Adlerian Therapy

Adlerian Therapy

Adlerian Theory is the foundational theory that guides my approach to therapy at Mindshyft, and my understanding of human emotion and behaviour. I appreciate its growth-oriented view and its belief that we are all inherently creative and capable. It simply suggests that we sometimes need someone to help us develop insight into how we have created our approach to life thus far in order to decide where and how to adapt as desired. Since this theory informs much of how I show up for clients, I figured it may be helpful for potential clients get a snapshot of what Adlerian therapy may look like.

Adlerian Therapy, inspired by Alfred Adler, is a goal-oriented, positive psychodynamic approach to therapy with a focus on short-term results. Adler delved deeply into the realms of feelings of inferiority versus superiority, discouragement, and the sense of belonging within one’s community and society.

According to Adler, feelings of inferiority can either lead to neurotic behavior or serve as a motivating force for individuals to strive for greater success, depending on the context in which these feelings are experienced. In the realm of Adlerian Therapy, human behavior is seen as having a purpose and an ultimate goal, with the foundational belief that individuals inherently desire social connection with others.

When Adlerian Therapy Is Applied

Adlerian therapy finds successful application in treating trauma and trauma-induced symptoms such as addiction or mental health disorders.

The Mechanics of Adlerian Therapy

In the course of Adlerian Therapy, individuals acquire the ability to comprehend the thoughts, drives, and emotions that significantly influence their way of life. This therapeutic approach assists individuals in uncovering the roots of their behaviors, reevaluating their self-perception, and reshaping their perspective on their childhood experiences. The ultimate objective is to empower individuals to lead more positive and productive lives by cultivating new insights, skills, and behaviors.

These goals are accomplished through the four core stages of Adlerian Therapy:

1. Engagement

In the initial phase, individuals and their therapist collaborate to establish a therapeutic relationship. This partnership lays the groundwork for addressing the individual’s issues effectively, characterized by goal-setting and boundary-setting. The establishment of trust is paramount, and the therapist provides essential support and encouragement.

2. Assessment

The assessment stage encourages individuals to openly discuss their life experiences, emotions, behaviors, family dynamics, upbringing, and motivations. This dialogue serves as a means for the therapist to gain deeper insights into the individual’s background and understand the origins of their current behaviors. It may unveil significant life events that have evoked feelings of shame, guilt, or inadequacy, leading the individual to withdraw or adopt protective behaviors to avoid feeling foolish. In this phase, the therapist strives to unravel the thought patterns that may no longer serve the individual’s well-being.

3. Insight

During the third stage, the therapist offers interpretations of the client’s life situation, suggesting theories about how past experiences might have contributed to their present challenges. It is then up to the individual to determine the accuracy and usefulness of these theories.

4. Reorientation

In the final stage of Adlerian Therapy, the therapist collaborates with the individual to develop a new perspective on their past and strategies for positive life transformation. This newly acquired positive outlook provides the individual with the confidence needed to pursue their goals, liberated from the burdens of shame, guilt, or low self-esteem. The path toward growth and fulfillment becomes more accessible.

Addressing Feelings of Inferiority

A central tenet of Adlerian Therapy is the acknowledgment that everyone experiences feelings of inferiority at some point in life. In psychologically healthy individuals, these feelings can act as a driving force, motivating them to strive for self-improvement and make positive contributions to society. However, some individuals struggle to cope with such feelings, leading to discouragement or the adoption of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Adlerian therapists work to provide support and encouragement, helping individuals manage feelings of inferiority constructively.

Social Connection and Social Interest

Another fundamental concept in Adlerian Therapy is social interest, which posits that individuals thrive when their actions benefit society as a whole. High social interest leads to altruistic behaviors, while low social interest can manifest as antisocial or selfish actions. The critical insight here is that levels of social interest can be transformed over time through Adlerian Therapy, allowing individuals to increase their sense of social connectedness.

Acceptance of the Individual

Adlerian Theory emphasizes viewing individuals holistically, rather than focusing solely on their behaviors, beliefs, and influences. By highlighting an individual’s positive qualities and demonstrating their inherent value, Adlerian Therapy fosters self-acceptance and gradual replacement of negative behaviors and beliefs. This therapeutic approach guides individuals in embracing their unique selves, understanding their past and present beliefs, and ultimately moving forward with increased self-assurance.


Keep in mind that this is only one of many approaches available at Mindshyft, and which one I apply is based largely on client needs and preferences.

If you would like to learn more or are interested exploring therapy for yourself, book an appointment. Your first session is free.

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