Home » Counselor Intern » LCDC Exam 2014 » Individual Psychology – Alfred Adler

Individual Psychology – Alfred Adler

1. View of Human Nature

A)    The Adlerian concept of social interest is the individual’s feeling of being part of a whole in the past, present, and the future. Adler believed that people were mainly motivated toward this feeling of belonging. He did not believe that social interest was innate but rather a result of social training.English: Alfred Adler Česky: Rakouský lékař a ...

B)    Adler expressed that people strove to become successful and overcome the areas that they perceived as inferior. He referred to this process of personal growth as striving for perfection. Those who did not overcome feelings of inferiority developed an inferiority complex. Those who overcompensated for feelings of inferiority developed a superiority complex.

C)    Adler believed that a person’s conscious behavior, not their unconscious, was the mainstay of personality development. Because of this concept, Adlerian theory emphasizes personal responsibility for how the individual chooses to interpret and adjust to life’s events or situations.

D)    Maladjustment is defined in Adlerian theory as choosing behavior resulting in a lack of social interest or personal growth. Adler believed that misbehavior would take place when the person had become discouraged or when positive attempts at good behavior had failed to get the needed results. Encouragement to good behavior was often the recommended antidote to misbehavior.

E)     Another concept is that of teleology, which simply put means that a person is as influenced by future goals as by past experiences.

F)     Adlerian espoused the belief that the birth of each child changed the family substantially. He thought that the birth order of the children in the family influenced many aspects of their personality development. Briefly, characteristics of these birth positions are:

I) Oldest children are usually high achievers, parent pleasers, conforming, and are well behaved.

II) Second born children are more outgoing, less anxious, and less constrained by rules than first born children. They usually excel as what the first born does not.

III) Middle children have a feeling of being squeezed in and are concerned with perceived unfair treatment. These children learn to excel in family politics and negotiation. However, they can become very manipulative. This position also tends to develop areas of success that are not enjoyed by their siblings.

IV) The youngest child is the most apt at pleasing or entertaining the family. While they run the risk of being spoiled, they are also the most apt at getting what they want through their social skills and ability to please. They are often high achievers, because of the role models of their older siblings.

G)    Only children or children born seven or more years apart from siblings are more like first born children. Children with no siblings often take on the characteristics of their parents birth order, as the parents are the only role models. While these children may mature early and be high achievers, they may lack socialization skills, expect pampering, and be selfish.

H)    Adler saw the family as the basic socialization unit for the child. He believed that children’s interpretation of the events in their life was determined by the interaction with family members before the age of five. The family interactions taught the children to perceive events and situations through certain subjective evaluations of themselves and the environment, called fictions. Basic mistakes could be made based on these fictions.

Adlerians believe that some of those mistakes are (Mozak, 1984):

I) Over-­generalizing in which the individual believes that everything is the same or alike.

II) False or impossible goals of security which leads the individual to try to please everyone in seeking security and avoiding danger.

III) Misperceptions of life and life’s demands which leads the individual to expect more accommodation than is reasonable and to interpret their failure to get accommodation as never getting any breaks.

IV) Minimization or denial of one’s worth results in the individual believing that they cannot be successful in life.

V) Faulty values results in a “me first” mentality with little or no regard for others.

VI) Adler believed that life took courage or a willingness to take risks without knowing the outcome. He believed that a person with a healthy life style contributed to society, had meaningful work, and had intimate relationships. He espoused cooperation between the genders as opposed to competition. He believed that well-adjusted people lived in an interdependent relationship with others in a cooperative spirit.

2. Role of the counselor

A)    The counselor is as a diagnostician, teacher and model. The counselor helps the client to explore conscious thoughts, beliefs and logic for behaviors that are not in the client’s best interest or social interest. The client-­counselor relationship is an equal one with the counselor sharing insights, impressions, opinions, and feelings with the client to promote the therapeutic relationship. Therapy is very cognitive with an emphasis on the examination of faulty logic and empowering the client to take responsibility to change through a re-­educational process.

B)    The counselor encourages the client to behave “as if” the client were who they wished to be and often provides the client with “homework” assignments outside the sessions. Adlerians are eclectic in technique with an emphasis on encouragement and responsibility.

3. Goals of Adlerian counseling

A)    Goals focus on helping the client develop a healthy lifestyle and social interest. The counselor assists the client through four goals of the therapeutic process:

I) establishing a therapeutic relationship

II) examining the style of life

III) developing client insight

IV) changing behavior

B)    The behavior change is the result of the individual taking personal responsibility for behavior .

4. Techniques

Confrontation – Consists of challenging the client’s private logic and behavior.

Asking “the Question” – Consists of asking the client how their life would be different if they were well? The question often asked to parents is, what would be the problem if this child were not the problem?

Encouragement – Consists of the counselor supporting the client by stating the belief in the client’s ability to take responsibility and change behavior.

Acting “as if” – Consists of instructing the client to behave “as if” there were no problem or as the person that the client would like to be.

Spiting in the client’s soup – It means that the counselor points out the purpose of the client’s behavior. Afterward, the client may continue the behavior, but cannot do so without being aware of their motivation for engaging in the behavior.

Catching oneself – Consist of helping the client learn to bring destructive behavior into awareness and stop it.

Task setting consists of helping the client set short-­term goals leading toward the attainment of long-­term goals.


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  1. Interesting thoughts. I think that the subconscious is much more of a player in behavior and how we view the world but pretty interesting. I am the second born and definitely fit the profile. Keep on learning, it seems like you are doing a great job!

  2. Malcolm Wilson says:

    Adler was ahead of his time spanning from psychoanalysis to include cognitive implications and nurturing client empowerment and accountability. His approach has good utility in many contexts.

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