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: Adlerian Theory

Roxane L. Dufrene

Alfred Adler founded individual psychology, a social theory widely applied by counselors and educators. His theory provides a framework for understanding the individual within his or her environment, thus providing guidance for improving both the individual's psychological state and connectedness to the social environment (Ellenberger, 1970). This understanding occurs within the context of an instinctive social interest (Gemeinschaftsgefuhl) characterized by movement toward cooperation and contribution to the social good. Adler's theory is designed to provide opportunity for an individual's psychological health to flourish in a community where social equality prevails. It introduces the possibility of creating a society in which psychopathology is not only treatable but also preventable.

Initially, Adler used the term individual psychology to indicate psychological conflict or resolution occurring at the level of the whole individual rather than within various divisions of consciousness (Ellenberger, 1970; Uytman, 1967). The use of the term individual distinguished individual psychology from Freud's dualism perspective, which proposed that psychological conflicts occur within the individual at the separate sublevels of the id, ego, and superego. It also should be noted that the ecumenical definitions of individualism and individualistic rights are not useful in understanding Adlerian theory.

Individual psychology is based on three major constructs that Adler and his associates have refined over the last century (Ellenberger, 1970; Uytman, 1967). First, human behavior is goal oriented (purposeful). Behaviors are stimulated by an instinctive, creative force or aptitude in a manner to "fit in." Second, humans have a drive that is served by abilities directed toward living cooperatively and contributing to the social environment (social interest). Third, the general evaluative attitude that affects choices occurs within the whole individual (holistic), not a sublevel of the individual. Adler's aim was the development of

Note. Gratitude is expressed to Allen P. Milliren, Timothy D. Evans, and John E. Newbauer for their contributions to the third and fourth editions of this chapter.

a philosophy of living that would produce a democratic family structure and a healthy social interest resulting in an ideal culture for child development. Adler's theory is reflected in the common terms used in counseling today, such as inferiority complex, birth order, and social interest, and an impressive list of people influenced by Adler, such as Albert Ellis, Victor Frankl, Abraham Maslow, and Rollo May.

 
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