Theoretical Principles and Practical Applications

Theoretical Principles and Practical Applications

Adlerian Psychology

Students at Highland show their Wheels of Choice.

Adlerian in the Classroom

Spring 2003

~ Empowering children to make positive behavioral choices! ~

Classroom lessons have been presented incorporating Alfred Adler's theory of Individual Psychology and activites from the text: Positive Discipline in the Classroom by Nelson, Lott, and Glenn to teach students how to identify, focus on, and find solutions to solve a problem individually and as a community. Involving children in the problem-solving process fosters creativity, ownership, and motivation to follow their ideas; allowing an individual a choice of solutions he or she thinks will be beneficial, encourages a safe environment for accountability to grow. The objective of the Four R's of Solutions is to teach students how to use their personal power in constructive ways, focuses on four key themes: related, respectful, reasonable, and revealed to find solutions to solve a problem. The Wheel of Choice, provides teachers and students with more problem-solving alternatives, challenges children to create a plan of choices, and encourages the students to independently use the strategies they have learned. Discussion of the solutions suggested on the Wheel of Choice that will help in many different conflicts are sharing, apologizing, talking it over, finding something else to do, taking time out to calm down, using the problem-solving steps, putting the problem on the agenda for the class meeting; students learn how to use the I message (I feel...describe your feelings, when you...what the other person does that bothers you, because...why it bothers you, and I would appreciate it if you would...what you want the other person to do) to express their feelings, communicate in a respectful manner, and help one another understand how their behavior affects others. The process positively impacts and benefits the students by helping to develop, enhance, and sustain in children valuable problem-solving skills, creativity, self-worth, courage, confidence, life skills for emotional and social success, goal-setting, mutual respect, cooperation, independence, and responsibility!

Courage, an optimistic attitude, common sense, and a feeling of being at home upon the crust of the earth, will enable (us) to face advantages and disadvantages with equal firmness. Alfred Adler

For more information on Adlerian Psychology, please visit


Fall 2002

There are no chance memories. Out of the incalculable number of impressions which meet an individual, he chooses to remember only those which he feels, however darkly, to have a bearing on his that he will meet the future with an already tested style of action. Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler was born in Vienna in 1870. After becoming a medical doctor, he went on to found Individual Psychology and to write more than 300 books on the subject. Adler, who died in 1937, is recognized along with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung as one of the fathers of modern psychotherapy.

Understanding Life by Alfred Adler outlines the concepts of Individual Psychology. The following are excerpts from his book.

. The connecting thread throughout the book is the importance of having an understanding of society's needs and our willingness to contribute usefully wherever we can to the commonwealth.

. Common sense plays a significant role in Adler's thinking.

. Indeed, there is a story that, after Adler had held a lecture on his psychology, someone commented that everything he had said was common sense. And what is wrong with common sense? was his reply.

. The Adlerian view is that there is a direct relationship between an individual's lack of social interest (a form of community spirit) and the development and degree of neurosis.

. Individual Psychology is a system through which people can be understood...a way of helping us to make sense of how we and other people have become who and how we are.

. Individual Psychology is a social psychology; it sees people as being fully functioning units who somehow have to cope with living together on a planet. It is indisputable that we need each other, for without each other we would not survive. Thus one of the main precepts of Individual Psychology is social interest. Our social interest is our active belonging to a group. We are aware of our own strengths, resources, and abilities; we are aware of society's needs; we have and use our empathy to put ourselves into our fellow human beings' situations; and we contribute to improve everybody's lot. Social interest can be summed up in the phrase me with you as opposed to me against you.

. Individual Psychology teaches us that we all are goal-directed beings; that is, we move purposefully through life toward goals that attract us. We have set these goals ourselves, often without our conscious realization. Goals are what motivate us; we perceive them as the best way for us to survive.

. The study of the long-term goal is called teleology.

. Where there is a goal, there is a line of movement toward it...if we can clearly see this line of direction, then we can take a good guess at what the final goal must be.

