View of human nature
- Adler believed that the individual begins to form an approach to life somewhere in the first 6y of living.
- Focused on the person’s past as perceived in the present and how an individual’s interpretation of early events continued to influence that person’s present behavior.
- Believed that behaviour is purposeful and goal-directed.
- Consciousness, more than unconsciousness, is the focus of therapy.
- Stressed choice and responsibility, meaning in life and striving for success, completion, and perfection.
- Inferiority feelings: a normal condition of all people and a source of all human striving.
- Rather than being considered a sign of weakness or abnormality, inferiority feelings can be the wellspring of creativity.
- They motivate us to strive for mastery, success (superiority) and completion.
- We are driven to overcome our sense of inferiority and to strive for increasingly higher levels of development.
- Reject deterministic stance
- From Adlerian perspective, human behaviour is neither determined by heredity nor environment.
- We have the capacity to interpret, influence and create events.
- What we choose to do with the abilities and limitations we possess is important.
- Believed people could change through social learning.
- Recognise that biological and environmental conditions limit our capacity to choose and to create.
Adlerian therapy approach
- Focus on reeducating individuals and reshaping society.
- Focuses on internal determinants of behaviour such as values, beliefs, attitudes, goals, interests and the individual perception of reality.
- Pioneer of an approach that is holistic, social, goal oriented, systemic and humanistic.
- He maintained that it is essential to understand people within the systems in which they live.
Subjective perception of reality
- Phenomenological: Adlerians attempt to view the world from the client's frame of reference
- Subjective reality: the way the individual perceives the world. Includes the individual's perceptions, thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs, convictions and conclusions.
- Behaviour is understood from the vantage point of this subjective perspective.
- From Adlerian perspective, objective reality is less important than how we interpret reality and the meaning we attach to what we experience.
- Individual psychology meant indivisible psychology.
- Emphasised the unity and indivisibility of the person- all dimensions of a person are interconnected components and all these components are unified by the individual's movement toward a life goal.
- Holistic concept: implies that we cannot be understood in parts; all aspects of ourselves must be understood in relation to each other and to the socially embedded contexts of family, culture, school and work.
- The client is an integral part of a social system.
- More emphasis on interpersonal relationships than on the individual's internal psychodynamics.
Behaviour as purposeful and goal oriented
- Individual psychology assumes that all human behaviour has a purpose.
- This pureposefulness is the cornerstone of Adler's theory.
- Teleological explanations: purposive, goal oriented.
- Basic assumption: we can only think, feel and act in relation to our goal.
- We can be fully understood only in light of knowing the purposes and goals toward which we are striving.
- Look for continuity by paying attention to themes running through a person's life.
Striving for perfection
- Fictional finalism: an imagined life goal that guides a person's behaviour.
- Replaced with
- Guiding self ideal: or 'goal of perfection'. Accounts for our striving toward superiority or perfection.
- Striving for perfection: implies striving for greater competence, not only for oneself but for the common good of others.
- Eg. a guiding self ideal might be expressed in "only when I am perfect can I be secure" or "Only when I am important can I be accepted"
- The guiding self-ideal represents an individual's image of a goal of perfection, for which he or she strives in any given situation.
Striving for Significance and Superiority
- Inferiority feelings and the consequent striving for perfection or mastery are innate (2 sides of the same coin)
- Superiority: moving from a perceived lower (or minus) position to a perceived better (or plus) position in relation to oneself.
- People seek to change a weakness into a strength or to strive to excel in one area to compensate for defects in other areas.
- The unique ways in which people develop a style of striving for competence is what constitutes individuality or lifestyle.
- Lifestyle: the core beliefs and assumptions through which the person organises his or her reality and finds meaning in life events.
- Our perceptions of self, others and the world.
- Our characteristic way of thinking, acting, feeling, living and striving toward long term goals.
- Synonyms: 'plan of life', 'style of life', 'strategy for living' and 'road map of life'.
- People viewed as adopting a proactive, rather than a reactive, approach to their social environment.
- Although events in the environment influence the development of personality, such events are not the causes of what people become.
- Rather, it is our interpretation of these events that shape personalty.
- Faulty interpretations may lead to mistaken notions in our private logic, which will significantly influence present behaviour.
