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Adlerian Theory, Personality and Models of Counseling

The separate aspects that add up to the entire sum of what each individual develops into developed the basis of Adlerian Theory. This paper will address the connection between Adlerian theory and early psychodynamic theory and contemporary family systems. Adler’s greatest contribution to modern psychology will be included. The important influences on personality development that Adler thought important will be discussed. A treatment plan from an Adlerian approach will be used to respond to Darnell, a cases study that is correlated with this class.

Adler’s Ideas

Alfred Adler was a follower of Freud but separated himself to develop his own school of Individual Psychology. He thought that Freud’s views were too strongly influence by sexual instincts. Alfred Adler theory looked at how a person is influenced by his or her social urges and conscious thought, not every thing being influenced by sexual urges and the unconscious (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). Adlerian theory has an emphasis in birth order, social interests, and individual’s lifestyle, along with the concepts of inferiority and superiority as key components in the personality development.

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Much of Adlerian theory is based in socialistic ideology. Alfred Adler professed to be influenced by Karl Marx and much of his theory contains the inspirations from this type of ideology. Adler thought that psychological health is measured and determined by a person’s level of social contribution and the benefit received to the community for the greater good (Hunter, n.d.). “Social contribution is increased through the reduction of mistaken beliefs, which frequently lead to maladaptive feelings of inferiority or superiority.

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This goal of combating false beliefs is attained through an understanding of family constellations, early memories, and dreams” Hunter (n.d.).

Adler’s Contributions to Psychology

Alfred Adler founded the Society of Individual Psychology in 1912. The author’s perspective believes that Adler’s greatest contribution to modern psychology is the suggestion that every person has a sense of inferiority. Early in childhood individuals work at trying to overcome their inferiority by asserting their superiority over others. Adler’s thoughts of striving for superiority was a concept that he believed to be a motivating force behind human behaviors, along with their thoughts and emotions (“Alfred Adler’s Contributions”, n.d.). This was known as the concept of the inferiority complex.

Adler also contributed to psychology with his theory of position within the family system and the influence of birth order (University of Phoenix, 2013). The Adlerian theory states that a person’s lifestyle is comprised of four attributes are: self-concept, self-ideal, picture of the world, and ethical convictions (University of Phoenix, 2013). Adler also explored the family constellation and an individual’s relationship, early recollections, and the level of dominant or inferior role in that family system.

Adlerian Theory for Case Analysis

Darnell Yardley is the subject of this case study. Darnell is a 25-year-old African American College student referred for counseling by his academic advisor. Darnell has an athletic build, is well dressed and clean-shaven. He is reporting feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and uncertainty with regard to career goals. His appearance is incongruent with his responses (University of Phoenix, 2013).

Adlerian counseling would look at the influences on personality development for Darnell. The fact that Darnell was the youngest of four children and he was the only male child would be influential. Adlerian would look at the family constellation that Darnell grew up in. He describes his childhood as chaotic, with many fights. His father an electrical engineer was aloof, distant and very responsible. His mother was a nurse described as caring, but frequently overwhelmed and too stressed to provide for the children’s needs (University of Phoenix, 2013). Adlerian theory addresses early recollections, which for Darnell are traumatic and damaging. Darnell’s early memories of his father coming home from work after a demotion and said to him “You are really dumb. Why can’t you be like your sisters?” This occurred after he received a C on a math test. He had a closer relationship with his mother but remembers yelling at her when she was drunk. Darnell remembers many nights where he would cry himself to sleep as a child (University of Phoenix, 2013).

The outline for the strategy of applying Adlerian models in counseling Darnell would consist of specifics within the process of therapy. The therapist client relationship would be established. The process of therapy would explore the individual family of origin and the dynamics within that family. The client would discuss the feelings surrounding some of the early childhood recollections. The therapist would encourage the client with some self-understanding and insight regarding some of the issues discussed. The therapist would encourage the client to see there role in these events and then encourage them to re-orientate themselves as an adult and his or her own personal sense of fulfillment (University of Phoenix, 2013).

A tailor made treatment plan for Darnell Yardley using Adlerian perspective would consists of certain goals for Darnell to work toward. The therapist would suggest that Darnell look at his premise and life goals. The therapist may challenge Darnell’s perspective in this process and have him inspect the things he has developed negative or inferior methods of viewing and thinking about something and show him a different approach. The therapist would encourage Darnell to develop some social goals. Such as he is complaining of being lonely, the therapist would have him join a club or become involved in team sport on campus and begin developing friendships. The therapist would challenge his loneliness with the thoughts of your lonely because you are alone. To have a friend you need to be a friend. This would also develop Darnell’s sense of belonging as he stated, “I feel alive and needed on the football field.” The therapist would encourage Darnell that if playing football makes you feel happy and needed why not do it even if you are not doing it professionally.

In conclusion, Alfred Adler was a therapist who was ahead of his time. His approach was controversial and the sense of community made his theories seem less scientific in an empirical sense, rather more of a collection of his personal views. In a positive reflection the concept of the inferiority complex and an individual’s self worth can be strengthened and increase from the fostering of a group. The importance of what teamwork can impart on the strengthening a person’s self worth and a sense of belonging to a group can be a strong motivator toward positive change. The treatment plan for Darnell and Adler’s approach to family systems and group cohesion would be beneficial for relieving many of his reported issues.


  1. Alfred Adler’s Contributions. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Cervone, D., & Pervin, L.A. (2010). Personality theory and research (11th ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database Hunter, C. (n.d.). Adlerian Therapy. Retrieved from
  3. University of Phoenix. (2013). Week Five Faculty Notes. Retrieved from University of Phoenix, CCMH/506 – Personality Theories and Counseling Models website
  4. University of Phoenix. (2013). Expert Theory Case Analysis. Retrieved from University of Phoenix, CCMH/506 – Personality Theories and Counseling Models website.

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Adlerian Theory, Personality and Models of Counseling. (2016, Mar 13). Retrieved from

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