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Alfred Adler; Individual Psychology

Updated on November 7, 2013

Germinating Group Therapy

Jacob Moreno first coined, “group Therapy,” in 1931 in reference to the Psychodrama groups he had had been employing in his practice throughout the 1920’s.

Adler likewise first began utilizing a, “group therapy approach,” in his Child Guidance centers in 1921 making him, along with Moreno and a few others, one of the first to employ the technique.

Adler believed our problems have strong social stems and that groups provided a microcosmic social context in which social conflict could unfold in a controlled and safe way allowing for patient development of sense of belonging, social connectedness, and community.

Freud primarily believed that present personality and behavior is a result of formative events in the first few years of life. He believed that people were by highly deterministic motivations

While Adler felt present personality and behavior is orientated toward achieving a lifestyle formulated in first few years of life. Our drives are aimed at certain teleological social ends. Adler’s early theories seemed to almost completely deny the subconscious and attributed even erratic, neurotic behavior to a conscious stratagem toward achieving final goals.

He seemed to relent from this absolutism somewhat in later years conceding an increasing amount of motivations to formative events and childhood attachment. But always maintained optimism is peoples ability to understand themselves, change faulty interpretations, and lean to habituate more effect interpersonal behavior.

Adler's Development

Alfred Adler (1870-1937) was born in Vienna, Austria. Adler was sickly and nearly died of Pneumonia at age 4. He struggled within his family for a stable place amongst his siblings, was plagued by feelings of inferiority and received low expectations from his family and teachers (they advised him to become a Cobbler.)

He rose to the top of his class, Studied Medicine at The University of Vienna eventually specializing in Neurology, Psychiatry, and childhood incurable diseases. Adler was an original member and eventual President of The Viennese Psychoanalytical Association from which he departed in 1911. Freud denounced him as a heretic.

After a period of approximately 10 years collaborating with Freud, he moved towards ideas centered in personality integration, away from Freudian determinism and toward purposeful individual teleology. He believed we each create for ourselves a unique style of existence that is a expression of desired goals and a movement toward these goals. •He passionately worked toward reforms in child-rearing and school practices. And wrote in jargon free prose directed toward the general public, selling hundreds of thousands of copies of his work "Understanding Human Nature," in the U.S. alone. Adler worked with large audiences of social workers, physicians and teachers in demonstration workshops, founded clinics, and lectured tirelessly until his death of Heart failure in 1937 in The Netherlands.

Tenets of Individual psychology

1.The motivational force behind all behavior is a striving for success and superiority. We are born weak and helpless which engenders feelings of inferiority.

2. Individual Subjective perceptions mold personality and behavior. People have a drive toward completeness or wholeness. This is the impetus toward the goal of superiority.

3. The dynamic interplay between our current self and our ideal goals creates a motivating cycle which moves us constantly toward superiority and away from perceived inferiority.

4. Personality is unified and consistent. As young children we begin to formulate our ideas for individual success (harkens to Erickson’s stages) All our behavior, even seemingly erratic, is toward a determined goal.

5. Human activity is evaluated through it’s effect on social interests. We may strive for a personal superiority detached from social good if our feelings of inferiority are exaggerated.

Psychologically health people promote social interests and success for mankind. (This social interest depends on a healthy relationship with both parents)

6. The self-consistent personality manifests itself in a style of life.

A healthy style of life (developed by age four or five) involves a persons interests, goals, self-concept feelings to others. It is a the socially benevolent way in which people solve the three problems of life.

a) neighborly love

b) sexual love

c) occupation

7. Style of life lies in individual creative power. Using your genetics and life circumstances as the bricks and mortar to produce a unique architecture of social and personal utility.

Essential Life Tasks

Because we are primarily social beings our well-being depends on how we accomplish three main life tasks. Neurosis can arise from desperate attempts to maintain the completion of these tasks, even when they are no longer healthy connections for us, or by purposelessness derived from not completing these tasks.

•Building Friendships (social task)

•Establishing Intimacy (love/marriage task)

•Contributing to Society (occupational task)

Dreikurs and Mosak add two additional tasks (1966,1967)

•Self (getting along with ourselves task)

•Existential (spiritual task)

Through our individual Lifestyle, which is composed at three components, "Fictional Finalism," "Private Logic," and, "Creativity." Fiction finalism is a movement toward an individual ideal or the imagined goal of perfection which we pursue may our entire lives but will never attain. Private logic refers to ormation by our beliefs about ourselves and the world. It provides the lens through which we see the world. Creativity is the universal human capacity to influence and create events.

Therapeutic Model

This is the Adlerian model of therapy;

1. Analysis and Assessment

Goals and current lifestyles are assessed. Issues of current functioning, and feelings of self-worth are explored. Use of family constellation, birth-order, early recollections, dreams, and artwork are used to assess each member’s private logic. (life convictions and core assumptions about self and the world)

2. Awareness and Insight

Understanding gained in stage two is translated into awareness and insight as explanations for current behaviors. The therapist and client mirror each other and provide collective insight and interpretations for each other. Personal goals and faulty notions are examined. Personal roles in the creation and maintenance of problems as well as means to solve problems are explored.

3.Reorientation and Reeducation

Implementing new beliefs about self, life, and the world to supplant faulty one’s is imperative in this stage. This is the main working stage. Taking risks and making changes is encouraged. Individuals adopt hope in their ability to change and realize new options and this hope is practiced and is synergistic. Encouragement opens up possibilities, new creative avenues for living, and positive asset recognition. Clients are challenged to act ,“as if,” and to,“catch themselves,” repeating old behaviors. Insight is turned into action.


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