- Once we become aware of the patterns and continuity of our life, we are in a position to modify those faulty assumptions and make basic changes.
- We can reframe childhood experiences and consciously create a new style of living.
- These terms refer to individuals' awareness of being part of the human community and to individuals' attitudes in dealing with the social world.
- Social interest: a sense of identification with humanity; a feeling of belonging; an interest in the common good; empathy with others.
- Involves being as concerned about others as one is about oneself and having the capacity to cooperate and contribute to something bigger than oneself.
- Socialisation process associated with social interest begins in childhood- helping children find a place in society and acquire a sense of belonging.
- Considered social interest to be innate but also believed it must be learned, developed and used.
- For Adlerians, social interest is the central indicator of mental health.
- As social interest develops, feelings of inferiority and alienation diminish.
- People express social interest through shared activity, cooperation, participation in the common good, and mutual respect
- Individual Psychology rests on a central belief that our happiness and success are largely related to this social connectedness.
- Community feeling: an individual's awareness of being part of the human community.
- Community feeling embodies the sense of being connected to all humanity (past, present and future) and to being committed to making the world a better place.
- We are primarily motivated by an evolutionary need to belong.
- Manifests itself in courage, empathy, caring, compassion, engagement, and cooperation.
- We seek a place in the family and in society to fulfill basic needs for security, acceptance and worthiness.
- Many of of problems we experience are related to the fear of not being accepted by groups we value.
- If our sense of belonging is not fulfilled, anxiety is the result.
The life tasks
- Adler taught that we must successfully master 3 universal life tasks;
- 1. building friendships (social task),
- 2. establishing intimacy (love-marriage task), and
- 3. contributing to society (occupational task).
- These life tasks are so fundamental that impairment in any one of them is often an indicator of a psychological disorder.
- Our personality is the result of stances we have taken in relation to the life tasks we face.
- Often, when people seek therapy, it is because they are struggling to meet one or more of these life tasks.
- Aim of therapy is to encourage clients to develop increased social interest and to modify their lifestyle so they can more effectively navigate each of these life tasks.
- The Question: a means of determining which life task a problem or symptom might be helping the person avoid.
- "What would you do if you were quite well?"
- If the person answered that he would complete his examinations at school if not for his anxiety, Adler knew that the anxiety was needed for the person to avoid the possibility of failure.
Birth order and sibling relationships
- Birth order: Adler identified 5 psychological positions from which children tend to view life: oldest, second of only two, middle, youngest, and only.
- Not a deterministic concept but does increase an individual's probability of having a certain set of experiences.
- Actual birth order itself is less important than a person's interpretation of his or her place in the family. Eg. 2nd child out of 4 might experience the family from the psychological position of a youngest child if there is a 10y gap before the next child is born.
- Relationships within the family as our earliest and, perhaps, most influential social system.
- 1. Oldest child: generally receives a lot of attention. During time as only child, spoiled as the centre of attention. Tends to be dependable and hard working and strives to keep ahead. When new child arrives, reasserts position by becoming a model child, bossing younger children, and exhibiting a high achievement drive.
- 2. 2nd child of only 2: from time born, shares the attention with another child. Behaves as if in a race, as though in training to surpass the older sibling. Competitive struggle. Younger child develops a knack for finding elder's weak spots and proceeds to win praise by achieving successes where the older sibling has failed. If one is talented in a given area, the other strives for recognition by developing other abilities. 2nd born is opposite to first born.
- 3. The middle child: feels squeezed out. May become convinced of the unfairness of life and feel cheated. May assume a 'poor me' attitude and can become a problem child.
- In families characterised by conflict, middle child may become the peacemaker.
- If 4 children in family, 2nd will often feel like a middle child. 3rd will be more easygoing, more social and may align with the firstborn.
- 4. Youngest child: tends to be the most pampered. May develop helplessness. Tend to go their own way, developing in ways no others in the family have attempted and may outshine everyone.
- 5. Only child: Although may share some characteristics of oldest child (eg. high achievement drive), may not learn to share or cooperate with other children. Learn to deal with adults well. May want to have centre stage all the time and feel it is unfair if this is challenged.
- Individuals acquire a certain style of relating to others in childhood.
- Certain personality trends that began in childhood as a result of sibling rivalry can influence individuals throughout life.
- Collaborative arrangement between client and counsellor.
- Forming a relationship based on mutual respect; a holistic psychological investigation or lifestyle assessment; and disclosing mistaken goals and faulty assumptions within the person's style of living.
- Followed by reeducation or reorientation.
- Main aim of therapy is to develop the client's sense of belonging and to assist in the adoption of behaviour and processes characterised by community feeling and social interest.
- This is accomplished by increasing the client's self awareness and challenging and modifying his or her fundamental premises, life goals and basic concepts.
- Therapeutic process focuses on providing information, teaching, guiding, and offering an encouragement to discouraged clients.
- Encouragement helps clients build self confidence and stimulates courage (willingness to act even when fearful).
- Provide clients with an opportunity to view things from a different perspective, up to the client to decide whether to accept.
- Work collaboratively with clients to help them reach their self-defined goals.
- Educate clients in new ways of looking at themselves, others and life through process of providing clients with a new 'cognitive map'- a fundamental understanding of the purpose of their behaviour, counsellors assist them in changing their perceptions.
Goals for the educational process of therapy
- Fostering social interest by helping clients connect with their responsibility to their community
- Helping clients overcome feelings of discouragement and inferiority
- Modifying clients’ lifestyle in the direction of becoming more adaptive, flexible, and social
- Changing faulty motivation
- Encouraging equality and acceptance of self and others
- Helping people to become contributing members of the world community
Therapist's function and role
- Adlerian therapists realize that clients can become discouraged and function ineffectively because of mistaken beliefs, faulty values, and useless or self-absorbed goals
- Adlerians operate on the assumptions that clients will feel and behave better once they discover and correct their basic mistakes.
- Basic mistakes: faulty, self-defeating perceptions, attitudes and beliefs that may have been appropriate at one time but are no longer useful. These are myths that are influential in shaping personality.
- Such as mistrust, selfishness, unrealistic ambitions and lack of confidence.
- Adlerians also often help clients identify and explore their core fears such as being imperfect, being vulnerable, being disapproved or suffering from past regrets.
Comprehensive assessment of the client's functioning
- A major task for the therapist.
- Gather info about the individual's style of living by means of a questionnaire on the client's family constellation.
- Family constellation: social and psychological structure of the family system; includes birth order, self perception, sibling characteristics and ratings, parental relationships.
- From this info on family constellation, the therapist is able to get a perspective on the client’s major areas of success and failure, how the client pursues life goals, and the critical influences that have had a bearing on the role the client has assumed in the world.
- Used as an assessment procedure
- Early recollections: childhood memories (before 9) of one time events.
- Specific incidents that clients recall, along with the feelings and thoughts that accompanied these childhood incidents.
- These are useful in getting a better understanding of the client.
- After these are summarised and interpreted, the therapist identifies some of the major successes and mistakes in the client’s life.
- The aim is to provide a point of departure for the therapeutic venture.
- Useful as a functional assessment because they indicate what clients do and how they think in both adaptive and maladaptive ways.
- The process of gathering early memories, which involves learning to understand the goals and motivations of the client.
- When this process is completed, the therapist and the client have targets for therapy.
Client's experience in therapy
- Generally, people fail to change because they do not recognise the errors in their thinking or the purposes of their behaviours, do not know what to do differently, and are fearful of leaving old patterns for new and unpredictable outcomes.
- Private logic: Basic convictions and assumptions of the individual that underlie the lifestyle pattern and explain how behaviours fit together to provide consistency.
- The heart of therapy is helping clients to discover the purposes of behaviors or symptoms and the basic mistakes associated with their personal coping.
- Learning how to correct faulty assumptions and conclusions is to therapy.
- Client is not perceived by therapist as mentally ill but as mainly discouraged, therapist will offer the client encouragement so that change is possible.
- Through the therapeutic process, the client will discover that he or she has resources and options to draw on in dealing with significant life issues and life tasks
Relationship between therapist and client
- Based on cooperation, mutual trust, respect, confidence, collaboration and alignment of goals.
- Place special value on the counsellor's modelling of communication and acting in good faith.