. This is a psychology that studies purpose. All behavior is seen as purposive; Adlerian will look for the psychological gain behind what each of us is doing (thinking, feeling, and acting). When we understand the reasons for our behaviors, then we can change them; to focus on behaviors without looking behind and beyond them is the same as treating a symptom, not the cause. If the cause is unchanged, another symptom will replace the first one.

. Closely connected with personal goals and purpose is the concept of inferiority...One of these is the myth of social inferiority, where we believe that certain people are worse, or worth less, than other people. If we (and they) hold such a belief, even if it is not true, we (and they) will act accordingly.

. ...Our physical and intellectual inferiorities are factual and natural. As children we all feel inferior, and are so. As we grow up, however, we lose - or should lose - this sense of inferiority. We do not always do so. Many of us doubt our equal human value and have in some aspect of our lives a feeling that we are not as good as other people. As we are social beings and do not wish other people to see that we feel inferior, we try to cover this up by developing and displaying some form of superiority. We have a number of ways of doing this, one of which is overcompensation. Another is deprecating others, yet another is avoiding everything that could risk our exposure...We are moving from a felt minus to a desired plus, from a feeling of not being good enough to a belief that we are indeed good enough - a natural development, and one that can be encouraged...The felt sense of inferiority is useful, as we wish to move away from it, and in doing so we develop ourselves and society. The felt minus, then, is only a problem when it hinders our progress.

. Courage is the fuel that we use to move us toward our socially useful goals. Courage is also a belief in self and can be described by the phrase I can as opposed to the belief that I can't. Courage implies the willingness to do what we can, focusing on our willingness to contribute and our efforts to do so, rather than focusing on a perfect and completed product or action. Adlerian counseling and therapy can be seen as the process whereby people gain courage - a belief in themselves and their abilities. The counseling moves from a belief that I'll give it my best shot. Being courageous - believing in ourselves - implies being independent of success and failure. Our self-worth does not depend on getting it right or being right, but on doing what we can do when the situation demands our input. Failure to an Adlerian isn't not succeeding, but rather not trying.

. seen as the development of self-esteem, a growth in the belief that I am good enough as I am. Individual Psychology teaches that we are what we believe, that our conscious thoughts, our feelings, our emotions, and our behavior are all the products of a unique belief system that each of us hold out of our awareness...Our beliefs will match those held by the people around us, and this we refer to as common sense. The areas in which our belief system differs from other people's are referred to as private logic...It is my private logic that makes me who I am,...It can become a source of difficulty in that it can hinder me from being a fully functioning member of society...My beliefs become the source of my inabilities.

. One aspect of private logic is the only if beliefs I hold...I am likely to attempt a task only if I am likely to succeed. This shows how I restrict myself, avoid risks (which might well lead to personal growth) and keep my self-esteem at a low ebb...This if element in our belief system helps us to create fictions about ourselves, life, and other people, according to which we then lead our lives. The purpose of Adlerian counseling and therapy is to disclose to clients their private logic, help them to understand which of their privately held beliefs are actually ideas that interfere with their daily functioning, and through a carefully planned series of actions, to lessen the exclusive quality of the private logic and help them to lead more fulfilled lives.

. This is a psychology of use, not possession. Important to an Adlerian is not so much what abilities each of us has been born with or developed, but rather what we do with what we have. Similarly, what we do is more important than what we say. Adler's advice is , when in doubt close your ears and observe.

. Perception, or the way we see ourselves, the world, and people, is fundamental to this psychology. Adlerian counselors do not try to change life, but the way someone experiences life. The purpose of Adlerian therapy is to help clients change their perceptive frameworks, to see things differently.

. Individual Psychology...stresses the uniqueness of the individual and his or her creative abilities, and therefore only gives guidelines for our thinking. Adler very wisely said, Alles kann immer anders sein - things can always be different - which prevents Adlerians from using classifications and putting their clients into fixed categories.

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