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Adlerian therapy provides holistic healing through the power of goal-setting

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One technique within Adlerian therapy is to help patients set reasonable expectations and goals. These goals should be healthy, productive, and achievable to contribute to an overall feeling of happiness and fulfillment. (Photo: Envato Elements)
The field of psychology is in a state of constant evolution thanks to continual research. New data filters into new understandings of the human mind, which in turn inform on-the-ground therapy practices. While current innovations and technology do feed into the world of psychological research, this field has a deeper, older foundation, built by the classic forbears (think Sigmund Freud). One such key figure, Alfred Adler, seems to be making a comeback in current psychological developments, with the modern wave of holistic therapy.اضافة اعلان

A sense of belonging
Adler, a colleague of the “father of psychoanalysis” Freud, has been greatly underappreciated and often overlooked throughout history. However, his contributions to psychology have merited him a place alongside his partner in the annals of the field’s greatest minds.

Like Freud, Adler was an Austrian psychologist who helped the former develop psychoanalysis. He was also a founding member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Adler and Freud split after certain differences emerged, one the greatest being their opinions on the role of personality.

Whereas Freud believed that the human mind was split between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind, Adler believed that both worked in harmony, and he viewed the individual as a whole. Additionally, Adler was the first to describe inferiority and superiority complexes.

The many theories Adler developed culminated into Adlerian theory, a holistic approach to psychology. Adlerian theory focuses on the importance of overcoming feelings of inferiority and gaining a sense of belonging in order to achieve success and happiness.

Setting healthy goals
Why do we do what we do? This is a central question, and its answer can help us understand ourselves and our behavior more clearly. Adlerian theory has an explanation that is still used today by psychologists.

Adlerian theory sees human behavior as goal-oriented. This means that our actions and behaviors are the result of our need to satisfy or achieve specific desires or goals. There are many different ways for individuals to achieve their goals, leading to different types of behavior.

Adler heavily emphasized that humans crave social interest, which is a sense of belonging to, and participating in the common good. Furthermore, he theorized that empathy and compassion can be connected to social interest. Thus, one of the key techniques used in Adlerian therapy is empathy.

In terms of therapeutic application, therapists should express empathy in order to help and encourage patients to recognize their strengths and expand their confidence. This also helps the patient overcome feelings of inferiority.
Why do we do what we do? This is a central question, and its answer can help us understand ourselves and our behavior more clearly.
Another Adlerian technique is helping patients set reasonable expectations and goals. Since Adler’s theory revolves around goal-oriented behavior, it is important to make sure that the goals are healthy, productive, and achievable. They should help contribute to an overall feeling happiness and fulfillment.

The next technique goes hand-in-hand with goal-setting: The patients should examine the purpose of their behaviors in order to assess whether or not they are healthy and help them achieve their goals.

Finally, it is important to also reflect on past behaviors to help provide insight into past patterns of behavior. This can often lead to a revelation of behaviors that are contributing to any current issues, allowing them to then be corrected.

The four-stage process
Adler compiled these therapeutic techniques into four distinct treatment stages, known as Adlerian therapy. The therapist’s overall goal is to help patients develop a better understanding of their own goals, enabling them to resolve any feelings of inferiority towards accomplishing their goals in order to achieve a more fulfilling life.

In the first stage, engagement, the therapist develops a therapeutic alliance or connection with the patient. Establishing an alliance in the form of a cooperative relationship opens the door for communication and sharing. This stage is integral to starting any type of therapy treatment: the American Psychological Association found that therapeutic alliance is a more important element to treatment than selecting “the right” type of therapy.

The next stage is assessment, where the therapist learns more about the individual. Since Adlerian therapy takes a holistic approach, almost all subjects in the individual’s life are discussed. This can include memories, family dynamics, perspectives, and all the thoughts and feelings associated with these aspects of life. In this stage, the therapist is able to directly and indirectly ascertain the individual’s goals in life. During the assessment phase, it may come to light that certain elements impact the individual more than others.

At this point, the next stage, known as insight, begins. The therapist will start asking more questions relating to the elements identified in the previous stage. This allows the therapist to discover more information and context about the element, and helps the patient break down their own behaviors to gain more insight into their motivations. The therapist might offer their own interpretations; however, the emphasis is on the individual gaining insight and understanding into their own beliefs and behaviors.

In the last stage, known as reorientation, the therapist plays a more important role. After identifying and gaining insight into problematic behaviors, the therapist can focus on helping the patient correct them. The end goal is to develop new healthy habits, behaviors, and skills that lead to growth and resiliency. One way that this is done is by reframing old experiences in a process known as cognitive reframing.

A tangible impact
Adlerian therapy has been studied on patients with a variety of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse, and many have found it to be useful. The therapy’s holistic approach helps provide patients with a greater sense of awareness about different aspects of themselves. Even the average person who experiences low self-esteem, loneliness, and negative thinking can reap great benefits from Adlerian therapy.

Additionally, Adlerian theory has a heavy emphasis on social interactions and the role individuals play in the world. Therefore, this theory can provide an excellent means of improving social wellbeing.


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