And there was....

    STEIN: What kind of man was Schneider, I met him once, briefly and ...

    DE VRIES: Schneider was a very knowledgeable Adlerian, he practiced in San Francisco, very excellent man, but he had suffered very much through the War, the World War, in the first World War it had been horrible in Austria, you know? People didn't have anything to eat, it was terrible. So, that was, I felt, a shadow on his existence.

    STEIN: There was another woman, I recall in those days, and I remember a woman, was it Blanche Weill?

    DE VRIES: Blanche Weill, yes.

    STEIN: Yes, was she a teacher, a therapist?

    DE VRIES: She was also a therapist, an Adlerian therapist, yes. And she had, like I had, studied with Montessori, in Europe I had studied also with Montessori.

    STEIN: Yes, we didn't really talk about that at all.

    DE VRIES: Well it comes to mind now. That was in my days when I still was so involved with children with learning difficulties. And Montessori was also someone who came to lecture in Holland. And there were quite a few Montessori schools. And later, they went up to the University. You could have all the way through Montessori education.

    STEIN: What was your remembrance of Montessori, Maria Montessori, when she lectured?

    DE VRIES: She was already quite a bit older, especially later, and she was quite a powerful person. I would almost say a little on the dominating side. But, she was convinced that her method was the method, for learning, and the more freedom you gave children the better off they were. And we had wanted to have Adler and Montessori meet, and they did meet, but, she spoke French to him, and he didn't understand French, and she didn't understand German, so there was an interpreter, and that was a long drawn out thing and it was not really a meeting, but they have met each other.

    STEIN: Do you feel that the Montessori training for the children is very valuable?

    DE VRIES: Yes, but I don't know how they do it in the United States, I haven't seen too much of it. In the beginning, when I came to this country, I visited a Montessori school, and that was in Southern California, in Pasadena, and there was quite a bit of deviation from what Montessori had said. Montessori was creative with her method, and if you take the method before the creativity, then you make the same mistake that some people can make in Adlerian psychology. You cannot take method before the creativity. You have to use the method in a creative way, or otherwise you are not successful. What the difficulty with Montessori was, in schools, that some teachers believed that the children had to use the material in a specific sequence. And Montessori said, "No, they have a free choice," so there you get creativity. And then it is not a sequence that they all do the same way, but they do it in different ways. And you don't demand that they all, after one year, are at a certain point, but you say, "We have say, three years to learn this much material. Now you can be behind in one, and you can be advanced in the other, but in three years, you all are at the same point." And it always evens out, that's the amazing thing. In the schools in Holland where the Montessori method was used I could see that they all were at the same point at the end. But in the middle? No, they were at different points of development, according to their own growth and development. So you always saw happy children, because they didn't feel that they were specifically behind. They did what they could do.

    (This concludes an interview with Sophia de Vries.)

      The Alfred Adler Institute of Northwestern Washington
      2565 Mayflower Lane
      Bellignham, WA 98226

    Biographical Sketch and Photograph of Sophia de Vries:
    Back to Adler Institute Home Page: