Theoretical Framework and Theoretical Application

Posted: October 17th, 2013

Theoretical Framework and Theoretical Application








The paper examines Adlerian therapy as a theory of counseling. It talks about the background and development of the psychotherapeutic theory. In its background, we examine the life of Dr. Alfred Adler who was a major contributor to the theory. The philosophies of the therapy are then discussed and identity intervention strategies that are appropriate for the therapy are analyzed. The therapy has a number of challenges and these challenges are discussed in the paper. Ethical and legal implications of the theory are also identified in the paper. The paper then applies the theory through the case study of Margarita.
















Theoretical Framework

Counseling is a complex process that requires the counselor to answer a series of questions. The questions will prompt the counselor to put into consideration the best methods to put into place to ensure that the client is helped in the best way. This then provides a basis for the need of a counseling theory. The counseling theory seeks to give solutions to these questions that the counselor is required to answer. ‘A counseling theory is a story of a person’ (Fall, Holden, Marquis, 2010). The story is usually that of the client. The story creates order in the information shared by the client. An effective theory will give character development, the causes of issues in the individual’s life and ways in which counseling will approach these issues. A counseling theory also defines the role of a counselor in aiding the client. The counselor is then tasked with the responsibility of selecting a theory (Fall, Holden, Marquis, 2010). There are various theories of counseling. This paper will look at Adlerian as a counseling theory. It will discuss its history, philosophies, identity intervention strategies, limitations and the legal and ethical considerations. The paper will also examine a case study where the theory will be applied.


Dr. Alfred Adler contributed greatly to this theory. Dr. Alfred was faced with numerous health issues during his earlier stages of life. He also witnessed the passing away of his brother who had succumbed to pneumonia. These events greatly influenced his numerous contributions to the field of psychology. His encounters with health issues made him to strive towards a pursuit of overcoming death. His self-image was greatly damaged and he was exposed to emotions of inferiority (Sharf, 2004). He was interested in the theories of compensation and over compensation and recognized the need for compensation. He begun by supporting the Psychoanalytical Theory but later on he began to disagree with its philosophies (Fall, Holden, Marquis, 2010). Freudian’s views expressed through the Psychoanalytical Theory are believed to be the womb of the Adlerian psychology (Corsini & Wedding, 1984).

In 1911, Adler began his Free Psychoanalytic theory. He however renamed the theory to the Individual Psychology theory. He believed that the personality of a person could not be divided into different components. Adler claimed that the psychological health of an individual could be determined by his contribution to society (Sharf, 2004). He emphasized on the social nature of man. In 1914, he began the Journal for Individual Psychology (Stein, 2008).

The First World War slowed down the development of the Individual Psychology theory. This was because of Adler’s participation in the military. After Austria’s defeat in the war, Adler put into practice his social views through giving lectures and producing publications that benefited numerous learning institutions. His involvement in the educational sector of USA greatly popularized his theory (Sharf, 2004).

Basic Philosophies

The Adlerian theory has various assumptions and philosophies. Man’s features are embedded in society. The theory assumes that of all man’s behavior takes place in the social context. The theory goes to show the dependant relationship that exists between the man’s behavior and his environment. Individuals are born to the environment and it is paramount that they interact with their surrounding. Adler strongly believes that individuals cannot be studied in isolation; they need to be viewed in relation to their environment (Corsini & Wedding, 1984).

‘Individual Psychology is an interpersonal psychology’ (Corsini & Wedding, 1984). This particular assumption shows that there is a need to understand the relationships that occur between individuals. This is the basis for social interest. The feeling of belonging in the society begins with understanding interpersonal relationships. Another assumption is the holistic nature of the study of man. Adlerian psychology is against reductionism. Holism focuses on study the individual as an entity while reductionism emphasizes on part-functions study. The Adlerian theory takes a centralized approach. Therefore, polarities like conscious and unconscious are not relevant. They are only a subject of the mind (Corsini & Wedding, 1984).

The Adlerian theory assumes that both the conscious and unconscious work for the benefit of the individual. They are used in furthering the goals of man. The theory assumes that not all that is known by man is understood by him. The theory suggests that all that which is not understood by man is the unconscious. Another basic assumption of the theory is that the individual must be looked at from the cognitive perspective in order to be fully understood. This implies understanding the make up and influence of the brain to man’s behavior. This also includes understanding the convictions of an individual. The convictions will influence an individual’s interpretations of events and his ability to control them. Convictions can be defined as those conclusions that are drawn from an individual’s comprehension and are usually biased. The theory also suggests that an individual’s lifestyle should also be looked at in relation to his cognitive development. An individual’s life style is perceived to be the medium through which they look at themselves concerning their convictions about life.

