Alfred Adler, M.D. (1870-1937), a physician and originator of the Adlerian Theory, thought that healthy families and communities rest on a foundation of mutual respect. While Adler may have initially been a colleague of Freud, basic theoretical differences ultimately split the two and allowed Adler to continue the pursuit of his Adlerian Theory (Individual Psychology). Adler was the first to take note of the immense importance of social relationships and consciousness to mental and physical health and to the health of families and communities. He emphasized the crucial importance of cultivating our inherent ability to cooperate as equal individuals and to encourage others and ourselves.
A colleague and student of Adler, Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs, developed and extended sensible applications of Adlerian theory, demonstrating how crucial ideas such as social interest, encouragement, and mutual respect can be useful to enhance relationships, resolve inconsistencies and lead to well-balanced and courageous living. Dreikers, as well as Henry Stein, contributed greatly to the Adlerian Theory.
Adlerian Theory embraces that individuals are innately goal-oriented and decision making, not victims of instinct, drives, and environment. As social beings, individual’s essential goal is to belong. Even though heredity and environment are mighty influences, to a large extent individuals make their own choices of how to fit in.
Adlerian Theory focuses on prevention of mental health issues and social anguish through education and parenting. Often Adler and Dreikurs worked with teachers and parents who wanted to supersede conventional authoritarian approaches of relating to children with more egalitarian, though not permissive, ways.
Adler’s concept of Gemeinschaftsgefuhl, “community feeling” or “social interest”, is used to describe an individuals connectedness and interest in the welfare of others that augments or prerequisites psychological health. Adler used the construct of social interest to explain people, direct his work with people, and explain our responsibility to each other in community. Adler supposed that a desire for social significance must center on contribution, not on status seeking, or an individual’s social relationships and mental health will suffer.
Adlerian Theory is known for the perception of the inferiority complex. Adler believed some behavior as overcompensation for supposed deficiencies. Individuals, at times, make choices about how to fit in on the basis of frequently faulty feelings of inferiority. Some adults act as if they believe, misguidedly, that they fit in only when they can have power over others, or take retribution on others, or withdraw from others (often these faulty perceptions develop during childhood).
Inferiority complex and overcompensation signified to Adler a hyperbolized concern with self. Cultivating one’s intrinsic abilities to cooperate and contribute through life tasks, work, intimacy, and friendship could improve self-concern. Adlerian therapy helps to liberate individuals by facilitating changing towards better awareness of their unconscious, inferiority-based belief systems, or “life-styles,” and toward an improved understanding of ways to integrate cooperation and contribution and mutual respect in their relationships.
The Adlerian Theory supports the notion of equality. Dreikurs believed equality means that people, regardless of all their individual differences and abilities, have the same right to dignity and respect. In Adlerian theory, collaboration and equally respectful problem solving are essential for egalitarian citizenship in the family and community, as well as for individual welfare.
According to Adlerian theory, individuals are inherently goal-directed; specifically, individuals have a motivation or rationale for any behavior they engage in. However, frequently this motivation or rationale is not at a conscious level.
Adlerlian theory holds that as social beings, individuals all have a fundamental goal of belonging and significance, and that our natural yearning to belong is often misdirected by misguided perceptions of how to belong. Often when individuals become aware of our unconstructive goals and the personal and social consequences they pay in their quest, they can choose more constructive, contributing goals and thus change behavior and relationships.
“Adler and subsequent Adlerians consider encouragement a crucial aspect of human growth and development” (Watts & Pietrzak, 2000). Adlerians subscribe to the belief that an encouraging attitude is the most effectual way to improve lives and the lives of others. Encouragement focuses on strength of purpose, effort, and potential for contribution and collaboration, not on inaccuracy. This cultivates self-confidence and the sense of belonging.
In Adlerian Therapy, intervention is really one of exploration of the restrictions of an individual’s habitual mistake pattern, known as life-style (Stein, 2008). The therapist aims to understand the life-style, the way individual engages life, and how life-style affects the client’s present functioning. The goal of treatment is not simply symptom relief, but the implementation of a contributing way of living (Stein, 2008). The Adlerian stance is that anguish and distress in an individual’s life is the consequence of the individual’s choices. Adlerians hypothesize that the values an individual embraces and lives by, are learned, and when they are not working (indicated by distress or unhappiness), the client can learn new values and life-styles that work more successfully.
