Traditional Intervention Strategies
A key function of the counselor is to make a vigorous, comprehensive analysis or investigation of the client's lifestyle. During an analysis, the client-counselor relationship requires mutual trust and respect to maximize the understanding of the client. A counselor can gather information through the use of a questionnaire of the client's lifestyle. Milliren et al. (2007) suggested that there are formal and informal methods of assessment. In formal methods, information about the client's family constellation, life goals, beliefs, and attitudes are collected and evaluated. Assessment includes an exploration of the client's subjective perceptions of the family constellation, including conditions that prevailed in the family when the client was young. Birth order, parental relationships, family values, early recollections, and culture are also important to the analysis. This gives a picture of a client's lifestyle and social world. Informal methods of analysis occur throughout the counseling process. The counselor is able to get a perspective of the client's major areas of successes and failures and of the critical influences that have had a bearing on the client in the family and the world. The following components are used in a lifestyle analysis.
The family constellation represents the client's understanding of the family and his or her ordinal place in the family (Adler, 1927/1946). Factors such as the number of siblings in the family, nature of interpersonal relationships with family members, cultural and familial values, and gender role expectations are all influenced by an individual's observation of the interactional patterns within the family and are important to the counseling process.
The family atmosphere is the coming together of everyone in the family and subsequent patterns of communication within the family. Because the family is an interactive system, a key to assessing the family atmosphere is asking each member what the family climate is like.
The values chosen by a client depend on the unique family atmosphere. Parents are the role models for the basic values in the family. Values of the family play a significant role in a person's development in the family. A client's values may be assessed by asking, "What did your parents believe was important in the family and the world?"
The family constellation and the relationships within the family affect gender role expectations. Parents and siblings are role models for a child. These role models affect how a child experiences the world through gender and how communication and interactions with others occur based on gender. Assessment of gender roles includes exploring a client's evaluation of the conditions that prevailed in the family related to birth order, the gender of siblings, and each parental relationship.
Roles in a Family
Family dynamics, including parenting styles and position in the family, create roles in a family. There are several ways a counselor can view the role of a child in the family, but according to Milliren et al. (2007), "all of these are lifestyle patterns adopted by children to cope with the family situation" (p. 147). The roles that occur in childhood give rise to similar expectations in adulthood.
Early Developmental Experiences
In addition to roles a client experiences in the family, early experiences are critical to development. Early memories embody a client's core beliefs and feelings about self and the world. They contain recollections of the person's inferiority feelings, life goals, and lifestyle. Earliest recollections provide a projective tool for gaining useful client insight. Differences in oral and written recollections from a client are often revealing. Subjective beliefs of experiences with family and social settings, such as school or work, are based on early recollections.
Encouragement is one of the most powerful methods available for changing a client's beliefs and stimulating courage. It is central to all processes of Adlerian counseling (Watts & Pietrzak, 2000). An Adlerian counselor-client relationship provides the foundation for a client to understand dysfunctional behaviors and experience insight. The counselor must encourage the client, which entails awakening his or her social interest. A counselor considers the relationship to be one between equals that is based on cooperation, trust, and respect. Encouragement helps to build rapport and maximizes the counselor-client relationship. It is used to assist a client in overcoming inferiority feelings. As a part of the encouragement process, a variety of techniques are used to help a client generate alternatives and make use of strengths and resources. By developing a relationship with the client, a counselor provides the basic form of social interest, which the client can then transfer to other relationships. Encouraging a client to discover new and more functional alternatives involves a sense of belonging and connectedness, an interest in others, an acceptance of imperfection, and a willingness to contribute to the world. Courage enables the client to change mistaken beliefs and feelings. A client who is discouraged may have exaggerated inferiority feelings that need to be eliminated (Ansbacher & Ansbacher, 1959). Under these conditions, a client experiences failure. Through the counselor client relationship, a counselor helps a client to understand that inferiority feelings are normal. When a client has the courage to change, it leads to greater cooperation and a feeling of community with the counselor, which then extends to others. Restoring patterns of hope is a part of the encouragement process in counseling. As noted by Milliren et al. (2007),
[E]ncouragement is often mistaken as praise, but praise is external control. Praise focuses on outcomes (doing well), uses superlatives, and is conditional. Encouragement focuses on effort or improvement rather than results. It highlights strengths and assets, rather than identifying weaknesses, limitations, deficits, or disorders, (p. 149)