u04a1Theoretical Framework and Application 1


u04a1Theoretical Framework and Application 1

Robert Davis

Capella University

Coun 5239

Dr. Conrad

August 10, 2014



This paper describes Alfred Adler’s Psychotherapy called “IndividualPsychology.” This particular approach will also be applied to the case of Margarita and will describe how she will be counseled through the views of Adler’s Theory. Interventions, as well as goals of the treatment will be provided.


Alfred Adler (1870 – 1937), had found the Society for Individual Psychology in the year of 1912, after he broke away from Freud in 1911. Adler emphasized togetherness of personality, coupled with the fact that individuals can only be understood as a complete person. This view also embraces the steadfast nature of behavior, paying special importance to the fact that where we have been is not as important as where we are trying to go. He saw people as the makers of their own lives; meaning, people develop “a unique style of living that is both a movement toward and an expression of their selected goals” (Corey, 2013, p 102). With this being said, Adler thought that the individual creates themselves rather than being formed by their past.

Alfred Adler gives to Adlerian Therapy principles as well as theory of practice for meaningful personality change. With this, he seems to give to Therapists one of the better frameworks, not only to help with mental and emotional discomfort, but to also jumpstart the creative notion of people and collect that notion for the betterment of society in general (Stein, 2008, p 13). Adler thought that the person starts to form a basis to life within the first few years. He also firmly believed that behavior in the past could be affecting actions in the present. According to Adler, “humans are motivated primarily by social relatedness rather than by sexual urges; behavior is purposeful and goal-directed; and consciousness, more than unconsciousness, is the focus of therapy” (Corey, 2013, p 103). With this being said, he emphasized responsibility as well as choice, life’s meaning, and the going after our goals. Adler did not go to the extreme of believing that people can make themselves into whatever they want to be. However, Adler believed that there is the individual’s environment as well as their biological conditions that


hinder their ability to choose and to create. He was actually a believer that paid attention to internal causes of behavior like the person’s views of reality, their attitudes, values, beliefs, as well as their goals.

Toward the beginning of therapy, the counselor makes an arrangement with the client showing that the two will be collaborating. According to Corey, (2013), “in general, the therapeutic process includes forming a relationship based on mutual respect; a holistic psychological investigation or lifestyle assessment; and disclosing mistaken goals and faulty assumptions within the person’s style of living” (p. 107). The aim of this particular therapy is basically to build the individuals sense of belonging and to help the processes and behaviors of the client within their social interests. This is done by expanding, challenging, and modifying the client’s life goals (Peluso, 2008, p 505; Corey, 2013, p 109).

According to Corey, (2013), “Adlerians contend that clients are often discouraged. The counseling process focuses on providing information, teaching, guiding, and offering encouragement to discouraged clients” (p. 110). No doubt, encouragement is a very powerful tool for modifying the beliefs of a person because it helps the client build courage as well as self-confidence. With this being said when an individual is discouraged, they usually act in dysfunctional ways and they do not act in the best interests of their social world. Therapists give clients the opportunity to look at things differently, although, it is mainly up to the client to accept this perspective.

After researching the Adlerian Psychotherapy Model and the basis for such, I believe this particular psychotherapy aligns with my beliefs almost completely. Just for instance, I think that


our past behavior could indeed have a major influence on our behavior of today and this may very well be the reason to change this cycle if it is deemed as abnormal, unhealthy, or is simply failing us in obtaining our life goals. Also, I think that we should explore new ways of thinking so that we can view things in a different and logical light so as to change our behavior and become the person that we want to become within the constraints of our social world as well as our biological makeup. In therapy, this seems to be many of the changes that I would want to work with clients on and I have no doubt at all that most, if not all, can use this particular approach.

The evidence base that supports this theory is limited but has gotten better over the past two and a half decades. Although, this theory still needs testing and analysis. Corey, (2013) states that

This is very true in the areas that “Adlerians” accept as unquestionable like the development of lifestyle; the unity of the personality and an acceptance of a singular view of self; the rejection of the prominence of heredity in determining behavior, especially pathological behavior; and the usefulness of the multiple interventions used by various Adlerians (p 128).

When discussing if Adler’s Theory is appropriate for diverse populations, he actually taught that we, as people, have to successfully master three universal tasks in life. With this being said, we must build friendships which is a social task, establish intimacy which is a love/marriage task, and contribute to society which is an occupational task. Everyone has to face these tasks, regardless of their gender, nationality, age, or culture. “Every one of these tasks requires development of psychological capacities for friendship and belonging, for contribution and self-


worth, and for cooperation” (Peluso (2008, p 505). Adler believed that these tasks are so necessary for living that impairment in any of these is usually an indicator of a psychological disorder (Corey, 2013). While saying this, Adlerian Theory is based off of its views on the person in a social context. Adler’s process is based within a client’s worldview as well as their culture instead of trying to fit clients into a certain model.

Working with Margarita

After Margarita’s initial intake, the Therapist needs to assess for harmful thoughts and behaviors of suicidal ideation in which Margarita has shown signs of. She has stated that she has experienced thoughts and feelings of depression in the past and only a select few, such as her Husband and family know about this. Also, she has had thoughts of suicide. The Therapist’s job would then be to accurately assess if she is in immediate danger of self-harm and/or harmful to others.

According to Emerson et al, (1991),

Indeed, symptoms of depression indicate thoughts of not being adequately prepared for life, e.g., the spouse who believes a partner’s interest in returning to graduate school signals rejection, the employee who believes a supervisor’s critical remarks mean never being promoted, and the college student who has trouble securing dates and concludes he or she will always remain single (p. 46).