Adler taught that an individual’s life-style could be perceived as a personal mythology. These mythologies are factual for the individual and so the individual behaves correspondingly. These mythologies are reality and/or partial realities, however can also be myths that one mistakes for truths. Adler calls these basic mistakes. These mythologies or life-styles are conveyed in the individual’s behavior, language, dreams, interpretations, etc. In Adlerian therapy intervention consists of re-education and reorientation of the individual to myths that work more efficiently. The actual techniques utilized are used to this end. Adlerians are greatly action ascribed. They believe the notion of insight is just an alternate for serenity. Insight is not a profound understanding that one must encompass before change occurs. For Adlerians, insight is an understanding converted into action. It replicates the individual’s understanding of the focused nature of behavior.
As indicated by the Adlerlian theory of change, the therapist uses a selection of strategies that assist the client in identifying their specific needs. Change happens when the individual is able to see their problem from another perspective, so the individual can explore and practice new behavior.
Adler believed that individuals possess the freedom to act, decide their own fate, determine our personality, and affect our life style. Individuals possess the creative ability to knowingly shape their personalities and destinies. Adlerlian therapy focuses on the future and looks to potential, instead of focusing on the past, to explain and adjust behavior. Motivating change in cognitive, emotional and behavioral aspects is the goal of therapy. Although the individual is not always entirely aware of their precise goal, through assessment of birth order, recurring coping patterns and early memories, the psychotherapist surmises the goal as an effective hypothesis. The individual approaches control of feelings and emotions. To begin with the individual identifies what kind of emotion they are experiencing (anger, unhappiness, aggravation, etc). Once the individual recognizes and knows the emotions; then they will try to envision or remember something enjoyable that had happened to them, supercede the undesired feeling for a better feeling. By doing this, the individual is in control of their emotions and can change their disposition simply by changing his or her thinking. The therapist assists the individual and change occurs when the individual is able to see his or her quandary from another perspective so he or she can explore and employ new behaviors. As the therapist delves into the thinking, feeling and behavior of the individual, he or she guides the individual into a new attitude on life. The individual makes decisions and determinations about their own life. Adlerian theory attempts to bring each individual to the most favorable level of personal and interpersonal performance. Modifying overstated self-protection, self-enhancement, and self-indulgence with assured social contribution in the purpose of therapy. Once the initial subjective interview is concluded and goals for treatment have been established, Adlerian therapists utilize an array of techniques to promote individuals to elicit change. Techniques employed in the Adlerian therapy process include empathetic attending, immediacy, and encouragement; these techniques all assist in developing the ever-important therapeutic relationship as well as to identify goals for treatment. Action oriented techniques, such as task setting, acting as if, catching oneself, creating images, and the Push-Button Technique focus on promoting life-style changes while effectively assisting the individual to discern how to counteract pessimism, enhance self-efficacy and improve self-esteem. The therapist is said to represent, in the therapeutic relationship, principles the individual may try to emulate. Adlerian therapists, serving as models, characterize themselves as being genuine, imperfect, and able to laugh at themselves. Humor, viewed as an important quality, is frequently utilized in treatment. Other verbal techniques incorporate offering advice all the while discouraging dependency; utilizing encouragement and support consistently; and utilizing expressions that steer clear of moralizing. Some of the more action-oriented techniques, which embrace creative and dramatic approaches provide effective opportunities for individuals to practice new life-skills, they also permit for the individual to make choices decisions as to which roles they wish to abandon, and which they would like to use in their daily life. Psychodrama technique is used solely in group therapy, whereby with assistance of peers, the inner struggle of an individual are worked though dramatically.
Adlerian theory is a dynamically positive and stimulating approach to therapy. Tt is more than a compilation of techniques; it ascertains philosophical principles for individual and group development. Adlerians endeavor to capture the complete individuality of each individual, while assisting individuals to live in agreement with society. To promote insight, Adlerians work with early memories, birth order, and metaphors. Adlerian therapy inclines toward a therapeutic relationship that is collaborative, encouraging, empathic, non-dogmatic, and common-sense based. Adlerian therapy is accumulation of psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, existential, and humanistic ideology.