Another assumption of the theory is that man’s behavior may change in relation to his immediate or long-term demands. These demands are influenced by the goals that occur naturally in the individual’s life style. Though the individual’s behavior may change, his life style remains constant. However, an exception occurs when his convictions are altered through psychotherapy. The individual’s life style is then automatically changed. The view of psychotherapy in this particular context surpasses that of a consulting room and goes to include life itself as psychotherapeutic. The Adlerian theory also assumes that people are not dictated by heredity or their environment. Individuals are not pushed by causes; they are instead moved by the goals that they set. These goals are set with the intention that they will give them a placing in society. Through these goals, individuals continuously strive to give themselves self worth and security.

Adler also identifies the core striving of man. He distinguishes them concerning the direction that they take. Some of the strivings that he identified were self-realization, completion, superiority and perfection. Strivings that are purely for the individual’s gain are considered to be of no use to the society. He goes further to referrer to them, in extreme conditions, as symptoms of mental illness. Those strivings that have their focus on the benefit of the societies are deemed useful. Adler considers these particular strivings to be those that seek solutions, and contribute to humanity. In the process, the individual is able to achieve self-realization. (Corsini & Wedding, 1984).

Humans are looked at as creative individuals. This then allows them to choose the goals that they are of their interests. The fact that they are self-determined will mean that they will that they will choose options that are in line with their values. These may be those that will benefit the society or those that will solely benefit them. This then brings about the concepts of value and meaning into psychology. The value that is upheld by the Adlerian theory is that of social interest. Society demands that we coexist with one another. Social interaction occurs in al the spheres of life, even with those individuals that who express mental illnesses.

The Adlerian theory lays little emphasis on nomenclature. This is because of the major concern that is put on processes. The process of laying the differences that occur between the functional and organic disorder does not usually bring a challenge. This is during the diagnosis process. The reason for this is because each disorder posses defining characteristics. The psychogenic behavior will attribute to a social or psychological cause. The organic behavior on the other hand, will have a somatic cause. This then goes to show that all the behaviors in humans are driven by purpose (Corsini & Wedding, 1984).

The Adlerian theory assumes that there are three tasks and these tasks are usually life’s presentation of challenges. These tasks are society, work and sex. Though the theory mentions these, two more tasks go unmentioned. In light to the task of society, the theory suggests that man cannot live in isolation. Man experiences a particular interdependency that occurs inherently in him. The interdependency arises because each man plays a particular role in the development of the society. When and if these roles are not done, then the society and man as an individual experiences incomplete development.

The interdependence of man births the concept of work. The role of the man in society is completed through the task of work. In an environment where most of the individuals are cooperative, then these roles are put into effect. The aspect of sex requires an added effort towards understanding the two types of sexes that exist. The tasks of understanding these sexes require the society to define their roles. These roles come about because of cultural considerations. These roles should then be socialized to the members of the society to enable them to act in accordance to that which is considered a norm. The aspect of sexes, as the Adlerian theory suggests, should not spark enmity but instead it should create room for cooperation. The two unmentioned tasks are spirituality and the task of coping with ourselves. In spirituality, the theory expresses the need for man to define the nature of a supreme being and his works while in coping with ourselves, man is required to be in peace with himself. This is important for a healthy psychological existence.


Identity Intervention Strategies

There are numerous types of identity intervention strategies. Examples of these techniques are subjective interviewing, objective interviewing, early recollection technique and encouragement technique. The early recollection technique can go well with the Adlerian theory because of the theory’s support for childhood experiences as a causative of psychological problems. The early recollection technique will allow the client to recall experiences in his childhood and then list them down. This will enable the counselor to see various patterns and themes in the life of the client. These themes may expose the core issues in the client’s life.

Another technique that will go well with this theory is the objective interview technique. This technique allows the counselor to ask the client questions with the aim of finding the history of the client’s problems. The counselor is also able to interpret the client’s answers and give suggestions on the therapeutic approach to be used in the client.


The Adlerian theory has a number of limitations. The effectiveness of basic concepts of the theory such as social interests has been challenged (Jones-Smith, 2012). Another limitation is that the thoughts of Dr. Adler are not easily understood. This is because in his theory, he failed to give his thoughts a systemized structure. The principles of the theory were mostly taught and little effort was put into organizing them to give a well-defined theory. Culture can also be a limitation in the Adlerian therapy. The therapy requires the client to give a lot of information. Where a particular culture encourages discretion, the therapy then faces a big challenge.

Another limitation of the theory is that it is hard to implement. This is because the theory requires the counselor to master many techniques to maintain the integrity of the theory. The methodology that is incorporated in Adlerian therapy requires one to be thorough. Apart from that, the theory gives the counselor an explicit map to follow. This map guides the interventions that are to be used. The counselor will then be required to spend a lot of time and effort in learning the approach (Savard, 2008).

