Alfred Adler had a teleological approach. This means that he believed that motivation behind current behaviors is future goals and not past events. Adler didn’t completely ignore past events (hence why this is part of psychodynamic paradigm).

Personality Development

According to Adler, three elements contribute to personality development.

  • Inferiority Feelings develop during childhood. These feelings emerge due to biological, psychological, and social weaknesses as perceived by the child.
  • Striving for Superiority is the inherent tendency that an individual has towards being whole and perfect.
  • Social Interest is the sense of belonging and kinship that an individual feels within his environment, mainly the community.

Styles of Life

Adler believed that a person compensates for inferiority and strives for superiority by choosing a Style of Life. A Healthy Style of Life is one where the individuals has optimistic goals, self-confidence, and care and concern for others. A Mistaken Style of Life is one where the individuals becomes self-centered, competitive, and has no care for others.

Maladaptive Behavior stems from a Mistaken Style of Life. The individual tries to compensate for feelings of inferiority, attempts to gain personal power, and therefore lacks social interest.

Adlerian approach has been used to develop the Systematic Training for Effective Teaching (STET) where children in school are identified for behavioral problem due to their personal goals of getting attention, achieving power, practicing revenge, and displaying deficiency.

Psychotherapy and Goals

An Adlerian therapist will focus on developing a collaborative relationship with the client. They will help the client identify their particular Style of Life and how this has served them in the past (benefits and consequences). Lastly, there will be a focus on altering the Style of Life to one that’s more adaptive and beneficial for future goals.