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The Strengths and Weakness of Adlerian Therapy

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    The strengths and weakness of Adlerian Therapy Shane Wilson Rio Salado Collage Adlerian Therapy, which is based on the theory’s of Alfred Adler, points to the essence of normality as having a feeling of concern for others and places emphasis on social interests, the family dynamic, and ones influence based on early memories in life. Adler also placed emphasis on the order of one’s birth within the family such as whether one was the first, second, last, or only child born.

    His approach was centered on such subjects as lifestyle, beliefs and fictions, psychological environment and a person’s approach toward there striving for completeness and wholeness. With the goals of Adlerian counseling revolving around helping people develop healthy holistic life styles, it can be looked at as being a very versatile. Particularly when kept in mind that with any approach; the ideal result is for the client to be living a healthy well rounded and complete life. This is what the Adlerian method aims for. A noticeable strength of Adlerian therapy is that many of it concepts can be applied toward different cultural groups.

    This includes the concept of encouragement as it is expressed between the counselor and the client which is appropriate with Hispanic and Asian groups who traditionally emphasize collaboration. Additionally, the concept of sibling rivalry that is highlighted with traditional European North Americans who stress competition as a way of getting ahead. Adlerian Therapy can be a useful for treatment of specific disorders many of which are found within the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which is the standard classification of mental disorders, and used by mental health professionals.

    These include, but are not limited to, conduct and antisocial disorders, anxiety related disorders, as well as personality disorders. Adlerian counseling can also be looked at as a contributing approach along with other helping theories. Many of the concepts can be seen as a cross over with Gestalt, rational emotive behavior, person-centered, and reality based therapies. Adler left us with a contribution of ideas and vocabulary. Adler was a very proficient writer and speaker, but in some ways he failed to be recognized for many of his concepts and terms such as; inferiority complex, empathy, and lifestyle.

    This lack of reorganization is due partially to the fact that these terms were quickly absorbed into the main stream vocabulary. Although Adlerian counseling has been used for many years, it is not without its weaknesses and limitations. Adlerian therapy lacks a strong supportive research base. There is a lack of clear and solid proof regarding the effectiveness of Adlerian counseling. Adler was also very vague in his approach on how to work with clients as well as the use of his general approach to therapy.

    His approach is continually being clarified by many who have studied and use Adlerian therapy, but many of his concepts and ideas still remain unclear. Additionally, many view Alders approach as being overly optimistic about the human nature. Some feel that Alder’s methods exclude the use and view of the unconscious mind. This is in regard to the powerful effect that many believe the unconscious plays on the mind beyond ones social cooperation and interests. Another possible limiting factor is its view of the family structure and how this may not fit into some cultural views.

    This is in regard to the Adlerian theory’s that suggest the importance of birth order and the family environment. The argument being, that culture plays a major role in the dimension of these developmental factors and can greatly influence the role of the family structure. Moreover, in certain situations, since the Adlerian approach is very verbal and is an insightful and provocative approach to counseling, this may cause a problem in the area of the client’s general intellect and lack of familiarity with semantics.

    This could be from an educational standpoint as well as cultural with regard to the general understanding, or lack of understanding of language and the cognitive explanations used in Adlerian therapy. In conclusion; it is refreshing to be able to look at such a personable approach to counseling in contrast to the theories of Sigmund Freud. To think in terms of an approach that can work equally well with children as it does with adults in many ways speaks for its self, particularly in the areas of effectiveness and in terms of its versatility along with its foundation being seemingly based toward compassion.

    Although, it is felt that some clients may need a more direct approach. One in which the counselor acts as a firm expect that can direct the clients every move with detail throughout the counseling process. This is something that could be lacking in Adlerian therapy.


    • Gladding, Samuel T. (2005) Counseling Theories: Essential Concepts and Applications, New Jersey, Merrill Prentice Hall.

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