Academic journal article TCA Journal

Adlerian Counseling: A Viable Approach for Contemporary Practice

Academic journal article TCA Journal

Adlerian Counseling: A Viable Approach for Contemporary Practice

Article excerpt

Alfred Adler died in 1937 having created a personality theory and approach to counseling so_far ahead of his time that many contemporary approaches have "discovered" many of Adler fundamental conclusions, often without recognition of his vision and influence. Many students, educators, and practitioners may view the Adlerian approach as an antiquated model; that is, one having limited utility in contemporary practice. This paper briefly overviews some, fundamental tenets of Adlerian counseling and psychotherapy and discusses the contemporary viability of the approach.

"Alfred Adler, more than even Freud, is probably the true father of modem psychotherapy."

The above quote by Ellis (1970) is indicative of the prophetic vision and significant influence of Alfred Adler regarding contemporary approaches to counseling and psychotherapy. Corey (1996), in agreement with Ellis (1970), stated that Adler's most important contribution to the field of counseling and psychotherapy was his influence on other systems. Adler's influence has been acknowledged and his vision traced to neo-Freudian approaches (e.g., Ansbacher & Ansbacher, 1979; Ellenberger, 1970), existential therapy (e.g., Frankl, 1963, 1970; May 1970, 1989), person-centered therapy (e.g., Ansbacher, 1990; Watts, 1998), rational-emotive therapy (e.g., Dryden & Ellis, 1987; Ellis, 1970, 1973, 1989), cognitive therapy (e.g., Beck, 1976; Beck & Weishaar, 1989; Dowd & Kelly, 1980; Freeman, 1981, 1993; Freeman & Urschel, 1997; Raimy, 1975; Sperry, 1997), reality therapy (e.g., Glasser, 1984; Whitehouse, 1984; Wubbolding, 1993), family systems approaches (e.g., Broderick & Schrader, 1991; Carich & Willingham, 1987; Kern, Hawes, & Christensen, 1989; Nichols & Schwartz, 1995; Sherman, 1999; Sherman & Dinkmeyer, 1987), and critical constructivist and social constructionist perspectives (Carlson & Sperry, 1998; Jones, 1995; Jones & Lyddon, 1997; Master, 1991; Schneider & Stone, 1998; Shulman & Watts, 1997; Watts, 1999; Watts & Critelli, 1997; Watts & Pietrzak, in press).

Whereas Adler's theory has been influential, the question remains, "so what?" In other words, is Adlerian counseling useful for today? The propose of this article is to introduce the reader to some fundamental tenets of Adlerian counseling and psychotherapy, and then briefly demonstrate the viability of the approach for helping clients in contemporary society.


Adlerian theory, also called Individual Psychology, is a relational psychology which provides an integrative base for cognitive, psychodynamic, systemic perspectives. According to H. L. Ansbacher, a premier Adlerian scholar, Individual Psychology is a:

holistic, phenomenological, teleological, field-theoretical, and sociallyoriented approach to psychology and related fields. This approach is based upon the assumption of the uniqueness, self consistency, activity, and creativity of the human individual (style of life); an open dynamic system of motivation (striving for a subjectively conceived goal of success); and an innate potentiality for social life (social interest). (Manaster & Corsini, 1982, p. 2)

Philosophical Roots

The philosophical roots of Adlerian theory are primarily found in the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant and the "as if' philosophy of Hans Vaihinger (Ansbacher & Ansbacher, 1956; Ellenberger, 1970; Shulman, 1985). Both Kant and Vaihinger emphasized the proactive, form-giving, and fictional character of human cognition and its role in constructing the "realities" humans know and to which they respond. Adlerian theory asserts that humans construct, manufacture, or narratize ways of looking and experiencing the world and then take these.fictions for truth (Ansbacher & Ansbacher, 1956; Shulman & Watts, 1997; Watts, 1999).

Adlerian Personality Theo

The Adlerian construct for personality is the lifestyle or style of life. …

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