Paul Federn Biography

Paul Federn, Psychoanalyst, practiced in both Vienna and New York

Paul Federn, Psychoanalyst

Paul Federn (1871 – 1950) was a psychoanalyst who practiced first in Vienna and then in New York City.

He was born in Vienna in 1871 to the Jewish physician Salomon Federn and mother Ernestine.  He grew up well-to-do with his father’s connections helping him.  Federn attended the Academic Gymnasium in Vienna where he graduated in 1889.  He obtained his medical degree in at the University of Vienna and then residency in Internal Medicine.  He entered into private practice as an internist in 1902 at which point he began to develop an interest in psychoanalysis.

With his teacher Hermann Nothnagel he was able to make contact with Sigmund Freud.  Federn became a follower of Freud’s ideas and was part of the founding of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in 1908.  Paul continued his psychoanalytic work and published studies in psychoanalysis in 1919.  He continued to work and publish in this field until the Socialist takeover of Austria in 1938.  At that point, Federn fled Europe and arrived in New York City.

In New York City, Federn joined the New York Psychoanalytic Institute.  It was at this point the young psychiatrist and aspiring psychoanalyst Dr. Eric Berne first encountered Paul Federn.  Federn continued his work in New York City after Berne left for San Francisco.  In 1950, after learning of a recurrence of bladder cancer, Federn committed suicide.

Federn’s areas of research included the theory of psychoses, narcissism and the development of an “ego psychology.”  He was one of first psychoanalysts to treat psychotic patients and achieved great success. Federns research and clinical experience with “ego psychology” influenced Berne and played a role in Berne’s development of his Parent-Adult-Child ego states in Transactional Analysis.