Psychology Essay Example: Individual Psychology by Alfred Adler

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Carnegie Mellon University
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Individual psychology developed by Alfred Adler is a psychological theory based on the clients frame of reference and thus referred to as a phenomenological approach (Adler, 2013). According to Adler, reality is not as important as how the individual views life t be. It does not focus on the past but the here, and now, therefore there is no consideration of childhood experiences. According to the theory, behavior is not determined by experiences, unconscious instinct, genes, or the environment but how one chooses to respond to the environment and genes (Adler, 2013). A significant aspect of the theory is the social interest where Adler believes that ones psychological health is dependent on the awareness and attitude towards being part of the human community. Therefore, mental health is dependent on the degree to which an individual is concerned with the welfare of others and can successfully share with them.

View of human nature

His view towards people is optimistic. Adler believes that people are positive and have the potential for self-determination. Adlers view of human nature is recognized as the foundation for the development of humanistic movement in psychology which focuses on the worth and dignity of people (Adler, 2013). In his view, behavior is teleological where it had a purpose and directed towards the achievement of a particular goal. Behavior is also phenomenological because it can only be comprehended from the clients frame of reference. One of his key concepts is the creative self, which he believes to be the nucleus or center where all life movements develop (Adler, 2013). He refers to the creative self as the ego. According to Adler, the creative self-gives an individual the potential to interact with the world in a creative way.

Factors that account for changes in behavior

Adler believes that behavior is always in a state of movement and that nothing is ever static. Behavior is teleological and is meant for a given purposes and directed towards a certain goal. Therefore a person may move to the useful or useless side of life. Moving towards the useful side of life is often characterized by efforts that are cooperative while the movement to the useless side of life is narcissistic in nature (Carlson & Slavik, 2013). According to the theory, movement in life is always from a sensed minus to a sensed plus. Therefore according to ones private logic, he or she will behave in a way that seems to improve the current position. It is a concept that can be useful in explaining maladaptive behavior. For example, a child may have the desire to gain the power to be recognized therefore his or her private logic may be to gain become recognized through fighting with others. Adler believes that people do not behave in isolation, but the behavior is about others (Carlson & Slavik, 2013). For example, parents can develop a hypothesis of how they feel when their child misbehaves. When the parents feel annoyed, it is an indication that the child has a goal for attention. Feeling angry means that the child has a goal for power. His view is that behavior has a reward that is often unconscious in nature. Therefore, ones emotions will serve as a propeller towards achieving a certain behavior. One will engage in a given activity or adjust his or her behavior according to an unconscious push or goal within the person.

How intervention strategies are designed in individual psychology

Individual psychology views a person to be undivided and a whole. It is, therefore, a holistic type of psychology which tries to the lifestyle of a person as a unified whole. Therefore Adlerian psychologists are often interested in assessing in how the individual will organize the self as a whole with coherent beliefs, goals, and perceptions that are interrelated. The theoretical approach will develop interventions through the consideration of the holistic health concept, which has the view that the mind and the body are interacting entities, and not views them as separate aspects of the person (Carlson & Slavik, 2013). The theory stresses the importance of cognition in psychological functioning. Therefore, the intervention will start by an analysis of the individuals lifestyle to gain a precise understanding of the person. Therapists will use interventions such as encouragement and acting-as-if to help clients reorient themselves towards ways of functioning that are more positive. The theory will try to look beyond overt behavior and attempt to comprehend the motivation behind it (Carlson & Slavik, 2013). Therefore, interventions will be based more on an attempt to modify motivation rather than the behavior itself. The interventions will also be developed to help clients develop a sense of equality with other people, assist them to become contributing members of society, increase their social interest, assist them is overcoming feelings of inferiority and discouragement and helping clients modify their goals and views this making significant changes in their life scripts (Carlson & Slavik, 2013). It also has an educational orientation where it focuses on providing clients with information and guidance that aims at making their lives better.

