Alfred Adler’s IdeasIntroductionAlfred Adler's Individual Psychology continues to be recognized by counselors as a popular theoretical orientation (Smith, 1982). According to Adler (1931/1958, 1956), one of the most important elements in conceptualizing clients and their difficulties is the concept of lifestyle. Alfred Adler devised a theory of personality' development that was holistic, social, teleological, and phenomenological. Practical applications of Adlerian ideas and methodologies have been both provocative and therapeutically and educationally useful. Though Adler talked and wrote extensively about various aspects of his theory of personality, he did not specify to any great length how children should be trained.
(Bruhn, 1992) Additionally, like other socially oriented theorists of his time, he was a practicing psychotherapist who built his theory mostly on observation and inferences from therapy. Adler was the first theorist to emphasize the fundamental social nature of people. According to Adler (1927, 1930, 1931/1980), people are inherently motivated to engage in social activities, relate to other people, and acquire a style of life that is fundamentally social in nature. Each person is born with the capacity to develop his or her social interest.
Social interest is a person's ability to interact in a cooperative way with people that leads to a healthy society. In this way people develop a sense of belonging and tend to contribute to others in the society. While a person is born with social interest, it must be raised and grown all along. How an individual engages and develops this social interest shapes his or her personality. Personality is also shaped by the choices people make to satisfy their needs. These needs effect a person's behavior because, according to Adierian principles, all behavior is purposive and goal-directed (Thompson & Rudolph, 1996).
Therefore, people act in ways that meet their needs and develop their perception of social interest. DiscussionAdler believes that each individual is different from all others and that the creative self within each of us styles this unique personality. Adlerians, as opposed to most behaviorists, see the environment and heredity as supplies to be used by the creative self, which molds those supplies into the life style. Heredity and environment are influential, but never deterministic. If two identical twins were given exactly similar environmental experiences, there would be two similar but uniquely different individuals.
(Burton, Harris, 1955) The individual always subjectively interprets factors that impinge upon him from heredity and the environment. We make of life what we decide best will fit our purposes. According to Adler, at birth human beings are small and helpless; we are totally reliant upon other people for existence. As we grow our minds develop faster than our bodies so that we can see objects that we desire and are unable to reach, sense danger and are unable to move in order to avoid it.
(Boeree, 2006) For a time during the crucial years of personality development, everyone about us is larger and more capable. This contributes to feelings of inadequacy and a desire for power to overcome the feeling of being less than. Adler saw the individual's alignment with the outside world as critical to both assessment and intervention, and he believed that the raw material with which the Adierian counselor works is the relationship of the individual to the problems of the outside world (Ansbacher & Ansbacher).
The individual's healthy functioning is thus based upon equilibrium internally and alignment externally. Adler (1964) saw this alignment as critical to survival, asserting that "the conditions of our terrestrial existence are hostile to the person whose contact with them is imperfect, or who is not in harmony with them" (p. 49).