"Meanings are not determined by situations. We determine ourselves by the meanings we ascribe to situations."
~ Alfred Adler.
Adlerian psychology/psychotherapy was developed by Alfred Adler (1870-1937). Alfred Adler, a historically influential psychiatrist, began focusing the philosophical world’s attention on relatively new ideas in the early 20th century. He believed that it was imperative to become intimately familiar with a person’s social context by exploring factors such as birth order, lifestyle, and parental education. Adler was under the firm belief that each person strives to belong and feel significant. Adler was a pioneer in the area of holistic theory on personality, psychotherapy, and psychopathology and believed that a person will be more responsive and cooperative when he or she is encouraged and harbors feeling of adequacy and respect. Conversely, when a person is thwarted and discouraged, he or she will display counter-productive behaviors that present competition, defeat, and withdrawal. When methods of expression are found for the positive influences of encouragement, one’s feelings of fulfillment and optimism increase. Adler believed strongly that “a misbehaving child is a discouraged child,” and that children’s behavior patterns will improve most significantly when they are filled with feelings of acceptance, significance, and respect.
Adlerian psychology places its emphasis on a person’s ability to adapt to feelings of inadequacy and inferiority relative to others. These emotions may be a result of birth order, especially if the person experienced personal devaluation at an early age. Or they may be due to the presence of a physical limitation or lack of social empathy for other people. This method of therapy pays particular attention to behavior patterns and belief systems that were developed in childhood. Clinicians who use this form of therapy strongly believe that these strategies are the precursors for later self-awareness and behaviors and are directly responsible for how a person perceives themself and others in their life. By examining these early habitual patterns, we can better develop the tools needed to create our own sense of self-worth, meaning and ultimately create change that results in healing.
Adlerian individual psychotherapy, brief therapy, couple therapy, and family therapy all guide clients to release their unproductive feelings and to refocus their attention toward forming corrections in perceived values, feelings, and behaviors that prohibit further positive growth. The Adlerian technique uses Socratic dialogue to inspire the development of productive and beneficial attitudes in the areas of confidence, self-worth, and significance that result in a client’s increased ability to naturally cooperate and form cohesive relationships. The paramount goal of this type of therapy is to remove destructive self-directed beliefs and behaviors and to replace them with tools that will allow a client to become confident and socially empowered.
Individuals often enter therapy to gain better insight into their own behaviors and responses to circumstances that occur in their lives. Adlerian psychotherapy uses a process of Adlerian values clarification, through which a client is introduced to their own life organization, including birth order, social context, and other external dynamics, including parental influences. By understanding this organization, and how it has influenced self-worth, acceptance and expectations, a client can begin to accept the emotions they have relative to the events they experienced as a child. This process of perception allows a client to identify, maybe for the first time, with their true inner value, independent of others. Adlerian values clarification allows one to look at prior beliefs in a new way that encourages positive change.
Doing what matters is all about values clarification, knowing what matters to you personally, and taking effective action guided by those values. Various exercises are employed to help identify chosen values, which act like a compass from which to direct intentional and effective behavior. People who are fused with their thoughts and tend to struggle with or avoid painful emotions, often struggle with choosing purposeful and values-guided action. Through mindful liberation from such struggle they find acting congruently with their values quite natural and fulfilling.
Last updated: 05-14-2013
Adlerian Psychology / Psychotherapy Articles