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Adlerian Theory


Adler holds that the individual begine to form an approach to life during ... consist of more than just one's genetic endowment or early sexual impressions. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Adlerian Theory

Adlerian Theory
Birth to 6 years of age
  • Adler holds that the individual begine to form an
    approach to life during this time.

Alfred Adlers Individual Psychology
  • A phenomenological approach
  • Social interest is stressed
  • Birth order and sibling relationships
  • Therapy as teaching, informing and encouraging
  • Basic mistakes in the clients private logic
  • The therapeutic relationship a collaborative

Theory and Practice of Counseling and
Psychotherapy - Chapter 5 (1)
Major philosophies and nature of humans
  • Focuses on inferiority feelings, which are normal
  • What is important is the capacity to interpret,
    influence and create events
  • Individuals cane become whatever they want to be
  • Adlerian Individual psychology is that
    personality can only be understood holistically
    and systemically that is the individual is seen
    as an indivisible whole, born, reaered and living
    in specific familial, social and cultural

The Phenomenological Approach
  • Adlerians attempt to view the world from the
    clients subjective frame of reference
  • How life is in reality is less important than how
    the individual believes life to be
  • It is not the childhood experiences that are
    crucial it is our present interpretation of
    these events
  • Unconscious instincts and our past do not
    determine our behavior

Theory and Practice of Counseling and
Psychotherapy - Chapter 5 (2)
Basic propositions
  • Basic force behind human activity is striving
    from perceived negative to hoped-for
    positiveinferiority to superiority
  • Each individual strives in a particular direction
    for a unique goal or ideal selfa unique creation
    of the person. Because it is an ideal, the goal
    is also fictional.
  • Aspiring to high social interest is the key to
    human productivity and happiness. Social
    interest must be nurtured or the individuals
    faulty perceptions of him- or herself can result
    in discouraged, self-defeating behaviors

Basic propositions
  • The goal is the key to understanding the
  • There is no inconsistency in the individual. All
    psychological processes are consistently directed
    toward the goal. The goal is the individuals
    lifestyle and is firmly established at an early

Basic Propositions
  • Drives are not discrete, nor are divisions
    between the conscious and unconscious. They are
    only components of a unified system.
  • The individuals perceptions of self and the
    world and the subsequent interpretation of those
    perceptions are all aspects of the lifestyle,
    which is the cognitive map he or she uses to
    guide hi- or herself in approaching basic life
  • The individual cannot be seen as separate from
    the social situation. The two are integral.

Basic Propositions
  • All important life problems are social problems.
    All values become social values.
  • Socialization is not gained by external duress
    but is an innate human ability that needs to be
  • Maladjustment is characterized by increased
    inferiority feelings.
  • Unsuccessful coping with basic life tasks is a
    sign of discouragement. It can be overcome
    anytime in life if the individual chooses to do

Adlerian theory differs from Freudian theory in
four distinct ways
  • Social urges take precedence over sexual urges in
    personality development.
  • Consciousness rather than unconsciousness is the
    primary source of ideas and values.
  • The determinants of behavior consist of more than
    just ones genetic endowment or early sexual
  • Normal psychological development is the model of
    choice rather than varying degrees (or lack
    thereof) of mental illness. (Gilliland James,

Major personality constructs
  • Person is viewed as a unified organism
    (individual psychology) and is motivated
    primarily by social interest (social psychology).

Social Interest
  • Adlers most significant and distinctive concept
  • Refers to an individuals attitude toward and
    awareness of being a part of the human community
  • Mental health is measured by the degree to which
    we successfully share with others and are
    concerned with their welfare
  • Happiness and success are largely related to
    social connectedness

Theory and Practice of Counseling and
Psychotherapy - Chapter 5 (3)
Nature of maladaptivity
  • For Adler, the obsessive-compulsive person is the
    prototype of all neurosis.
  • An individual has a mistaken opinion of self and
    the world.
  • The individual will resort to various forms of
    abnormal behavior aimed at safeguarding his or
    her opinion of self.
  • Such safeguarding occurs when the individual is
    confronted with situations he or she feels will
    be met unsuccessfully.
  • The mistake consists of being self-centered
    rather than taking humankind into account.

Nature of maladaptivity
  • Rooted in the inferiority complex (when the
    individual is overwhelmed by a sense of
    inadequacy and becomes incapable of development).
    Family constellation (including birth order,
    atmosphere, personality characteristics of family
    members, etc.) contributes to adaptivity/maladapti

Major personality constructs
  • From birth to adulthood, all behaviors may be
    construed to have social meaningwanting to
    belongwhether in terms of family, significant
    others, or professional or social groups.
  • Fundamental equality among all persons is
    cornerstone of Adlerian theory.

Basic Principles
  • Life tasks Primary tasks in life are striving
    toward belonging in society, friendship,
    occupation and love. (Later added spirituality)

Nomothetic (apply to all persons) Principles
  • The basic dynamic force is striving for a
    fictional goalone of superiority.
  • Successful adaptation to life depends on the
    degree of social interest in goal striving
  • Goal striving may be considered more or less
    active and can be considered according to type.