- Strive to establish and maintain an egalitarian therapeutic alliance.
Dinkmeyer and Sperry (2000) maintain that at the outset of therapy, clients should begin to formulate a plan, or contract, detailing what they want, how they plan to get where they are heading, what is preventing them from successfully attaining their goals, how they can change nonproductive behavior into constructive behavior, and how they can make full use of their assets in achieving their purposes. This therapeutic contract
sets forth the goals
of the therapeutic process and specifies the responsibilities of both therapist and client.
Developing a contract is not a requirement of Adlerian therapy,
but a contract can bring a tight focus to therapy.
Application: therapeutic techniques and procedures
- 4 central objectives that correspond to the 4 phases of the therapeutic process
- 1. Establish the proper therapeutic relationship.
- 2. Explore the psychological dynamics operating in the client (an assessment).
- 3. Encourage the development of self-understanding (insight into purpose).
- 4. Help the client make new choices (reorientation and reeducation).
These phases are not linear
and do not progress in rigid steps.
Phase 1: establish the relationship
- Therapeutic progress only possible when there is an alignment of clearly defined goals.
- Initial focus should be on person not the problem.
- Help clients become aware of their assets and strengths rather than dealing continually with their deficits.
- During initial phase, therapist works to understand the client's identity and experience of the world.
- Therapist wants to access core patterns in the client's life.
- At this stage the counsellor's function is to provide a wide-angle perspective that will eventually help the client view their world differently.
Phase 2: assessing the individual's psychological dynamics
- Aim is to get deeper understanding of an individual's lifestyle.
- Focus is on understanding the client's identity and how the identity relates to the world at large.
- Subjective interview: counsellor helps the client tell their life story as completely as possible.
- Listen for clues to the purposive aspects of the client's coping and approaches to life.
- Extract patterns in the person's life, develop hypotheses about what works for the person, and determine what accounts for the various concerns in the client's life.
- Objective interview: seeks basic info about the client's life
- (a) how problems in the client’s life began;
- (b) any precipitating events;
- (c) a medical history, including current and past medications;
- (d) a social history;
- (e) the reasons the client chose therapy at this time;
- (f) the person’s coping with life tasks; and
- (g) a lifestyle assessment (family constellation, early recollections)
- Interpret the person's early memories, seeking to understand the meaning that they have attached to life experiences.
- Operate on the assumption that it is the interpretations people develop about self/world that govern what they do.
Phase 3: encourage self-understanding and insight
- During this phase, adlerian therapist interprets the findings of the assessment as an avenue for promoting self-understanding and insight.
- Insight: an understanding of the motivations that operate in a client's life.
- Interpretation: creating awareness of one's direction in life, one's goals and purposes, private logic, current behaviour.
- Counsellor helps the client understand the limitations of the style of life the client has chosen.
Phase 4: reorientation and reeducation
- Action oriented phase
- Putting insights into practice.
- This phase focuses on helping clients discover a new and more functional perspective.
- Reorientation: involves shifting rules of interaction, process and motivation.
- Encouragement: most distinctive Adlerian procedure. To build courage
- Courage develops when people become aware of their strengths, feel they belong and are not alone, have a sense of hope and can see new possibilities for themselves and daily living.
- Encouraged to act as if they were the people they want to be, which can serve to challenge self-limiting assumptions
Application to group counselling
- Rationale is based on the premise that our problems are mainly of a social nature.
- Group provides the social context in which members can develop a sense of belonging, social connectedness and community.
Strengths from a diversity perspective
- Focus on person in a social context.
- Adlerian theory that are congruent with the values of many racial, cultural, and ethnic groups
- focus on cooperation and socially oriented values as opposed to competitive and individualistic values.
Shortcomings from a diversity perspective
- Tends to focus on the self as the locus of change and responsibility
- Primary emphasis on changing the autonomous self may be problematic for many clients.
- Assumptions about the Western nuclear family are built into the Adlerian concepts of birth order and family constellation.
- Potential drawbacks for clients from those cultures who are not interested in exploring past childhood experiences, early memories, family experiences, and dreams.
- Limited effectiveness with clients who do not understand the purpose of exploring the details of a lifestyle analysis when dealing with life’s current problems