Legal and Ethical Considerations

One of the legal concerns of the theory is that which deals with the consent of the client. The counselor should avail adequate information concerning the therapy to allow the client to make an informed decision. Concealing certain information about the therapy may be considered as a breach of contract. The counselor is meant to represent the interest of his client. This implies that the counselor should avail necessary information concerning the therapy to allow the client to make proper decisions.

One of the ethical considerations of the theory is the counselor’s preparation and qualifications (Jacobs, Masson, Harvill, & Schimmel, 2012). This is because the theory provides a very rigid framework and map to be followed when implementing the interventions. Failure of correct mastery of the framework will lead to loss of integrity of the theory. The counselors using the theory in their work must therefore posses the proper qualifications needed to carry out the therapy effectively.

Another ethical issue is that of the counselor leading the client in memory recollection. The client should be given the chance to remember past events without the interference of the counselor. The counselor is not meant to take advantage of the client’s vulnerability.

Alignment with Personal Philosophies

Some aspects of the theory align with my personal philosophies. One of these aspects is the philosophy that human life must have social consideration. I agree with this philosophy because I believe that no man can live in isolation. Individuals must have either direct or indirect interaction with members of the society. This is because no one is self-sufficient; there is a need for others to compliment us where we fall short. It is therefore paramount for any individual to be analyzed in relation to his society. This important in order for one to understand man holistically. In the society are embedded norms and expectations that influence an individual. The psychological development of an individual and his society are therefore correlated.

The Case of Margarita

Margarita has come to seek help for her depression, social awkwardness and emotional outbursts. She also has concerns over her aggression and anger. The counseling theory that will be applied by the counselor is the Adlerian theory. This paper will show the application of the theory to her case. An analysis of various cultural considerations brought by the choice of theory and the limitations that the Adlerian theory shows on Margarita will also be examined.


Margarita’s case provides a counselor with the opportunity of taking up goals aimed at helping her. One of the goals is cultivating a sense of equality in Margarita. This particular goal is in response to the fact that se does not see herself worthy to interact with other members of the society. The second goal is changing the life style of the client. The lifestyle is molded by the client’s convictions. The third goal is to reduce her feelings of inferiority. The fourth goal is for the counselor to help the client to change her faulty thinking and motivations. The major goal of the counselor will be to find the genesis of the client’s anger. In finding the core of the anger, the counselor must then find ways of dealing with this anger.

Application of the Theory

A major goal of the Adlerian theory is to scrutinize the goals and premises of the client. This scrutiny is done with the sole purpose of challenging the foundations of the client. The case of Margarita shows that she needs to build her self-image. The client says she experiences social awkwardness. There is a need for Margarita to develop a positive view of herself. The client also admits that though she experiences feelings of depression, she puts on a façade that allows her take up the roles that society expects her to. These roles are those of being a mother, wife, student and professional.

The client also admits that she is not able to find the cause of her anger. Margarita has frequent anger outbursts that have caused her to move into isolation. She hardly interacts with friends and other members of the society. Margarita is involved in many social groups and committees where she has various leadership positions. She is then forced to play out these roles but does not form personal relationships. This is because she believes that she is not worthy of enjoying such companionship.

Phases of the Theory

Four phases occur in the application of the Adrenaline theory. The first phase is that of establishing a relationship between the client and the counselor. This relationship will help in coming up with the goals for the intervention. The relationship is built by the counselor and client working together. They then set the goals that are to be achieved. The counselor will be able to identify the kinds of techniques that will suit the client best. In this phase, the techniques used are those of listening empathetically and moving with the client through each expression of issues. In this particular phase, the counselor gets to clarify the goals to the client and making a few suggestions on the ways of handling the client’s problem.

The phase that follows is that of searching the dynamics of the client’s diversity. The counselor may be forced to interview the client. The purpose of this particular phase is for the counselor to gain understanding of the client’s life. This pursuit for understanding will require the counselor to asses the client. This will comprise the first counseling session. Margarita would be encouraged to tell the story of her life through a subjective interview. This particular phase will also allow the counselor to ask the client to describe the life that she would like to live.

The third face is that of insight. The client is encouraged to gain an understanding of herself. The counselor must strive to bring to surface the client’s purposes that are unknown to her. This will allow the client o gain an understanding of herself. This face brings to light the motives that drive the life of the client. The thoughts of Margarita will then be interpreted by the counselor in a way that will show a reflection of her self-image. The counselor gets the opportunity to give the client suggestions while interpreting her motives. These suggestions may be in line with the core factors that influence the client’s behavior or they may be an expression of what the counselor thinks might be ailing the client.

