Adlerian, Cognitive Behavioral, and Solution Focused Brief Therapy

Adlerian Theory, founded by Alfred Adler, is stated as a social psychology. The theory is relatively simple, and it puts the responsibility for behavior and success solely on the person. (Seligman & Reichenberg) Adlerian pays considerable attention to social context, family dynamics, and child rearing. This approach is phenomenological, empowering, and oriented towards both present and future.

There were two elements of the Adlerian Theory as to why it was not really accepted: (1) If humans can be simply described and understood, I may not be as fantastically complex and interesting as I always thought, and may be responsible for far more of my life than I thought; and (2) if we are responsible for our own behavior I may not be as good, strong, right, controlling, smart, and so on, as I thought, or want to think. If one believes in these two aspects of Adlerian Theory, I have a lot to carry, and a lot to do (Manaster, pg. 282).

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According to the Adlerian Theory if you do not accept these tenets, “ I can muddle through with the support of another theory that says I can be no or little different from what I am. My faults, my errors, my neurosis, mania, compulsion is not my creation, not something I developed. My culture, society, chemicals, genes, species, parents, or teachers made me this way. They are my handicap. They are my fault. This is my plight (Manaster, pg. 282). Using the Alderian Theory, clinicians are educators, fostering social interest and teaching people ways to modify their lifestyles, behaviors, and goals.

Clinicians using the Alderian Theory are analysts who identify faulty logic and assumptions, they explore and interpret the meaning and impact of clients’ birth order, dreams, early recollections and drives. They have to be role models, demonstrating ways to think clearly, search for meaning, collaborate with others, and establish and reach meaningful goals. Clinicians have to be supportive, encouraging, urging clients to take risks and helping them accept their own mistakes and imperfections. There are four treatment phases in the Adlerian Model.

The first phase is Establishment of a Collaborative Relationship and Setting goals. It is very important to have a positive therapeutic relationship. (Seligman & Reichenberg) Adler believed in the importance of true caring and involvement, the use of empathy, and both verbal and nonverbal techniques of listening to overcome the feelings of inferiority and fear that many clients bring with them into treatment. The second phase of the Adlerian Therapy is Assessment, Analysis, and Understanding of the person and the problem.

Both the initial interview and the lifestyle interview provide detailed information about the client’s current level of functioning and background leading up to the current distress (Carlson et al. , 2006). Adler refers “the general diagnosis,” where the clinician conducts a general assessment of six domains: identifying information, background, current level of functioning, presenting problem, expectations for treatment, and summary. The third phase is Reeducation, Insight, and Interpretation.

Clinicians use interpretation and confrontation to help people gain awareness of their lifestyles, recognize the covert reasons behind their behaviors, appreciate the negative consequences of those behaviors, and move toward positive change. Clinicians focus on present rather than the past, and are more concerned with consequences than with unconscious motivation, and present their interpretations in ways that are likely to be accepted by clients. According to Adler (1998), emphasis is on beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions because it is only by cognitive means and social interest that behavioral change will occur.

The final phase four is Reorientation, Reinforcement, Termination, and Follow-Up. At this phase of treatment clients have insight and have modified their distorted beliefs, and are ready to reorient their lives with new ideas and patterns of behavior. This final phase also enables people to solidify the gains they have made and move forward with their lives in healthier and more fulfilling ways. The clinician and client determine when the client is ready to complete treatment and agree on follow-up procedures to make sure clients stay focused and continue positive growth.

I feel that this therapy could be used on anyone, from a child experiencing issues to an adult with difficulties in their life. A child could be experiencing a horrible ordeal with a step-parent, a rocky relationship with the child’s parents arguing or fighting all the time, or even a child watching their parents go through a divorce. All of these examples could stay with a child up until adulthood, and the clinician would have to dig deep in the past to see where the issues stemmed from. I like this therapy a lot because I feel that people do have some underlying issues that they are battling with from growing up or in the ast that are causing them to feel the way they are today. The next theory is Cognitive Behavioral approach. Cognitive Therapy has grown to become one of the most empirically validated approaches to counseling and psychotherapy. Albert Ellis established the foundations of cognitive therapy, using logic to dispute irrational beliefs. According to Seligman and Reichenberg, cognitive therapy focuses on the meaning that people give the experiences through the way they think about them, rather than how they feel about them.

It also recognizes that background, emotions, and behavior are important and worthy of attention in treatment, and views thoughts as the primary determinate of both emotions and behaviors, as well as of mental disorders and psychological health. Clinicians feel that the basic material of treatment is people’s transient automatic thoughts and their deeply ingrained and fundamental assumptions and schemas. Once identified, clinicians draw a variety of interventions to help people test and modify their cognitions.

