This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 13 table of contents.

Adler's Therapy

Adler's therapy was simple and direct. There were no strict rules—it was truly tailored to the individual. Adler said the therapist had four general goals:

1. Establish contact (rapport) with the patient.

2. After a thorough diagnosis, disclose errors in the person's lifestyle.

3. Encourage progress toward a better lifestyle.

4. Encourage the patient to turn outward and get involved in helping others (showing what Adler called social interest).

What techniques did Adler use in therapy?

Several techniques were used to accomplish these goals of therapy. First, to establish rapport, one maintained a friendly and accepting attitude while allowing the client to talk freely about his or her entire life. While doing this, the Adlerian therapist would observe all actions and choices made by the person, verbal and non-verbal. The therapist might notice posture, or gestures, or tone of voice, or choice of clothing. Adler felt that people were consistent in all the details of the person, so it should all add up to a consistent picture.

As the therapist discussed the client's life, certain patterns would come out. Adler would "disclose errors in the patient's lifestyle." By this he meant pointing out patterns of social interaction that might be self-defeating.

Adler said the therapist should look for opportunities to encourage progress and boost self-confidence in a client. In particular, activities involving social interest—those that help other people or involve a worthy project—were encouraged.

Adler believed that once the therapist grasped the lifestyle of characteristic modes of thinking of a client, the therapist could use prediction to impress the client with the correctness of the analysis. For example, the client might discuss an important social event that was coming up, and the therapist (knowing how the client would typically respond to such a situation) would calmly predict exactly what was going to happen.

What sort of predictions would an Adlerian therapist make? Why?

Of course, the therapist usually did not want such predictions to come true, because they were usually predictions of some neurotic or maladaptive behavior. So the prediction was like a challenge to the client. A prediction like, "If you follow your normal pattern, you will have two pleasant dates, then you will find some way to sabotage the relationship" would be like a challenge to the client to change a long-standing pattern and prove the therapist wrong.

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Copyright © 2007-2011 Russ Dewey