Adlerian Approaches for the 21st Century

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Alfred Adler: A classic

One of the goals of AMHF is to keep in everyone’s awareness those therapeutic approaches that are important either for their historical value or for practical techniques still helpful. Of course, we seek to encourage the latest empirical studies and cognitive therapies, such as the study on prevention of psychosis we are funding at Astor Services for Children. Evander Lomke and I will be making a presentation on this evolution of AMHF sponsorship at the New England Teachers of Psychology/New England Psychological Association in Worcester, Mass., on Friday, October 12, 2012, into Saturday, October 13.

The Adlerian approach—developed by Alfred Adler over one hundred years ago—continues to be worthy of our examination and study for rich approaches it may offer. Susan Belangee writes about this in the July 2012 edition of Counseling Today, the magazine of the American Counseling Association. The title of her article is “Individual Psychology: Relevant Techniques for Today’s Counselor.”

Belangee presented a workshop on Adler at the 2011 American Counseling Association Annual Conference in New Orleans. She found that many of the participants shared a belief in some of the tenets of Adlerian psychology, including the importance of personality traits, sibling relationships, early memories, and the use of a strength-based counseling model. She writes as follows…

“What distinguishes Adlerian practitioners from other counselors is the emphasis on the purposefulness of behavior. This isn’t necessarily a true technique that one needs to rehearse or practice, like learning how to collect early observations. Rather, it is a philosophy about the root of the problems clients present with in counseling.

“One of the main tools Adlerian counselors use is to examine how a client is functioning in a life style assessment. Life style refers to an individual’s subjective view of oneself, others, and world that develops based on childhood experiences and perceptions of those experiences; it does not equate to contemporary uses of the word.

“Early recollections are a great accompaniment to life style assessment. In fact, many Adlerians would say that a life style assessment is incomplete without them. Of all the memories we have, why is it when someone asks about our childhood, certain memories come quickly to mind?

“These strategies serve me well with every client I see. They provide structure for developing a strong rapport and a comprehensive assessment of how the individual approaches life’s demands. Most clients enjoy discussing life style and early memories because they gain a new perspective on how their early years still affect them”

A good book to read on Adlerian approaches in Adlerian Therapy: Theory and Practice, by Jon Carlson, Richard Watts, and Michael Maniacci (2005). Further information can also be obtained through the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology, or the Adler Graduate School in Minneapolis.

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