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Theodor Reik Edit Profile

psychologist , author

Theodor Reik was a psychoanalyst who trained as one of Freud's first students in Vienna, Austria, and was a pioneer of lay analysis in the United States.


Reik, Theodor was born on May 12, 1888 in Vienna, Austria. Son of Max and Caroline (Trebitsch) Reik.


Reik received a Ph.D. degree in psychology from the University of Vienna in 1912. His dissertation, a study of Flaubert's Temptation of Saint Anthony, was only the second psychoanalytic dissertation ever written, coming one year after Otto Rank's. After receiving his doctorate, Reik devoted several years to studying with Freud.

Freud financially supported Reik and his family during his psychoanalytic training. During this time, Reik was analyzed by Karl Abraham. Reik, who was Jewish, emigrated from Germany to the Netherlands in 1934 and to the United States in 1938 in flight from Nazism. In 1944, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.


During the First World War, Reik was mobilized and had to face up to the experience of unbearable helplessness found in trench-warfare. Out of that experience, Reik contributed to a paper of Freud, published in 1919, "The Uncanny" (referring, in part, to that which is horrifying); and some years later, in a text called "The Dread" written in 1924 and published in 1929. Reik makes a link between the various aspects of traumatic neurosis, as disseminated in the written papers of Freud, and suggests his own further analysis; Freud recognized the paper's pertinence. In a book, published in 1935, Reik discusses the dread of confronting thoughts, from the point of view of the psychoanalyst (Tréhel, G. 2012).

When peace was finally restored, a committee directed by Julius Tandler was organized in Vienna to investigate committed felonies; Julius Wagner von Jauregg participated as a member. At that time, the medical practice in places directed by Wagner von Jauregg and Arnold Durig had been discredited by a former patient, Walter Kauders. Sigmund Freud was appointed as an expert witness on the medical care provided for war neurotics. In February 1920, the committee gave its opinion and, in October 1920, formally presented its conclusions.

Another matter shook up the Austrian capital. In November 1924, Durig asked Freud to write an expert evaluation about the question of lay analysis--that is, analysis practiced by individuals who are not medical doctors. In December 1924, during a session of the Vienna Health State Board, Wagner von Jauregg asked for a list of the institutions using psychoanalysis. Reik was identified as not medically certified. In February 1925, he was, by official decree, forbidden to continue practising medicine; and in 1926, Newton Murphy, Reik’s former patient, turned against him, suing him for harmful treatment Freud publicly took up Reik’s defence, reacting by writing to Tandler. The two affairs presented similarities. Specifically, they took place during the same period and in the same city, Vienna; they each concerned the practice of caregivers; and they implicated the same individuals who were in authority.

Among those treated by Reik in his Viennese period was the philosopher Frank P. Ramsey, during a prolonged stay in Vienna for that purpose.



Reik, through his writings, came to play an important role in the dissemination of psychoanalytic leaching in the United States and formed the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis.

He is also noted for his investigation of masochism, in Masochism and the Modern Man


Married Marla Cubelic, 1932. Children: Arthur, Theodora, Miriam.

Max Reik

Caroline (Trebitsch) Reik

Marla Cubelic

Arthur Reik

Theodora Reik

Miriam Reik