Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy

Box 15211, Abilene, Texas  79698-5211, USA | Telephone: +1 (325) 692-9597 | Fax: +1 (325) 692-9188

photograph copyright IMAGNO/Katharina Vesely
The Man
Viktor E. Frankl was born in Vienna, Austria on March 26, 1905 as the second of three children. He died in 1997 in Vienna, Austria, of heart failure. His mother was from Prague and his father came from Suedmaehre. Frankl grew up in Vienna, the birthplace of modern psychiatry and home of the renowned psychiatrists Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. A brilliant student, Frankl was involved in Socialist youth organizations and became interested in psychiatry. At age 16 he began writing to Freud, and on one occasion sent him a short paper, which was published three years later, Frankl earned a medical degree from the University of Vienna in 1930 and was put in charge of a Vienna hospital ward for the treatment of females who had attempted suicide. When Germany seized control of Austria eight years later, the Nazis made Frankl head of the Rothschild Hospital.

In 1942 Frankl married his first wife, Tilly Grosser. Nine months later, Frankl, his wife and his parents were deported to the Theresienstadt camp near Prague. Even though he was in four Nazi camps, Frankl survived the Holocaust, including Auschwitz in Poland from 1942-45, where the camp doctor Josef Mengele, was supervising the division of the incoming prisoners into two lines. Those in the line moving left were to go to the gas chambers, while those in the line moving right were to be spared. Frankl was directed to join the line moving left, but managed to save his life by slipping into the other line without being noticed. Other members of his family were not so fortunate. Frankl’s wife, his parents, and other members of his family died in the concentration camps.

On returning to Vienna after Germany’s defeat in 1945, Frankl, who had secretly been keeping a record of his observations in the camps on scraps of paper, published a book in German setting out his ideas on Logotherapy. This was translated into English in 1959, and in a revised and enlarged edition appeared as
The Doctor and the Soul: An Introduction to Logotherapy in 1963. By the time of his death, Frankl’s book, Man's Search for Meaning, had been translated into 24 languages and reprinted 73 times and had long been used as a standard text in high school and university courses in psychology, philosophy, and theology.

In 1946 Frankl became executive director of the Viennese neurological health center and kept this position until 1971.

In 1947 Frankl married his second wife Eleonore Schwindt, who survived him, as did a daughter, Dr. Gabrielle Frankl-Vesely. Frankl’s postwar career was spent as a professor of neurology and psychiatry in Vienna, where he taught until he was 85. He was also chief of neurology at the Vienna Polyclinic Hospital for 25 years. Frankl received twenty-nine honorary doctorates from universities in all parts of the world. He wrote over 30 books and became the first non-American to be awarded the American Psychiatric Association’s prestigious Oskar Pfister Prize and was a visiting professor at Harvard, Stanford and other universities in Pittsburgh, San Diego and Dallas. Frankl has given lectures at 209 universities on five continents. The U. S. International University in California installed a special chair for Logotherapy- this is the psychotherapeutic school founded by Frankl, often called the “Third Viennese School” (after Freud’s Psychoanalysis and Adler’s Individual Psychology.)

The American Medical Society, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association have officially recognized Dr. Frankl’s Logotherapy as one of the scientifically based schools of psychotherapy.

His hobbies included mountain climbing, and at 67 he obtained his pilot’s license. Frankl holds the Solo Flight Certificate and the Mountain Guide badge of the Alpine Club “Donauland”. Three difficult climbing trails (on the Rax and Peilstein Mountains) were named after him. His less serious interest was his love for ties; he would admire them through a shop window.

Frankl’s dictaphone on which he dictated many of his books.  His wife Eleonore would then transcribe them.

In a 1991 survey of general-interest readers conducted by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Man’s Search for Meaning has sold over nine million copies alone in the USA and was ranked among the ten most influential book in America.  In 1992, the  “Viktor Frankl Frankl-Institute” was created in his honor in Vienna. Viktor Frankl’s life serves as a reminder to all, no matter how difficult the path may be, choosing to give up, before it has had the chance to fly, only holds the human spirit back.

Awards and Achievements
    * 1930- Graduated from the University of Vienna Medical School
    * 1940-42- Director of the Neurological Department of the Rothschild Hospital
    * 1946-70- Director of the Vienna Neurological Policlinic
    * 1985- Viktor Emil Frankl, MD, PhD, was a recipient of the Oksar Pfister (Award presented by the American Psychiatric Association.)
    * He lectured at 209 universities on 5 continents.
    * The American Medical Society, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association officially recognized Logotherapy as a scientifically based school of psychotherapy.
    * Frankl was considered to be one of the last great psychotherapists of this century, after Freud and Adler.
    * Founder of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis
    * Dr. Frankl was a visiting Professor at Harvard, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Dallas.
    * The U.S. International University in California installed a special chair for Logotherapy.
    * Recipient of 29 Honorary Doctorates from universities around the world.
    * 151 books have been published about Frankl and his work in 15 different languages.
    * Statue of Responsibility Award – This Award was named in honor of Dr. Viktor E. Frankl. The late Mother Teresa was a recipient of his award.

The Psychiatrist
Viktor E. Frankl was one of Europe’s leading psychiatrists and one of the most modern thinkers in the world. During and partly because of his suffering in concentration camps, Frankl validated a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy known as Logotherapy. At the core of this theory is the belief that man’s primary motivational force is search for meaning and the work of the logotherapist centers on helping the patient find personal meaning in life, however dismal the circumstances maybe. He is the father of the Logotherapy, an existential analysis.  

Logotherapy, developed and validated by Viktor Frankl has become known as the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy,” after that of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. He gives a brief synopsis of the theory in his book,
Man's Search for Meaning. It is a theory Frankl used not only in his professional life, but also in his private one. Logos is a Greek word translated as "meaning.” “Logotherapy focuses on the future.” According to Logotherapy, meaning can be discovered in three ways:

    * By creating a work or doing a deed
    * By experiencing something or encountering someone
    * By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering

The “existential aspect of Frankl’s psychotherapy maintains man always has the ability to choose; no matter the biological, or environmental forces. An important aspect of this therapy is known as the “tragic triad,” pain, guilt, and death. Frankl’s  “Case for a Tragic Optimism” uses this philosophy to demonstrate… “optimism in the face of tragedy and in view of the human potential, which at its best always allows for”

    * Turning suffering into human achievement and accomplishment
    * Deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better
    * Deriving from life’s transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action.

Franklian Philosophy
    * The belief in a healthy core is the basis of Franklian Psychotherapy.
    * The principal goal is to help the person become aware of the resources of their healthy core and to help them use these resources.
    * Life does not owe you happiness, it offers you meaning.

Basic Concepts of Franklian Psychology
    * Life has meaning under all circumstances
    * Main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
    * Freedom to find meaning.

Assumptions of Franklian Psychology
    * The human being is an entity consisting of body, mind, and spirit.
    * Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable.
    * People have a will to meaning.
    * People have freedom under all circumstances to activate the will to find meaning.
    * Life has a demand quality to which people must respond if decisions are to be meaningful.
    * The individual is unique.

Aims of Franklian Psychotherapy
    * Become aware of spiritual resources.
    * Make conscious spiritual resources.
    * Use “defiant power of the human spirit” and stand up against adversity.
Franklian Philosophical Questions
    * How do we find meaning?
    * How do we know when suffering is unavoidable and meaningless?
    * How do we find the meaning of the moment in situations of value conflicts?


Viktor and Eleonore Frankl at the First World Congress on Logotherapy in 1980. Photograph in Analecta Frankliana, copyright 1982 by the Institute of Logotherapy Press.