When clients replace dysfunctional cognitions with ones that are more healthy, it enables people to deal more successfully with immediate difficulties. (Seligman and Reichenberg) This is a well-organized, powerful, usually short-term approach that has proven its effectiveness through many research studies. Judith Beck (1995) has summarized cognitive therapy: “In a nutshell, the cognitive model proposes that distorted or dysfunctional thinking (which influences the patient’s mood and behavior) is common to all psychological disturbances. The purpose of cognitive therapy is to teach people to identify, evaluate, and modify their own dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs. (Seligman and Reichenberg) Cognitive therapists believe that many factors contribute to the development of dysfunctional cognitions, including people’s biology and genetic predispositions, life experiences, and their accumulation of knowledge and learning. Distorted cognitions begin to take shape in childhood and are reflected in people’s fundamental beliefs, this makes people more susceptible to problems that “impinge on their cognitive vulnerability” (Beck, 1995).

Although cognitive therapy focuses on the present, and extensive intake interview is used to give clinicians a good understanding of their clients’ history, development, and background (Beck, 1995). Using the guidelines in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM) (American Psychiatric Association, 2000), clinicians determine whether a client’s symptoms meet the criteria for a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, a personality disorder, or another mental disorder.

As clinicians get to know and understand their clients and hear a series of automatic thoughts, the clinicians can formulate hypotheses about a client’s core beliefs. Clinicians share the hypothesis with the client for confirmation or disconfirmation, along with information on the nature and development of core beliefs. Clients view their core beliefs as ideas rather than truths and collaborate with the clinician to evaluate and change their core beliefs. Clients view their core beliefs as ideas rather than truths and collaborate with the clinician to evaluate and change their core beliefs. Effective cognitive therapy requires a good therapeutic alliance” (Beck, 2005). Cognitive therapy does not focus primarily on feelings. An essential role of the clinician is communicating support, empathy, caring, warmth, interest, optimism, and other core conditions that promote a successful therapeutic alliance. This theory can be used on everyone; cognitions believe it or not are done every day and a lot of people don’t realize it. The last theory is Solution Focused Brief Therapy. Solution focused therapy seeks solutions, rather than focusing on underlying problems (Presbury, Echterling, & McKee, 2008).

Treatment is brief and progress is measured by results. Effective intervention can begin in the first moment of contact with a client. This theory does not have many of the features associated with a well-developed treatment approach. Its literature does not offer a detailed understanding of human development, nor does it address at length the impact of past experiences on present difficulties. (Seligman and Reichenberg) Solution focused therapists assume that people’s complaints involve behavior that stems from their view of the world.

Suggesting new possibilities or frame of reference often is enough to prompt people to take effective action. Solution focused brief therapy assumes that people have the ability to resolve their difficulties successfully but that they have temporarily lost confidence, direction, or awareness of resources. Solution focused therapy spends little time helping people figure out why they have been unable to resolve their problems and carefully avoids giving people the message out why they have been deficient in their efforts to help themselves.

As people become cognizant of the possibilities for positive change, their empowerment and motivation increase, creating a beneficial circle. Positive change fuels people’s belief that change can happen, which enables their motivation and efforts to change which leads to positive changes. According to Seligman and Reichenberg, there are seven stages in treatment: 1). Identifying a solvable complaint 2). Establishing goals 3). Designing an intervention 4). Strategic tasks 5). Positive new behaviors and changes are identified and emphasized 6) Stabilization 7) Termination

The solution focused therapy also incorporates “problem-talk” to help change the very way in which people look at their lives. The main job of the therapist is to help the client recognize times when he/she didn’t have the problem or the problem was less severe, to realize what he or she did to reduce the problem. Most clinicians have the primary responsibility for creating and suggesting solutions and presenting them in ways that promote action, the view clients as collaborators and talk about how clients can help the clinician and the treatment process.

Clinicians use active listening, empathy, open questions, explanation, reassurance and suggestion as a part of the therapeutic process. This approach is good for all types of clients and it “respects and honors the unique cultural backgrounds” of all clients. I feel that this can be used in various settings such as schools, families, couples, or groups. I do like this approach in that it does focus on what can we do now to fix the problem, don’t worry about your past, let’s focus on now.

But then in another sense I don’t like the approach because you do have to dig deep into the past to see where the underlying issue stems from. My personal view on how client’s problems originate is still kind of a challenging thing for me. I do feel that some client’s are suffering from issues that they incurred while growing up as a child, and those issues are still there due to them not getting the help they needed at that time; while in turn, those issues carry with them into adulthood and they aren’t able to function in the workplace, in a marriage, as a parent, and so forth.

So when the clinician reaches into the past they are able to get a blueprint on why maybe they are having these problems. In another sense, I also feel that certain life struggles initiate problems or issues in one’s life. An example would be myself as I faced my children’s father being sent to prison. I never had any issues of depression, anxiety, or dealing with pain. When he left for prison, I went into a very bad spell of depression because I could not believe that this was happening to me. I was alone with two small children; I felt abandoned.

It seemed as though my mind was consumed with confusion, how am I going to make it on my own, and then it turned to anger towards him. So what I am trying to say is that certain tragic events in one’s life can play a part in how problems originate later in their adult life. I feel that clients are best helped by one who is warm, compassionate about their line of work, one who shows empathy as well as sympathy towards their client, and will do whatever therapy will work best to make their client live a happy normal life.

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