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Friedrich (Frederick) Salomon Perls (July 81893, Berlin – March 14 1970, Chicago), better known as Fritz Perls, was a noted Germanmarker-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 Institutemarker in California in 1964. His approach is related but not identical to Gestalt psychology and the Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy of Hans-Jürgen 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, Germany, 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 Perls (born Lore Posner), they had two children together, Renate and Stephen.

In 1933, soon after the Hitler regime came into power, Fritz Perls, Laura and their eldest 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.

The Perls moved to New York in 1946, where Fritz Perls first worked briefly with Karen Horney, and then with Wilhelm Reich. Around 1947, Perls asked author Paul Goodman to write up some hand-written notes, which together with contributions from Ralph Hefferline and Goodman, were published as Gestalt Therapy.

Fritz Perls moved to California in 1960, where he continued to offer his workshops as a member of the Esalen Institute in Big Surmarker, until he left the United States to start a Gestalt community at Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island, Canada, in 1969. Fritz Perls died almost a year later on 14 March 1970 in Chicago of heart failure, after surgery at the Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago.


  • Ego, Hunger and Aggression (1942) ISBN 0-939266-18-0
  • Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality (1951/1977) ISBN 0-939266-24-5
  • Gestalt Therapy Verbatim (1968) ISBN 0911226028
  • The Gestalt Approach and Eye Witness to Therapy (1973) ISBN 0-8314-0034-X
  • In and Out the Garbage Pail (1981) ISBN 0-553-20253-7

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:

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