Adlerian theory came from Alfred Adler, who believed that individuals could be better understood within their social context. Adler firmly believed that all individuals wish to feel important and, most importantly, to belong. Adlerian therapy strives to understand individuals’ efforts to compensate for their self-perceived inferiority towards others.
Adlerian therapy has proven to be particularly beneficial when applied towards children’s progress and development (Hoffman, 1994). Adlerians focus on how individuals recognize their perceived inadequacies, feelings that may stem from one’s particular position within their family. Adlerian theory seeks to understand each individual’s life style that they create during childhood, which may include their strategies for coping and their unique and personal formulated beliefs (Mosak & Maniacci, 1999). Upon examination of one’s early life experiences, certain patterns of behavior can be ascertained that are repeated throughout one’s lifespan. As a result, healing, change, and growth can occur once these patterns are understood and meaning has been gained (Hoffman, 1994).
Alderian theory follows individual psychotherapy as treatment. During these sessions, clients are encouraged to surmount their notions of insecurities and develop a firm sense of connectedness with their selves, as well as to redirect their energies towards more beneficial paths/directions. They are also challenged to address and correct misguided assumptions, behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes about their selves and the larger world via respectful Socratic conversation (Carlson & Sperry, 1998). Alderian theorists emphasize consistent encouragement toward their patients, with the goal being to replace excessive self-protection and self-indulgence with greater social involvement and contribution (Hoffman, 1994).
During sessions with the patient, the therapist will garner as much family history as possible. This will be used to formulate data and hence set realistic goals for the patient. The patient will also set mutual goals with the therapist, upon which the therapist will provide constant encouragement to the patient in reaching their targets. Therapists may also assign homework, or set up contracts between the patient and them to encourage learning beyond the sessions (Carlson & Sperry, 1998).
In summary, Alderian Therapy strives to both challenge and encourage the patients’ premises and goals to aid in helping the patient feel socially useful, as well as equal/adequate. Through constant encouragement and respectful dialogue, Alderians strive to understand the individual’s efforts and needs for their self-perceived inferiority towards others. By understanding persons through their social context, the individual can be better understood.
- Carlson, J., & Sperry, L. (1998). Adlerian psychotherapy as a constructivist psychotherapy. In M. F. Hoyt (Ed.),The handbook of constructive therapies: Innovative approaches from leading practitioners (pp. 68-82). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Hoffman, E. (1994). The drive for self: Alfred Adler and the founding of individual psychology. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
- Mosak, H. H., & Maniacci, M. (1999). A primer of Adlerian psychology: The analytic-behavioral-cognitive psychology of Alfred Adler. Philadelphia: Accelerated Development/Taylor and Francis