Fictional Goals
  • How individuals tackle their problems with
    varying degrees of activity and can be considered
    according to that degree and type. Types are
  • Ruling Individual is dominant in
    relationshipsmuch activity but little social
  • Getting Individual expects things from others
    and is dependent on themlittle activity and
    little social interest.
  • Avoiding Individual shies away from
    problemslittle activity and social interest.
  • Driving Individual wants to achieve. Total
    success or nothingness are the only
    alternativesmuch activity and little social

Fictional Goals
  • Controlling Individual likes orderhis or her
    own ordergreat deal of activity (in keeping the
    unexpected to a minimum) and minimal social
    interest (because others are constantly
    disrupting the individuals plans).
  • Being victimized or martyred victims have
    diminished activity and interest, martyrs have
    increased activity and interest.
  • Being good Individual satisfies his or her
    sense of superiority by excelling in whatever
    area they undertakeheightened activity and
  • Being socially useful Individual cooperates
    with others and contributes to their social
    well-being without self-aggrandizementactivity
    and social interest are both great and positive.

Birth Order
  • Adlers five psychological positions
  • 1) Oldest child receives more attention,
    spoiled, center of attention
  • 2) Second of only two behaves as if in a race,
    often opposite to first child
  • 3) Middle often feels squeezed out
  • 4) Youngest the baby
  • 5) Only does not learn to share or cooperate
    with other children, learns to deal with adults

Theory and Practice of Counseling and
Psychotherapy - Chapter 5 (4)
Major goals of counseling
  • To help the client become objective.
  • To help client realize their creativity.

Major techniques/strategies
  • Four phases of counseling process
  • 1 Establishing the relationship
  • Based on sense of deep caring, involvement,
  • Person to person contact w. clts rather than
    starting with the problem
  • Create effective contact to help clts become
    aware of their assets and strengths.
  • Attending, and listening with empathy is crucial

Phase 2 Exploring the Individuals Dynamics
  • Subjective interview the counselor helps the
    client to tell his story as completely as
  • Subjective interviews treat clients as experts of
    their own lives
  • The counselor is lifestyle investigator

Phase 2 cont.
  • Objective Interview seeks to discover information
  • How problems in the clts life began
  • Any precipitating events
  • A medical history (including meds)
  • A social history
  • The reasons the clt chose therapy now
  • The persons coping w/ life tasks
  • Lifestyle assessment

Family Constellation
  • Family of origin has a central impact on an
    individuals personality.
  • Some questions to explore
  • Who was the favorite?
  • What was yoru fatherss relatinship w/ children?
  • Mothers?
  • What were you like as a child?
  • More on pge. 106

Early Recollections
  • As assessment procedure
  • Client provides the earliest childhood memory(
    age , event, feelings, etc.)
  • It is a one time occurrence pictured by the
    client in clear detail

Different Purposes of Early Recollections
  • Assessment of persons convictions about self and
    others, life, ethics
  • Assessment of clients stance in relation to the
    counseling session and the counseling
  • Verification of coping patterns
  • Assessment of individual strengths, assets and
    interfering ideas

Phase 3 Encouraging Self Understanding and
  • Almost everything in human life has a purpose
  • Self understanding happens when hidden purposes
    and goals of behavior are made conscious.
  • Counselor should suggest hunches or thoughts not
    what is…

Phase 4 Helping with Reorientation
  • Focuses on helping people discover new and more
    functional alternatives.
  • Clts are encouraged and challenged to take reisks
    and make changes in their life

  • What one is doing is more important than how one
    is doing.
  • The present is more the focus than the past or
    the future.
  • The deed is what is important, rather than the
  • The effort, rather than the outcome, is to be
  • Intrinsic motivation, such as satisfaction,
    enjoyment, and challenge, is more worthwhile than
    extrinsic payoffs.
  • What is being learned is more important than what
    is not being learned.
  • What is being done correctly is more important
    than what is being done incorrectly.

  • Encouragement is the most powerful method
    available for changing a persons beliefs
  • Helps build self-confidence and stimulates
  • Discouragement is the basic condition that
    prevents people from functioning
  • Clients are encouraged to recognize that they
    have the power to choose and to act differently

Theory and Practice of Counseling and
Psychotherapy - Chapter 5 (5)
Major roles of counselor and client
  • The primary role of the counselor is to apprise
    the client of mistaken goals that lead to
    self-defeating behavior and to help the client
    broaden his or her social interest so that
    self-centeredness, egotism, and isolation are
    expunged in favor of sincere, meaningful, and
    positive interpersonal relationships. A holistic
    view of the client is taken by the counselor who
    is to pull the client into his or her future
    world of positive interpersonal relationships.
  • In Adlerian theory, the counselor is a colleague
    to the client in the process.

Multicultural application
  • Addresses social equality issues and social
    embeddedness of humans
  • Clients are encouraged to define themselves
    within their social environment
  • Process is grounded within clients culture and
  • Adler was one of the first psychologists to
    advocate equality for women
  • Fin in different cultures opportunities for
    viewing the self, others, and the world in
    multidimensional ways

  • Research on effectiveness is limited
  • Limited use for clts seeking immediate solutions
    to their problems
  • Limited for clts who have little interest in
    exploring early childhood experiences, memories
    and dreams
  • Limited effectiveness w/ clts who do not
    understand the purpose of exploring details of a
    lifestyle analysis dealing with current probs.

Multicultural limitations
  • Could be viewed as intrusive and inappropriate to
    explore childhood and family information
  • Some cultures may see counselor as expert when
    Adlerian therapist do not veiw self this way