The fourth phase involves reeducation and reorientation. This phase deals with the client being helped to discover a different perspective. Most of the therapeutic implementation lies in this stage. This is because the past and present situations of the client have already been assessed and what needs to be changed has already been identified. The new perspective must be more functional than the client’s current one. Margarita will start the process remolding her motivations and behaviors through the counselor’s encouragement. She will be moved towards the direction of making choices and allowing her self to change her pattern of reasoning.

Techniques Applied

Various techniques can be applied to Margarita’s case. Margarita’s enrollment into a prestigious school and her multiple social leadership positions are true indicators of the client’s success. However, the client feels a level of inequality that makes her isolate herself from making social ties. Her inability to see her equality in the society is influenced by her thinking patterns. These patterns then lay the foundation for the techniques that will be applied to the client’s case. The first technique to be used will be that of encouragement. This particular technique will help in building the client’s courage and confidence. Courage and confidence will pave way for the success of the intervention.

The second technique to be used is that of carrying out an interview. The fast type of interviewing technique was carried out during the first phase of the Adlerian therapy. This kind of interview technique was subjective interview. The second type of interview that can be carried out is the objective interview. The counselor’s main aim of using this technique is to find out more information concerning the client. The kind of information excepted by the counselor is the client’s reason for seeking therapy at that particular time and the history of the problem. The counselor is then able to move with appropriate knowledge concerning the client. This technique can be applied in the second and third stages of the Adlerian therapy.

The early reconnection technique can then be used on Margarita. This is because of the information that counselor has on the history of Margarita’s problem. The technique of interviewing exposes the counselor to Margarita’s early life events. At this point, the counselor can ask Margarita to list the occurrences of her childhood or earlier life. The essence of doing this is to enable the counselor to get a clear picture of margarita’s misconceptions. The counselor is also able to see recurrent patterns in her childhood. The patterns could show themes of rejection, contempt and under appreciation. This technique is applied in the phase of insight.

This realization then gives root to Margarita’s problem. The counselor is then able to address the core issue. At this point, the counselor is likely to have discovered most of Margarita’s insecurities that are because of childhood experiences. The need to maintain a façade may be because of feeling unworthy before important people in her life like her husband. The unworthy feelings may be because of her anger issue. These feelings may drive her to pursue perfection while covering her flaws. This is a representation of faulty thinking patterns. It is most likely that her husband loves her in spite of her imperfections. The need of her husband is for the wife to be in control of her emotions. The counselor has the duty to highlight issues that need Margarita’s confrontation. Her confrontation will mark the beginning of solving these issues.

Cultural Considerations and Limitations of the Theory

The culture of America is quite different from that of Puerto Rico where Margarita spent the first sixteen years of her life. The client also experienced an aspect of transnationalism. Her parents had moved to America and were being influenced by the culture but still held firm to their native culture. They did not experience complete assimilation to the American culture. This cultural diversity makes the Adlerian theory apt for the case of Margarita. This is because the theory addresses social integration of different cultures. One of the core values of the Adlerian theory is social consideration that emphasizes the need for society to coexist. Apart from this, the theory also considers society’s minority groups and the value attached to their cultural practices.

Margarita’s therapy does however have a number of challenges. One of these challenges is in relation to her Hispanic background. The Spanish people are known to be rather conservative. The counselor will have a hard time convincing Margarita to open up and share her personal experiences with a complete stranger. The fact that they are emigrants has also created a form of cohesion among them. It will therefore be hard for a member who is not within the circle of familiar family and friends to gather information from Margarita.


Reference List

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Carlson, J., Watts, R. E., & Maniacci, M. (2006). Adlerian therapy: Theory and practice. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Cepeda, L. M., & Davenport, D. S. (2006). Person-centered therapy and solution-focused brief therapy: An integration of present and future awareness. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 43(1), 1–12.

Corsini, R., & Wedding, D. (1984). Current psychotherapies. Itasca: F.E. Peacock Publishers.

Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2010). Theoretical models of counseling and psychotherapy. New York: Brunner-Routledge.

Jacobs, E. E., Masson, R. L., Harvill, R. L., & Schimmel, C. J. (2012). Group counseling: Strategies and skills. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Jones-Smith, E. (2012). Theories of counseling and psychotherapy: An integrative approach. London: SAGE Publications.

Knight, T. (2007). Showing clients the doors: Active problem-solving in person-centered psychotherapy. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 17(1), 111–124.

Savard, M. (2008). Critical collaboration: Adlerian Therapy and Gestalt Therapy. Ann Arbor, Mich: University Microfilms International.

Sharf, R. S. (2004). Theories of psychotherapy & counseling: Concepts and cases. Australia: Thomson-Brooks/Cole.

Stein, H. (2008). Adler’s legacy: Past, present, and future. Journal of Individual Psychology, 64(1), 4–20.

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