Alfred Adler

Individual Psychology

Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology

      A phenomenological approach


      Social interest is stressed


      Birth order and sibling relationships


      Therapy as teaching, informing and encouraging


      Basic mistakes in the client’s private logic


      The therapeutic relationship — a collaborative partnership

The Phenomenological Approach

      Adlerians attempt to view the world from the client’s 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

Social Interest

      Adler’s most significant and distinctive concept


    Refers to an individual’s 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

Birth Order

     Adler’s five psychological positions:


u 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


      Encouragement is the most powerful method available for changing a person’s beliefs


    Helps build self-confidence and stimulates courage


    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

Safeguarding Tendencies

            Both normal and neurotic people create symptoms as a means of protecting their fragile self-esteem. These safeguarding tendencies maintain a neurotic style of life and protect a person from public disgrace. Similar to Freud’s concept of defense mechanisms



      The goal of Adlerian therapy is to create a relationship between therapist and patient that fosters the patient’s social interest, courage, and self-esteem. To ensure that the patient’s social interest will eventually generalize to other relationships, the therapist adopts both a maternal and a paternal role.



Twelve Stages of Classical Adlerian Psychotherapy

      1) Empathy and Relationship Stage:

      Establishing an empathic, cooperative, working relationship. Offering hope, reassurance, and encouragement.

      2) Information Stage:

      Unstructured gathering of relevant information. Details of presenting problem and overview of general functioning. Exploration of early childhood situation, memories, and dreams.



      3) Clarification Stage:

      Clarifying vague thinking with Socratic questioning. Evaluating consequences of ideas and behavior. Correcting mistaken ideas about self and others.

      4) Encouragement Stage:

      Encouraging thinking and behavior in a new direction. Beginning to move in a new direction, away from life style. Clarifying feelings about effort and results.



      5) Interpretation and Recognition Stage:

      Interpreting inferiority feelings, style of life, and fictional final goal of superiority. Identifying what has been in avoided in development. Integrating birth order, earliest recollections, and dreams.

      6) Knowing Stage:

      Reinforcing client's self-awareness of life style and feelings about new successes. Client knows what needs to be done but may feel blocked.



      7) Emotional Breakthrough Stage:

      When needed, promoting emotional breakthroughs with "missing experiences" that correct past or present negative influences. Use of role-playing, guided imagery, and group dynamics.

      8) Doing Differently Stage:

      Converting insight into a different attitude. Experimenting with concrete actions based on abstract ideas. Comparing new and old behavior.



      9) Reinforcement Stage:

      Encouraging all new movements toward significant change. Affirming positive results and feelings. Evaluating progress and new courage.

      10) Social Interest Stage:

      Using client's better feelings to extend cooperation and caring about other people. Learning to give generously of oneself and to take necessary risks. Awakening feeling of equality.



      11) Goal Redirection Stage:

      Challenging client to let go of self and the old fictional goal. Dissolving the style of life and adopting new values. Discovering a new psychological horizon.

      12) Support and Launching Stage:

      Launching client into a new, creative, gratifying way of living for self and others. Learning to love the struggle and prefer the unfamiliar. Promoting a path of continual growth for self and others.


Cognitve, Affective, & Behavioral Change

      Comprehensive treatment strategies stimulate cognitive, affective, and behavioral change. The Socratic method guides clients to insights that generate decisions and plans for action. Guided and eidetic imagery, as well as "missing experience" techniques facilitate affective change and growth. Role-playing and "future scenarios" provide safe and encouraging behavioral preparation and practice.

      Classical Adlerian psychotherapy attempts to bring each individual to an optimal level of personal, interpersonal, and occupational functioning. For some clients, brief therapy is the limit of their interest or budget and therapy stops at the fourth stage of treatment. For others, after completing the twelve stages, philosophical and/or spiritual issues are discussed.


Early Recollections and Personal Traits

      Research shows that early recollections are related to a number of personal traits, such as birth order, depression, college major, alcoholism, criminal behavior, and eating disorder. Nichols and Feist (1994) showed that optimists and pessimists had quite different early recollections. In general, they found that optimists were more likely to include other people in their ERs, see themselves as active, have clear and vivid ERs, have more sustained interpersonal interactions in their ERs, recall events in which they gained success, and have more pleasant ERs.

Early Recollections and Psychotherapy Outcomes

      Research has also shown that early recollections are related to success in counseling and psychotherapy. For example, Savill and Eckstein (1987) found that patients receiving therapy changed their ERs from pre- to post-treatment. In addition, Statton and Wilborn (1991) demonstrated that change as a result of counseling may be capable of producing changes in early recollections.