Some might think that all forms of psychotherapy are in a way the same: a therapist talks to you and helps you deal with your problem. Although quite true, therapies still differ when it comes to methods, treatment process, and other factors. For instance, Adlerian therapy was not much like other forms of therapy back then. After Alfred Adler parted ways with Sigmund Freud, he developed individual psychology and started using a holistic approach to study a person. Read on to find out how Adlerian therapy is different from other kinds of psychotherapy.
There are four stages in Adlerian therapy: engagement (therapist practices empathy toward client), assessment (knowing about client’s background), insight (making the client understand his/her situation), and reorientation (using new insights to make changes). The first stage of Adlerian therapy involves building a trusting relationship between therapist and client. They make their client comfortable first before encouraging them to open up. They offer support all throughout the entire therapeutic process.
View of Human Nature
Adler believed that people are responsible for their own behavior and capable of changing it. We create ourselves instead of only being dictated by our childhood experiences–the opposite of Freud’s psychoanalysis. While Freud believed instinctual forces drive us, Adler believed we make our own decisions because we can. Moreover, rather than focusing on the past, Adler also focused more on the present. People are free to choose their own path and have choices that aren’t all determined by their background.
A Different Perspective
In Adlerian therapy, the therapist aims to help a person understand his or her values, lifestyle, goals, and thinking patterns. Through complete awareness and understanding, you can get a new perspective. Once the therapist and client works out how past experiences and other factors are relevant to the problem at present, they can move on to changing unhealthy habits. It’s easier to get rid of dysfunctional routines and replace old habits when you have a fresh set of eyes.
Socratic method (using questions to stimulate critical thinking and reveal thoughts or ideas) is a common technique therapists use in this part of Adlerian therapy.
Unity of the Individual
According to Individual Psychology, we begin life as children with feelings of inferiority toward our parents and the world. Because of this, we become restless as we live trying to overcome such feelings. Our goals are a fictional representative of achieving superiority. Adler believed that it’s impossible to think, feel, will, or act without a goal in mind. A person’s life, then, is centered on a final goal based on his or her own unique experiences, feelings of inferiority, etc. Adler also believed that the conscious and unconscious mind move together instead of contradicting each other (as Freud believed).
As previously mentioned, goals represent success over inferiority feelings. They may be realistic or, in the case of a mental health disorder, be unhealthy and unrealistic. For example, obtaining a position of power to never be a victim again (not understanding that life isn’t under anyone’s control). The therapist helps the client reinforce new insights and develop new strategies they can use in daily life. If they have unrealistic goals, which they realize during therapy, the therapist helps them transform their faulty thinking and behavior. They can turn wrong goals into realistic ones that suit proper, positive motives.
Another one of Adler’s key ideas is the concept of social context. This is about how people are most psychologically healthy and fulfilled when society benefits from their actions. As a system or an indivisible whole, a human being is part of larger wholes. In systems such as the family, community, human race, the planet, and the cosmos, we meet important life tasks. Occupation, love, and relationship with others are all social challenges. How we respond to our first social system, the family, may determine how we view the world and life in general. Though levels of social interest vary over time, a therapist can help increase them.
Alfred Adler’s work has greatly influenced many areas of psychology. Without his contribution, we wouldn’t have what we now benefit from in psychotherapy and others related to it. Indeed, Adlerian therapy stood out among its contemporaries in the past, and is still quite different from other kinds of therapy today.
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