Basic Principles of Adlerian Therapy

From the beginning, Adlerian Psychology has always been able to include both the professional and lay adherents. The philosophy is that all people can actually make use of the insight that is gained by psychology and Adler welcomed everyone from those with no formal education to decorated academics to participate in spreading his principles. Alfred Adler stressed that each and every individuals behavior is goal oriented 1.

The social practices based on Adlerian theories focus on the following:

  • The Prevention of Mental Health disorders
  • A feeling of Social Interest and Community
  • Holism and Creative Self
  • Teleology, Fictional Finalism and Goal constructs
  • Social and Psychological Encouragement
  • Superiority, Inferiority and Compensation
  • Style of Life or Life Style
  • Early Recollections
  • Birth Order and Family Constellation
  • Life Tasks
  • The Conscious along with the Unconscious realms
  • Private Logic and Common Sense
  • Safeguarding Behavior
  • Guilt and feelings of Guilt
  • Dream Interpretation
  • Symptoms and Neurosis
  • Socratic Questioning
  • Child Psychology and Adolescent Psychology
  • Democratic approaches to Families and Parenting
  • Adlerian Approaches to the Management of Classrooms
  • Leadership and Organizational Psychology

Adler’s Approach to Personality:

The book titled “The Neurotic Character” 2 defines Adler’s earlier key perspectives and ideas. Adler discussed how the complete human personality and its various aspects can be defined and described how there are certain areas of the person’s unconscious that tend to change the feelings and emotions associated with inferiority to superiority, as well as wholeness.

Psychodynamics and Teleology:

One of Adler’s theories includes the notion that the human psychology in nature is entirely psychodynamic. This theory opposes Freud’s theory of meta-psychology which focuses on instinctual needs. Human psychology is led by a set of aims and goals and it is propelled by a creative and constructive force, the origin of which is not known.

Constructivism and Metaphysics:

The meta-psychological aspect of Adler’s theory does not explain the concept of Teleology because there are different ideas including eternity (which is explained as an unreachable end where time cannot exist) that can be associated with various religious beliefs in the world today.


Adler created a set of types for different personalities that are now generally taken as heuristic and even provisional because he himself never believed in different types of personalities. Adler thus seems to have proposed different tentative ideas and systems at different times.

  • Leaning or getting types: According to Adler, the leaning or getting type are ones that continue to take selfishly without returning, or being on the giving end. Generally, these people are antisocial and exhibit low levels of activity.
  • Avoiding types: Those people that hate defeat and losing in all forms are known as the avoiding types. They can be successful people, but generally get to these positions without taking any risks in their lives, due to their fear of losing. They exhibit low levels of social contact and live in constant fear of defeat and rejection in all forms.
  • Dominant or ruling types: Those people that strive for higher positions and power, and can accomplish this by manipulating different people and situations to get obstacles out of their way are known as the dominant or ruling types. Dominant people also exhibit low levels of social interactions and activity.
  • Social, useful types: Those individuals that are generally very active and outgoing are known as the socially useful types. They exhibit the greatest degree of social interactions and activity, and live to bring about positive changes.

These personality types are generally created at very tender ages and thus define the Style of Life.

On Birth Order:

Adler argued at several occasions that an individual’s order of birth has a direct influence and impact on their lifestyle as well as the different weaknesses and strengths of that individual that are the expressions of his/her psychological make-up3. Adler explained that the position of the individual within the constellation of the family is the sole reason for the presence of different personalities while the genetics may remain the same.

On Homosexuality:

Adler is known to have had many controversial ideas and theories associated with non-heterosexual sexuality, as well and other forms of social deviance. Alongside theories of criminality and prostitution, Adler categorized members of the homosexual races among ‘failures of life’ Adler prepared his word on homosexuality, which is a brochure containing 52 pages of his writing, which began in 1917. After this Adler kept writing on this topic, and his works would get published from time to time throughout his life.

Parent education:

Adler was adamant about the importance of both prevention as well as treatment. All Adlerians focus on the importance of tender ages during which the personality of the individual is shaped and groomed. According to Adler, the most ideal way of presenting the development of personality and neurotic disorders, is training the child to recognize freedom and to be able to live as an equal component and member of the family.

Adlerian Therapy

Treatment by Adlerian Therapy

Goals of Alderian Therapy


1 Adelrian Therapy: Theory and Practice: Author, Jon Carlson PsyD, EdD, Michael Maniacci PsyD and Richard E. Watts, PhD.

2 The Collected Clinical Works of Alfred Adler, Volume 1: The Neurotic Character



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