Overall, the Adlerian counseling process is designed to assist a client with growth. Adler proposed three phases of counseling: "(1) understanding the client; (2) explaining the client's behavior to him or her in a way that makes sense; and (3) strengthening social interest" (Milliren et al., 2007, p. 142). Dreikurs added a fourth phase in the first position of the four phases of "building a relationship," resulting in the four phases as relationship, investigation, interpretation, and reorientation (Abramson, 2007; Milliren et al., 2007, p. 142). Adlerian counselors' process of counseling varies widely. The rationale for variability is based on Adler's basic assumption that each client is unique.
According to Milliren et al. (2007), Adler's work was demonstrated in his case conceptualizations in two important works: The Neurotic Constitution (Adler, 1912/1926) and The Practice and Theon/ of Individual Psychology (Adler, 1924/1959). Actual examples of counseling interventions of Adler's therapeutic style are limited. Adler did not propose specific interventions because he believed each client was unique. Counselor creativity is imperative in his approach, and the array of intervention strategies is its hallmark. Many interventions are available to be molded to each unique client and to the opportunities that arise during each counseling session. The specific interventions and techniques used depend on the direction of counseling and the counselor's repertoire of abilities. Because of the client's uniqueness and Adler's creativity in working with a client, counselors need to read many of Adler's cases and familiarize themselves with many applications. His approach is characterized as intuitive and diverse, requiring experiential learning rather than explicit descriptions of the process. An example of Adler's "indirect method of treatment" with a client with melancholia is presented below (adapted from Adler, 1964, pp. 25-26):
Adler: Only do what is agreeable to you.
Client: Nothing is agreeable.
Adler: (Later) Do not exert yourself to do what is disagreeable.
Client: (Finds Adler's response as unusual and interesting; thus complies for a while.)
Adler: (Later he attempts a second rule.) It is much more difficult and I do not know if you can follow it. (He looks doubtfully at the client.)
Adler: If you could follow this second rule you would be cured in fourteen days. It is to consider from time to time how you can give another person pleasure. It would very soon enable you to sleep and would chase away all your sad thoughts. You would feel yourself to be useful and worthwhile.
Client: How can I give pleasure to others when I have none myself?
Adler: Perhaps you better train yourself a little thus: do not actually do anything to please anyone else, but just think out how you could do it.
Client: Oh, that is quite easy, it is what I have always done.
Adler: (Points out this type of client is "dispensing favors to get the upper hand on others.")
Adler: Remember all the ideas you have in the night, and give me pleasure by telling them to me the next day.
Client: I slept all night.
There is no direct way to assess the nuances involved in that counseling session from a descriptive verbal account. The understanding of what occurred requires actual practice and the accumulation of tacit knowledge through experience. Rather than discussing such detailed descriptive verbal encounters and lists of linear procedures, understanding Adler's approach is better served by exploring the overarching process of Adlerian counseling (Milliren et al., 2007). The counseling process assists a client in developing from a partially functioning person into a more fully functioning person by cooperatively contributing to others.