Laura Perls


Laura Perls was married to Frederick "Fritz" Perls and co-founded the Gestalt school of psychotherapy. She was born Lore Posner on August 15, 1905 in Pforzheim, Germany. She was a notable psychologist and practitioner in her own right and independent of her husband, and she managed the first Gestalt institute herself (the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy).

Like her husband she was initially drawn to the work and teaching of Sigmund Freud after her interest in psychology was sparked in 1916. It was Freud's «The Interpretation of Dreams», published in 1899, which first attracted her attention.

She met Fritz Perls in Frankfurt, and in 1930 the couple married and later had two children together. The Perls left Germany as the Nazis came to power and settled in South Africa, where they continued their work on developing Gestalt theory. After ten years in South Africa, the couple moved to Canada but quickly moved to the United States and settled in New York. Fritz Perls wrote his book, «Ego, Hunger and Aggression» (1942) while in South Africa, with the help of Laura.

«Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in Human Personality» was a co-authored work between the Perls, Ralph Hefferline and Paul Goodman, and published in 1951, but to little initial interest. Over time however, interest did grow in the Gestalt movement and in 1952 the New York Institute of Gestalt Therapy was opened, with Laura managing the facility.

The couple eventually separated and divorced, with Fritz moving to California in the early Sixties. Laura stayed on in New York to continue oversight of the Gestalt Institute. Laura Perls died in 1990, at age 85 years.