What is Adlerian Therapy?

Adlerian Therapy, also known as Individual Psychology, is a therapeutic approach developed by Alfred Adler in the early 20th century. It emphasizes the individual's striving for significance and belonging within their social context. Unlike the Freudian focus on unconscious motives and early childhood experiences, Adlerian Therapy centers on the conscious, goal-directed behavior and the unique lifestyle that each person develops to navigate life's challenges. This approach views individuals holistically, considering their social interactions, feelings of inferiority, and the pursuit of goals as key elements in understanding and addressing psychological distress.

Core Principles of Adlerian Therapy

1. Social Interest and Community Feeling: Adler believed that a fundamental human motivation is the desire for social connection and contribution to the well-being of others. A sense of belonging and social interest is crucial for psychological health.

2. Lifestyle and Unique Worldview: Each person develops a unique lifestyle or way of being, which includes their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. This lifestyle is seen as the individual's creative response to their environment and challenges.

3. Inferiority and Compensation: Adler introduced the concept of the inferiority complex, suggesting that feelings of inferiority drive individuals to strive for superiority or success. However, when these feelings are overwhelming, they can lead to compensatory behaviors or an unhealthy pursuit of personal power.

4. Goal Orientation: Adlerian Therapy posits that behavior is purposeful and directed towards achieving personal goals. Understanding an individual's goals provides insight into their actions and psychological state.

5. Holism and Teleology: Adlerian Therapy views individuals as integrated wholes rather than a collection of parts. It also emphasizes teleology, the idea that we are motivated by our goals and aspirations for the future, rather than just by past events.

The Process of Adlerian Therapy

Adlerian Therapy is a collaborative and dialogical process aimed at fostering self-awareness, social interest, and the courage to change. It involves several key stages:

1. Engagement and Relationship Building: The therapeutic relationship is foundational in Adlerian Therapy. The therapist works to establish a relationship of trust and cooperation with the client.

2. Assessment and Understanding the Individual's Lifestyle: Therapists use techniques like early recollections and lifestyle assessment to understand the client's unique worldview, goals, and lifestyle. This understanding helps to identify patterns that may be contributing to current difficulties.

3. Insight and Interpretation: The therapist helps the client gain insight into how their lifestyle and goals may be influencing their current situation and psychological well-being. This includes exploring family dynamics, social relations, and feelings of inferiority or superiority.

4. Reorientation and Reeducation: The final stage involves working with the client to develop new strategies for living that are more socially oriented and aligned with healthier goals. This may include challenging and modifying mistaken beliefs, encouraging new behaviors, and fostering a greater sense of community feeling.

Effectiveness of Adlerian Therapy

Adlerian Therapy has been applied successfully to a wide range of issues, including family and parenting problems, school-related difficulties, and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Its emphasis on social interest, goal orientation, and the encouragement of positive social contributions makes it a versatile and empowering approach to psychotherapy.


Adlerian Therapy offers a comprehensive and optimistic approach to understanding human behavior and facilitating psychological change. By focusing on the individual's strengths, social connections, and potential for growth, it promotes a sense of agency and purpose. This approach's holistic and goal-oriented perspective provides valuable insights and practical strategies for overcoming challenges and achieving a fulfilling life.