Charlotte Buehler - University of Tulsa

Charlotte Bühler
Charlotte’s Background in Europe
 Born on December 20, 1893 in Berlin Germany to Walter and Rose
 As a graduate student, she studied under Oswald Kuelpe, but he
died unexpectedly. Karl Buhler took over her supervision.
 Shortly after Karl and Charlotte started working together, they got
married in April 1916
 In 1922 her husband and her accepted positions at the University
of Vienna, where she founded a child-study laboratory
Charlotte’s Background in the USA
•In 1923, she served as a Rockefeller Fellow at Columbia
University, where she studied child and youth psychology with
Edward Thorndike.
•In 1943, she became a clinical psychologist at the Minneapolis
General Hospital
•Two years later, the Buhler’s moved to California, where
Charlotte continued her work as a clinical psychologist at the LA
County Hospital.
•She was a prominent figure in distinguishing humanistic
psychology, the “Third Force,” from psychoanalysis and
Charlotte’s Obstacles – The Nazi Invasion
 Hitler’s rise to power and the arrest of her husband
for racial and political reasons.
 When Nazis invaded Austria in 1938, they closed
the Vienna Psychological Institute and destroyed
all of her research records.
 The Nazis imprisoned Charlotte’s husband for his
political and ideological beliefs.
 As evidence of the Nazi influence in the university's
psychology department, Karl Buhler's successor
replaced his scheduled courses with such as "Race
and Character" (Ash, 1987).
Charlotte’s Obstacles – Living in America
 Charlotte left Austria for Norway after
negotiating the release of her husband.
The following year they both moved to
 Charlotte noted that the first ten years in
the U.S. were very difficult; they both were
unable to write.
 The best positions were already taken by
that time, and her husband’s research
program was out of step with the
behaviorist Zeitgeist in the U.S.
Charlotte’s Strengths
 She made major contributions in the
areas of lifespan development and
humanistic psychology
 Her work is very original. Unlike Adler
and Goldstein, who worked off of the
psychoanalytic concepts of Freud and
others, Buhler created her theory off of
her own ideas.
 She was very driven and “never
seemed to have less than four
important projects going at the same
Charlotte’s Weaknesses
 She often used the words self-
actualization, self-realization,
and self-fulfillment
interchangeably but she
defined them differently
 Self-actualization is a big part
of developmental theory, but it
never appears in her
descriptions of children’s
progression through the
various developmental phases
 Her thoughts of childhood and
adolescence have yet to be
brought together to form a
single, well-organized system
for interpreting child and
adolescent development
Charlotte Buhler’s Influence
 Completed 55 works between the ages of 25
and 80 on life-span development and
humanistic psychology.
 She was not only a theorist and a
researcher, but became a clinician later in
life, practicing her humanistic therapy.
 Her work has been published in 16
 Her work was reissued in Germany after
WWII and had a significant influence on
German psychology, in the area of life-span
 Her research largely focused on cognitive
and personality development.
Buhler’s Influences cont.
 Her method of using diaries as data, revealed to her that by
late adolescence people start raising the questions of "what is
my purpose in life?" Even in infant research, Buhler found
evidence of curiosity, social interest, delight in achievement
and distinctive individual styles in activity of infants no older
than a few months“
 Her research largely focused on cognitive and personality
 Although Maslow is often credited with being the "father of
humanistic psychology", a review of her early work indicates
that her ideas actually predate his
A Psychotherapy Session
 The therapist should help
the patient discover the
problem and see the
differences between
his/her conditioned self
and their actual self.
 After the period of assisted
exploration, the therapist
should ask “questions of
Psychotherapy According to Buhler
 According to Buhler this
questioning process is essential to
the entire psychotherapy theory.
 If the questions are used
appropriately a therapist can
ascertain what the patient’s goals
are, what the obstacles are, and
how much freedom exists to
achieve the goals.
 Buhler focused heavily on this
concept of freedom.
Case Study
 Arlene, 31 year old, homosexual, public nurse
 Buhler uses this case to demonstrate her theories about
freedom and completeness of human existence.
The problem: Arlene’s girlfriend, Jenny, had recently moved
out because of an affair she was having.
Through many sessions Buhler realized that Arlene’s true
problem stemmed from the feelings of rejection from her
This caused Arlene to constantly require attention and
affirmation from Jenny which led to a dependent relationship.
This dependent relationship that Arlene had with first her
father and then with Jenny made her “unfree”.
Arlene set goals for herself on how she could be in a loving
relationship without this feeling of dependency that made her
feel “unfree”.
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bio-bibliographic sourcebook. New York: Greenwood Press.
Ash, M.G. (1987). Psychology and Politics in Interwar Vienna: The Vienna Psychological Institute, 1922-1942. In Ash,
M.G. & Woodward, W.R. (Eds.) Psychology in twentieth-century thought and society. Cambridge: Cambridge
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