What is Adlerian Therapy? The Analysis of a Therapy Essay Example

Although Adlerian therapy has been around since 1912 its relevance remains just as strong today due to its many applications within the clinical setting. Although some changes have occurred within this theory over time, the main staples have remained the same. These main ideas include; the focus on the holistic view of a person within the context of their life, encouragement of the client, overcoming inferiority, as well as the four main steps that guide the therapy as a whole. Adlerian therapy focuses on re-training clients and reshaping their concepts of society and social constructs by working to understand people within the context of the worlds in which they live (Corey, 2016, pg. 99).

Along with that, one of the main assumptions that remain true today is that because people feel inferior, they work harder to strive for perfection, which in turn helps to undertake their behavior. Keeping these major foundations in mind, the contemporary application of Adlerian therapy has become more versatile in that it can work on any age group. The most common forms of Adlerian therapy seen within today’s society are Adlerian play therapy, and Adlerian group play therapy. Both of these therapies target the younger population of clients and allow for better work with children.

Furthermore, this therapy is set up to apply in many other areas since its foundation lies within a growth model. This means it can be applied when working with children, families, groups, within schools, and even businesses. These basic concepts can be seen within existential therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, reality therapy, solution-focused brief therapy, feminist therapy, and family therapy. Although Adler himself is not credited in any of these therapies, his framework, and ideas about Hollism, encouragement, and growth (Corey, 2016, pg. 126). 


From a young age, people have a goal of success or superiority. This can be something as simple as a child smiling because they began to crawl in infancy, to an adult getting a promotion. These simple acts work to overcome the idea of inferiority (Corey, 2016, pg. 100). According to Adler, this is a healthy development attribute especially within childhood that helps children to strive to walk, run, read, and even get good grades. Another important measure of health within Adlerian therapy is becoming self-aware and realizing how one may fit within their social system. One of the first concepts of a social system is seen within the family and how a child finds their sense of belonging within this system (Corey, 2016, pg. 103). If a child has a strong attachment in early childhood, they are more likely to find their sense of belonging and explore how they fit within their family. Oftentimes it is healthy to identify one's point of reference to better understand how someone lives and functions. 


Wellness within Adlerian therapy involves relatedness to the world, and a focus on the individual. Social interest is a main point of wellness within this theory as a whole as it helps to understand how a person fits in their social context. The basic idea is that if a person has a high level of social interest they are concerned about themselves and their community which helps them to maintain a meaningful future (Corey, 2016, pg.102). This begins in childhood and helps children to realize how they fit into the world so that they may begin to develop empathy and a sense of self (Corey, 2016, pg.102). The inferiority complex Adler mentions within his theory begins to disappear as a person begins to find a sense of self within their community and the relatedness they feel to others which helps to improve their overall wellness. 


Works with anxiety, depression, mood disorders, breakups,. According to Adler, everyone has to succeed in building friendships, establishing intimacy, and contributing to society (Corey, 2016, pg. 102). If someone faces issues within any of these categories that is when a psychological disorder is present. 

Effective Prevention/ Intervention

Adlerian therapy focuses on a collaborative relationship between therapist and client that works to re-educate the client in the end. The main premise of this theory is that if a person can change their way of thinking they can also influence change in their behavior and feelings. Adlerian therapists view the client’s issues within the frame of thein world and the society that they surround themselves in (Corey, 2016, pg.99). This therapy focuses on the growth model and promotes the positive attributes of a client's behavior and well being. Through the use of encouragement, and the therapist can help change the client’s beliefs or prerogatives and helps to make them feel more confident (Corey, 2016, pg. 105). By helping a client to look at things from a fresh perspective the therapist allows the client to reform their ideas and begin to find a sense of self and set new goals. Therapists help clients to take a look at private logic which are the issues and convictions each person carries that prevent social interest. This helps to show that often the problems clients face are all based on thein logic and ideas (Corey, 2016, pg.106). 

Adlerian therapy is based on a 4 step therapeutic process which is now known as Adlerian brief therapy. These steps include; establishing the relationship, assessing the client's psychological dynamics, providing insight and self-understanding, and the dedication of the client (Corey, 2016, pgs. 111-113). Within these steps, the therapist can create a collaborative working relationship with the client and learn their story’s bud the way that they view their world. After that, the therapist can make interpretations and ask the client for more information or clarification that what they are saying is correct. That helps to bring insight to the client about the issues they may be facing. The therapist is then able to help the client reform their goals and processes into more helpful ideas. One of the most important aspects of these steps is the idea of encouragement. This is one of the unique qualities of Adlerian therapy and allows the therapist to demonstrate the strengths a calling has and the new positive possibilities that are now available to them (Corey, 2016, pg. 115).

Critical Analysis 

Strengths (play therapy and group play) 

Adlerian therapy helps a person to focus on positive outcomes and create a new set of goals for their actions (Corey, 2016, 106). Versatile, easily understood, defines the problem while still being encouraging to the client. It is flexible and integrative which means it can pair well with many other techniques and can be individualized. Has a focus on community and fostering relatedness and a sense of belonging.along with that it holds great standings within the work of social justice as it deals with not only the individual but also the society that they live in. The therapy is very inclusive since it looks at the client's life holistically which includes their culture, worldview, and society which allows clients to have the freedom to express themselves in a clinical setting (Corey, 2016, pg. 119). This also has big implications when working with different cultures, races, and ethnic groups as it allows them to express their values and truths. Along with that, it can be considered a brief theory which helps address problems and refocuses in a shorter amount of time. 

Challenges/ Weaknesses

One of the main challenges seen within this theory is that it works better when paired with other therapies such as solution-focused therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy so that there is more of a set structure and a solid therapeutic technique. It is not an evidence-based practice in nature and would need to make changes to make it that way. This is because there is not a well defined and systemic approach within Adlerian therapy alone. (Core, 2016, pg. 126). Some more challenges that are presented within the literature are the premise that the Adlerian theory is founded on the concept of self and their responsibility within society. This is seen as a possible issue when dealing with other cultures as their values may not be helped in the self or society but rather other things (Corey, 2016, pg. 120).


Corey, G. (2016). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (10th ed).  New York: Brooks Cole Pub.

(book 1) Irby, B. J., & Watts, R. E. (2013). Chapter 38 Adlerian Counseling. In The handbook of educational theories (pp. 459–472). Information Age Publishing. 

(Adlerian group) Meany-Walen, K. K., & Kottman, T. (2019). Group Adlerian play therapy. International Journal of Play Therapy, 28(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1037/pla0000079

(Adlerian 4) Rhinehart, A., & Gibbons, M. M. (2017). Adlerian Therapy With Recently Romantically Separated College-Age Women. Journal of College Counseling, 20(2), 181–192. https://doi.org/10.1002/jocc.12069 

(Adlerian 3) Sperry, L., & Binensztok, V. (2018). Adlerian Pattern-Focused Therapy: A Treatment Manual. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 74(3), 309–348. https://doi.org/10.1353/jip.2018.0025 

(play therapy) Taylor, D. D., & Bratton, S. C. (2014). Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Adlerian Play Therapy with Preschool Children. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 70(3), 205–219. https://doi.org/10.1353/jip.2014.0019 

(Adlerian 6)Watts, R. E. (2018). Adlerian Therapy and the Need for Outcome Efficacy Research. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 74(3), 277–280. https://doi.org/10.1353/jip.2018.0020 



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