Faulty thoughts such as these strongly suggest that a person’s self-talk can very well become a source of depression (Emerson et al, 1991).


It is known that Adlerian Psychotherapy differentiates self-defeating thoughts from core judgments about the world, self, and how to reimburse for the inferiority that is felt inside. With this, Adler’s view says that thoughts of being unworthy can make a person feel depressive symptoms and worthiness is the difference maker in one’s life. According to Ashby, et al, (1998), “By considering the best interest and welfare of others, one affirms his or her sense of worthiness” (p. 469). With this understanding, the therapist needs to discuss with Margarita about her thoughts and feelings of inferiority and worthlessness. The Therapist also needs to do a lifestyle assessment. When speaking of Adler, one of the most important parts in drawing a conclusion of clients and their troubles is the basic concept of lifestyle. Ashby, et al, (1998), defined lifestyle as “the perceptive ways one looks at oneself and the external world, and how one moves behaviorally through life toward an idealized goal of superiority” (p. 468). Lifestyle distinguishes all of the things that the client does, thinks, feels, etc.

Learning that Margarita has an inferiority complex, or so it seems, the therapist would ask her to recall her earliest memories as a child. On her Intake Assessment, it does not state anything earlier than college but here, we need to try and find past thoughts, actions, and behaviors that may be affecting those of the present time. Margarita is from Puerto Rico in which she was born. She most likely will have come from a Collectivistic Culture and this would need to be remembered during the counseling sessions. She is also afraid that she will lose her Husband if her behavior continues as it does now and with this, the therapist needs to discuss with her about this fear and instill faith in her that the therapist believes in her and has the confidence that she


can change as well as talking to her about that hopefully, she can learn to live and accept “problems” and not be so critical of herself.

According to Watts (2000),

The Adlerian Construct known as the creative power of the self or the creative self in discussing the creative self, Adler stated: Do not forget the most important fact that not heredity and not environment are determining factors.-Both are giving only the frame and the influences which are answered by the individual in regard to his styled creative power. The individual is both the picture and the artist. He is the artist of his own personality (p. 11).

With this being said, the therapist should make Margarita aware that she is the maker of her world as well as her goals.

When speaking of these points, the therapist should understand that Margarita’s goals are to be a Lawyer because she is starting law school in three months, have a better self-image, and to save her Marriage. She works and has a prominent position in her community. In Adler’s theory, we strive to be social, part of a group, have a meaningful part in different groups as well as family and this is also one thing that needs to be discussed with Margarita. Also, according to Corey, (2013), Individual Psychology also has a belief that our success as well as happiness depend on this social connectedness. Since we are a piece of society, and in the Human Race as a whole, we simply can’t be understood in isolation from that social view of things. We are mainly “motivated” by the desire to belong. The feeling of being a part of things represents the feeling of being connected to the rest of humanity. We also strive or rather; want to be involved with making the world a better place. “Those who lack this community feeling become discouraged and end up on the useless side of life (Corey, 2013, p 106).


Margarita has not stated anything of her birth order and actually, according to Adler’s theory, birth order has a part in determining the child’s personality. According to Corey, (2013),

Actual birth order is less important than the individual’s interpretation of his or her place in the family. Because Adlerian view most human problems as social in nature, they emphasize relationships within the family as our earliest and, perhaps, our most influential social system (p. 107). This could also describe some of Margarita’s problems because even though she did not state if she has siblings, she probably “learned” her early behavior, or rather, has the personality she has from this.

When we are trying to help Margarita through Adler’s Theory, the therapist needs to understand their role within this framework. One way of looking at the role of Adlerian Therapists is that they assist in understanding better, challenging, as well as changing the client’s life story. “”When individuals develop a life story that they find limiting and problem saturated, the goal is to free them from that story in favor of a preferred and equally viable alternative story”” (Corey, 2013, p 110). With this being said, we can look back on Margarita’s early life as a child to how she provided her feelings and dynamics with her Mother, Father, and the rest of her immediate family and the earlier situations during her lifetime. We also need to ask, as early as the end of her assessment how she would think of her life if her life was different, or rather, if she did not have these symptoms or problems.

The strengths of this theory will show Margarita that it is possible that some of her memories, actions, thoughts, and beliefs because of early childhood events may be affecting her life today and with this realization on Margarita’s part, this would let her better understand what is


happening and why along with seeing the patterns to set her on her path to confidence as well as changing her thoughts and behaviors that will better her Marriage along with the rest of her life. The main weakness of using this particular theory with Margarita would be that not a whole lot of research has been done on some of the parts of this therapy to be effective.

In conclusion, Margarita came to therapy with quite a few problems and through Alfred Adler’s theory and his viewpoints on therapy, this particular psychotherapy will help her make better decisions and possibly change her thoughts as well as behavior patterns where Margarita will live a more happy and productive life with confidence and new skills that may calm her fears as well as help her marriage.


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Corey, G. (2013). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (9th ed.) Pacific Grove, CA: Cengage-Brooks/Cole. ISBN: 9781133432623.

Emerson, P., West, J. D., &Gintner, G. G. (1991). An adlerian perspective on cognitive restructuring and treating depression. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 5(1), 41-53. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/916604478?accountid=27965

Peluso, P. R. (2008). Adlerian therapy: Theory and practice. Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, 86(4), 505-506. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/219029720?accountid=27965

Stein, H. T. (2008). Adler’s Legacy: Past, Present, and Future. Journal Of Individual Psychology, 64(1), 4-20.

Watts, R. E. (2000). Adlerian counseling: Aviable approach for contemporary practice. TCA Journal, 28(1), 11. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/212437813?accountid=27965