How the theory conceptualizes mental health

One of the building blocks of individual psychology is social interest. Adler believes that people have an innate interest in working in conjunction with others in the community for the good of others (West, Main & Zarski, 2013). In doing so, one can develop happiness. However, Adler feels that one may become neurotic once the ability to gain happiness through social conjunction is inhibited. For example, a child may be prevented from interacting with other children and gaining a sense of belonging, which prevents the child from developing the important sense of being part of a community. Adler also explains that an individual who does not engage in cooperating and experiencing or being useful to others is likely to develop a maladaptive behavior (West, Main & Zarski, 2013). He also believes that feelings of inferiority will lead to mental health issues. One who is neurotic does not feel inferior but has a fear of being discovered to be inferior and lacking the ability to meets the basic demands of life. He or she will have various traits including the fear of losing, hesitancy, avoidance or withdrawal from tasks that seem difficult. Adlers belief is that pathological behavior developed because of the feelings of inferiority combined with the compensatory defense mechanisms (West, Main & Zarski, 2013). He believes that individuals in society including criminals, neurotics, psychotics and much more lack the aspect of social interest. They approach issues in society without the confidence that these issues can be solved through the use of cooperation. Therefore, the approach they take towards such issues is one that only involves them. Their interests and desires only start and end with them. They success only has significant meaning to them and triumph for them is self-centered.

Key factors that contribute to healthy family/couple relationships

Adler looks at the issue of family constellation, which is one of the key concepts in his individual psychology. According to Adler family constellation contributes to how an individual interacts with the rest of society especially the relationships the individual creates later on in life. Under family constellation, Adler looks at the family birth order, the family size, and the relationships that exist among family members (West, Main & Zarski, 2013). It involves people present in the individuals family environment including parents, siblings, other family members, and any other individual living in the person's close environment. Each is a unique being with particular needs and emotional needs that are unique to the person. It means that every person makes a different contribution to how the family interacts. Therefore when individuals interact in a supportive way and in a way that does not lead to enmeshment will help them develop healthy relationships (West, Main & Zarski, 2013). Couple relationships will result from the individuals social interest. Therefore, the more he or she can identify their place in their societies the easier it is for such individuals to develop healthy relationships with people of the opposite sex. It also means that when people develop the thought of working in conjunction with others and striving for the good of others, they can easily develop healthy couple relationships. According to Adler, the key contributing factors towards the development of health family and couple relationships are family constellations especially the absence of enmeshment and an individuals social interest.

The counseling process of individual psychology

The counseling process in Adlerian psychology is in four phases. The first stage is the establishment of the relationship where the therapist makes use of various techniques to develop the therapeutic relationship. They include the listening skills Adler believes that effective listening skills are critical in the development of a therapeutic relationship built on trust and mutual respect (West, Main & Zarski, 2013). Another technique is for the therapist to offer respect to the client and work towards winning the clients respect. These techniques are significant for Adlerian therapists working with families, couples and families. It is because any counseling relationship is dependent on the development of a healthy and working relationship during the initial stages of the process. Adlerian psychology also advocates for the use of encouragement, which shows the client that there is support from the therapist and he or she can develop self-belief (West, Main & Zarski, 2013). At this phase, other techniques to be used include working on combating self-defeating and discouraging processes. It also involves helping clients become more aware of the choices they have. Phase two involves performing analysis and assessment of the client. An Adlerian psychologist carrying out family, couple or marriage counseling needs to know as much as possible about his or her clients. The therapist mainly works towards learning more about the problem at hand using techniques such as dream and lifestyle analysis. Phase three involves the promotion of insight where Adler believes that the promotion of insight is a determinant of long-term change. Insight will help the clients identify self-defeating patterns to ensure that they are dealt with during the counseling process. It also makes use of various techniques including interpretation, which focuses on the creation of awareness of the basic mistakes that impede the clients growth (West, Main & Zarski, 2013). The therapist can also use confrontation to help the client make immediate responses. Reorientation is the fourth phase where the client is encouraged to make significant decisions in their life while working towards the development of beliefs and behaviors that are more functional. One technique used at this stage is acting as if where clients are allowed to act as if they were where they would want to be in life. For example, a couple experiencing issues in their relationship will be encouraged to act in the way they would want the relationship to be thus showing the clients that it is doable.

Techniques used in the counseling process

Individual psychology makes use of various techniques during the counseling process one is the listening skills where the therapist needs to actively and effectively listen to the client (Carlson & Slavik, 2013). Effective listening skills are necessary for the development of mutual respect and trust between the therapist and...

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