Adlerian Theory

Adlerian Theory
February 9, 2022 1 Comment Mental health emmahjoy

There are several theories that have been put forward by Psychologists that try to inform or analyze the human behavior. Adlerian theory falls in the category of humanistic psychology which implies that human beings are unique and should be treated in such manner by clinicians, psychologists and psychiatrists.

What is Adlerian theory?

Adlerian theory is an approach in psychological analysis that allows the individual to bring about a positive change in their own lives. It is a holistic approach that considers an individual as a whole being with capabilities to make concrete decisions. Thus, it is often known as the individual therapy.

Core Concepts of Adlerian theory

1.Inferiority Complex; Alfred Adler in his theory stated that individuals tend to feel inferior in different aspects of their lives. Either in terms of achievements, personal attributes and other comparisons. For example, an individual might feel inferior because they are the shortest in the group. Therefore, due to these inferiority feelings, one tends to develop ways in which to cope hence the inferiority complex. For example the shortest person might decide to be the funniest person in the group a way for others to look past what they deem as inferiority.

2. Superiority complex; It is the exact opposite of the inferiority complex. An individual tends to feel that they are superior to other people. It is also directly linked to the inferiority complex where one develops the feelings of superiority as they try to overcome their inferiority complex. For instance the short guy trying to overcome his inferiority by being funny, might in the long run feel superior to other people because they are the funniest.

3. View on Life style; Adler believed that our behavior is as a result of a given purpose which occurs in a specific context. He therefore alludes that our personality and lifestyle thus develops in relevance to these conditions.

4. Birth order; Alfred Adler is often know for formulating the psychological analysis of birth order. He believed that An individuals personality influenced by the order in which they born and raised. He classified the orders into four categories;

  • The first born child
  • The middle child
  • The lastborn child
  • The only child

Adlerian Interventions

In Adlerian therapy the client is viewed as an individual competent to become a better version of themselves. Therefore, to achieve this ideal version the therapist would:

  • Build a relationship with the client
  • Encourage the client during the sessions.
  • Analyze the clients behavior
  • Analyze their past experiences to help them make better decisions and relearn.

Stages of Adlerian theory

The Adlerian therapy occurs in a process of four stages that include:


The first stage is to form a counsellor to client relationship. A good working relationship is important as it fosters sharing, communication and understanding. A great working relationship would drive a focus into the client’s problems with ease showing support and encouragement.

2. Assessment

The second stage of the therapy process involves looking into the client. The therapist would inqure on the client history regarding mental and physical health, background and demographics, and their family dynamics. The assessment is done such that the therapist get to learn about the client they are dealing with, discover how to handle and be sensitive towards the clients problems. It would also help in drafting concrete goals for the therapy sessions.

3. Insight

The third step is to help the client notice their behavior patterns by interpreting the happenings in given cases. In this strategy, the client learns about their challenges and how the cope with difficult situations. It is important that the client learns and become aware of their deficits and that they need to work on themselves to have a positive impact.

4. Reorientation

The last stage of the Adlerian therapy process is where the client and therapist work together to help in behavior change. The therapist supports the client in unlearning the negative behaviors and relearning positive traits that would be helpful in their lives.

History of Adlerian Theory

The Adlerian theory was founded by Alfred Adler in 1912. Before the foundation was formed, Alfred Adler had worked together with Sigmund Freud who influenced some of his theories. Adler began his theoretic research with a goal to create a therapeutic approach that would focus on an individual as a whole and not as segments. Adler’s psychology idea was to see client’s grow and overcome challenges in their lives.

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    Inferiority Complex – Daily Inner Strength

    […] happen, a psychologist Alfred Adler brought forth a theory that explains the concept in details. Adlerian theory as it is referred to sheds light on these feelings and categorized them as inferiority complex and […]


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