Adlerian Therapy

by ⁨Janna Lim|28-01-2022
Therapy type

Adlerian Therapy is an approach that focuses on clients’ social context such as birth order, and lifestyle. Adlerian therapists believe that people are most fulfilled when they are contributing towards society.

From the Adlerian perspective, inferiority feelings are a normal condition for everyone. This is because striving to overcome feelings of inferiority enables people to achieve high levels of development. Hence, these people are able to contribute to society as a whole. However, those having difficulties coping with inferiority feelings are likely to be discouraged. According to this approach they may handle such feelings by behaving selfishly to feel superior to others.

This therapy suggests inferiority feelings may be a result of birth order. Birth order is not a deterministic concept, but does suggest an increase in probability of having certain experiences. Psychological positioning of an individual’s place is more important than actual birth order in the family. Based on birth order, people acquire a particular style of relating to others in childhood and form an understanding of themselves that transcends into adulthood.

Social interest and community feelings are also significant concepts in Adlerian Therapy. This approach states that contributing to society allows people to feel fulfilled. People with high social interest are willing to go out of their way to help others. Meanwhile, those with low social interest may mistreat others. Adlerian therapists aim to assist clients increase their social interest levels.


Alfred Adler was originally alongside Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung contributing to the psychoanalytic theory. However, Adler then abandoned Freud’s theories, because he believed Freud excessively emphasised biological and instinctual determination. Adler theorised that people form an approach to life during the first six years of life. 


This therapy aims to enable clients to learn about their faulty assumptions, and overcome their feelings of inferiority. Therapists also aim to foster social interest by assisting clients to connect responsibly to their community.

What to Expect

Adlerian therapy has four stages.


A collaborative therapeutic relationship is established between therapists and clients. 


Therapists and clients explore the clients’ background, family history, and early memories. Therapist aims to understand how the client has developed certain thinking and lifestyle patterns. 


Adlerian therapists interpret the findings of the assessment. They interpret clients’ underlying motives for their behaviours. Clients are able to disagree and discuss the therapists’ interpretations.


Therapists then develop plans for clients to engage in more helpful behaviours in their daily lives. 


This approach may be unsuitable for clients who are unwilling to explore family history and relationships. This approach is also not ideal for clients looking for a quick fix.

To see therapists specialised in this field, visit


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