Adlerian Psychology

Adlerian Therapy is based on the life work of Dr. Alfred Adler, who believed that all humans suffer from a sense of inferiority against others, which, without investigation, may lead to mental health challenges. Alder also believed in the innate strengths of all people and in the natural motivations to connect with others socially, to succeed, and to contribute to society. Adlerian Therapy often integrates with other therapy modalities, and is the origin of the popular strengths-based therapy approach and the importance of the therapeutic alliance.

What is Adlerian Therapy?

Therapists who offer Adlerian Therapy provide clients with a goal-oriented, future-based therapy style. There are four stages to Adlerian Therapy:

  • The engagement stage is when the therapist and client begin and grow their relationship. Adler believed in building a strong therapeutic alliance that includes trust, unconditional support, and mutual respect.
  • During the assessment stage, the therapist learns about the client’s mental health, their history, and their personal goals. This includes assessing the client, asking about past experiences, talking about birth order, and more. The therapist then analyzes this information.
  • The insight stage is when the therapist helps the client make connections between their mental health, their history, and their goals. The therapist will offer different perspectives.
  • The reorientation stage then asks the client to use this insight to better their daily lives. This might be behavioral change or a change in perspective.

Adlerian therapists make assumptions about the client’s motivations, especially that they want to better themselves and that they only have good intentions. Therapists focus on the client’s ways of thinking and their context. Adlerian therapists might also determine the client’s personality type and use that personality type to help them reach their goals.

What happens in an Adlerian Therapy session?

Adlerian Therapy sessions begin by conversing with the therapist in a comfortable, casual way. This therapy modality relies on a strong alliance between the therapist and the client, meaning that both must trust one another and assume best of intentions. Once this alliance is built, the therapist and client can move onto the next parts of Adlerian therapy.

The therapist will ask the client about their backgrounds, specifically in the social context. Therapists want to know how clients interact with others. Because Adlerian Therapy assumes that all people have a tendency to compare themselves to others and feel inferior, Adlerian therapists may ask clients about moments of insecurity or low self-esteem. They provide space for clients to talk about these situations and offer differing perspectives on those events.

The goal of Adlerian therapy is to help clients gain insights into how they think and act. Once clients have greater insight, therapists may help them integrate these new understandings into their daily routines. In Adlerian Therapy sessions, therapists will give clients ideas about how to make healthy habits, break addictions or harmful habits, and how to reach their mental health goals.

What can Adlerian Therapy help with?

Adlerian Therapy is helpful for many different mental health conditions. Adlerian Therapy is an integrative approach, meaning that it’s best when combined with other therapy styles and modalities. Adlerian Therapy can be helpful for clients who experience:

Most therapists include Adlerian Therapy techniques and philosophies in their practices. Many therapists are strengths-based, meaning they believe that each client is unique in their strengths. All therapists value a strong therapeutic alliance and strive to build trust with their clients before they begin speaking about mental health issues or goals.