Adler School History

Furthering the pioneering 
work of Alfred Adler.

Furthering the pioneering
work of Alfred Adler.

The Adler School of Professional Psychology is named for Alfred Adler (1870-1937), a physician, psychotherapist, and founder of Adlerian psychology, sometimes called individual psychology. He is considered the first community psychologist, because his work pioneered attention to community life, prevention, and population health. Adlerian psychology emphasizes the human need and ability to create positive social change and impact. Adler held equality, civil rights, mutual respect, and the advancement of democracy as core values. He was one of the first practitioners to provide family and group counseling and to use public education as a way to address community health. He was among the first to write about the social determinants of health and of mental health. Adler’s values and concepts drive the mission, work, and values at the Adler School today.

Among Adler’s advocates and followers was Adler School founder Rudolf Dreikurs (1897-1972), a psychiatrist who immigrated to Chicago in 1937 after Adler’s death. Dreikurs lived and worked in Chicago’s Hull House, and he was instrumental in the child guidance movement in the U.S. 

In 1952, Dreikurs founded the Institute of Adlerian Psychology that, in 1954, changed its name to the Alfred Adler Institute of Chicago, and in 1991 became known as the Adler School of Professional Psychology.  Early instructors and founders of the Institute were also Bernard Shulman, Harold Mosak, Bina Rosenberg, and Robert Powers. Dreikurs, Shulman, Mosak, Rosenberg, and Powers touched thousands of practitioners, primary educators, and parents with coursework and programs about common sense, effective, optimistic ways to support health and community life. 

In 1963, the Institute was chartered as a not-for-profit Illinois corporation and approved as a post-secondary educational provider. A year later, the Institute created a group therapy program for those incarcerated at Cook County Jail, a program that was a precursor to the school’s later focus on the incarcerated and the formerly incarcerated. In 1972, the Institute established its on-campus Dreikurs Psychological Services Center, a community mental health center and training site for students, that was the precursor to today’s Adler Community Health Services (ACHS). In 1973, the Illinois Office of Education granted the Institute the authority to award the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. The Institute received full accreditation of master’s level programs and awarded its first M.A. degrees in 1978.  It received doctoral level accreditation in 1987, and awarded its first Psy.D. degrees in 1990.  The Psy.D. program was accredited by the American Psychological Association in 1998.

Today, the Adler School offers 20 graduate-level programs enrolling more than 1,200 students at campuses in Chicago, Vancouver and online.  In addition to education and training in psychological theory, science, and practice, students complete a range of required and elective experiences that extend beyond traditional practitioner training. The School’s mission-driven curricula have earned national and international recognition.

As the oldest independent psychology school in North America, the Adler School continues the pioneering work of Alfred Adler by graduating socially responsible practitioners, engaging communities, and advancing social justice.