Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Individual Psychology and Cognitive Behavior Therapy: A Cognitive Therapy Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Individual Psychology and Cognitive Behavior Therapy: A Cognitive Therapy Perspective

Article excerpt

Adler's Individual Psychology (IP) and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (BT) have many common precepts and suppositions. This paper delineates many of these commonalities and suggests areas in which the therapists may learn from each other.

In the last several years CBT has attracted increasing interest from mental health professionals from around the world. The "cognitive revolution" discussed by Mahoney (1974) has matured so that the Cognitive Behavior Therapies have moved from an area of fringe interest to the forefront of professional interest. Cognitive Therapy has become a meeting ground for therapists from diverse theoretical and philosophical positions ranging from the behavioral to the psychoanalytic. Psychodynamic therapists find in CBT a dynamic core that involves working to alter basic schemes. Adlerian therapists find in CBT a short-term, active, directive, collaborative, psychoeducational model of psychotherapy. Fergus & Shulman (1979), and Shulman (1985) state that as Adler developed his theories of dysfunction and therapy, he introduced, ". . .a number of cognitive concepts" Placing Adler, ". . .securely among the cognitive personality theorists and cognitive therapists." (p. 244).

It is interesting to present Adlerian concepts to psychology students or to mental health professionals who have been trained in a cognitive behavior therapy model. The responses can be categorized into three main types. The first type of responses involves extensive note taking. To this group, the material is new, interesting, useful, and relevant.

The second type of response is manifested by those who sit back and simply nod. After all, these ideas make sense and appear to be consistent with CBT. What's new?

A third response involves a mild protest. After all, who is this Adler fellow to co-opt so many of the CBT ideas?

Kurt Adler (1983, personal communication) called Cognitive Therapy, "a most reasonable extension of my father's work." Eva Driekurs Ferguson, a well-known, individual psychologist, whose father Rudolf Driekurs was a coworker with Alfred Adler and one of the major theoreticians and teachers in Individual Psychology (IP), in commenting on a presentation of the basic theory and techniques of Cognitive Therapy stated,". . .nothing (was said) with which my father would disagree" (1990).

From the CBT side, Beck, Rush, Shaw, and Emery (1979), Ellis (1985, 1989) and Freeman, Pretzer, Fleming, & Simon (1990) all credit their CBT work to an early grounding in Individual Psychology. Dowd and Kelly (1980) in their seminal paper conclude, "Perhaps Cognitive-Behavioral Psychology's strong array of treatment and research strategies could be joined with the theoretical concepts of Adlerian Psychology to the benefit of both of these systems" (P. 134).

We have three goals in this paper. First we will describe and discuss the similarities and differences in the conceptualization, theory, and practices between Cognitive Therapy and Individual Psychology. Our second goal is to describe and discuss the importance of an Individual Psychology approach to Cognitive Therapists and how Cognitive Therapists can profit from a grounding in Individual Psychology. Third, we will identify the basic CBT treatment focus and techniques that we believe to be of value to IP.


Although often grouped among psychoanalysts, Adler found purely motivational theories of behavior insufficient to explain human behavior. His work focused on understanding the beliefs and convictions that a person developed. These beliefs were part of what became the lifestyle. The apperceptive schema or personal rules of life direct the individual's movement through life. In considering the structure of a personality, the chief difficulty is that its unity, its particular style of life and goal, is not built upon objective reality, but upon the subjective view the individual takes of the facts of life (Ansbacher & Ansbacher, 1956, p. …

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