What are the techniques of Adlerian therapy?

Adlerian therapy is also referred to as individual psychology the word “individual” in individual psychology is derived from the Latin word “individum” meaning ‘indivisible’ or ‘holistic’. Adlerian theory is holistic, goal-directed, and socially oriented in its approach. It’s an integration of Cognitive, constructive, existential-humanistic, psychodynamic, and of systematic perspectives. There are also various techniques in Adlerian therapy, which are discussed below.

View of Human Nature 

Some of the important Concepts in Adlerian approach include:

  1.  Style of life: this is an Adlerian term for personality which contains a person’s unique and individually created convictions, goals, and personal beliefs for coping with tasks and challenges of life. Style of life is created by each person uniquely in their childhood and over the years it’s progressively refined throughout an individual’s life.
  2. Germeinschaftsgefuhl: it’s a German word which means ‘community feeling’ or ‘social interest’. The community feeling addresses the affective and emotional aspects of an individual. And the social interest addresses the cognitive and behavioral aspects. In other words, community feeling is our sense of belonging, empathy, caring, compassion, acceptance for others which motivate social interest, thoughts, feeling that contribute to the common good.
  3. Striving for perfection or superiority: Adlerian believes that human aims towards competence, completeness, or mastery which is called striving for perfection or superiority. Striving for perfection means that one is driving towards greater competence both for oneself and for common good. It’s a horizontal striving that is useful both for self and for others. On the other hand, striving for superiority means aiming to be superior to others. It’s a vertical striving that fulfills personal goals without any contribution to the common good.
  4. Discouragement: Adlerian view their client as discouraged from engaging in the task of living and not as sick or in need of a cure. Symptoms are seen from a proactive perspective wherein they facilitate movement toward the desired goal.

Read more about Adlerian theory of personality, here

Techniques of Adlerian therapy

Techniques of Adlerian therapy

The following are the techniques used in Adlerian therapy:

  • Encouragement
  • Style of life analysis
  • Hypothesis interpretation
  • The question
  • Acting as if
  • Push-button technique


Adlerian counseling is encouragement-focused therapy. they use encouragement throughout the therapy process. According to Adler clients come to therapy because they are discouraged and lack the confidence to engage in different tasks and problems of life. Encouragement is used by counselors to build the hope and expectancy of success in the life of the client. This technique is also used to build new patterns of behavior, develop more encouraging perceptions, and access resources and strengths. 

Encouragement technique in Adlerian therapy includes the following:

  1. Valuing clients as they are
  2. Demonstrating concerns for clients through active listening
  3. Focusing on clients strengths, assets, and abilities
  4. Respect and empathy for the client
  5. Helping clients in forming perceptual alternatives for discouraging fictional beliefs and oppressive narratives.
  6. Helping clients distinguish between ‘who they are’ and ‘what they do’.
  7. Communicating affirmations and appreciation to clients.

Style of life analysis

As discussed above style of life is the Adlerian term for personality which contains a person’s unique and individually created convictions, goals, and personal beliefs for coping with tasks and challenges of life.

The Adlerian therapist usually uses interviews to conduct a style of life analysis. The therapist may take two to three sessions to complete the analysis. during the interview, the therapist asks questions about the client’s relationship with the siblings, parent’s influence, physical, sexual and social development during childhood, school experience, local community, socio-economic status among others.

This information is used by the counselor to form a tentative hypothesis about the client’s style of life, ways of behavior, their view of themself and the world, and so on. this tentative hypothesis is then presented to the client.

Hypothesis interpretation

The purpose of this technique is to convey to the counselor that there are more than one ways to explain the behavior. For example, after the style of life analysis, the counselor can ask the client “could it be that…”. This will help the counselor know that if his/her interpretations are on the right path. 

The question

In this technique, counselors ask a variation of the following question that Adler formulated: “how would your life be different if you no longer had this problem?” This question forces clients to think in terms of a new reality where they are no longer burdened with their problems. 

There are three possible responses to this question:

  1. One type of response suggests that the symptoms are purely psychological in nature.
  2. The other type of response suggests that the symptoms are purely psychological in nature.
  3. The third type of response is a combination of physical and psychological problems. 

Acting as if

In this technique, counselors ask the client to act as if they already are the person they want to be. This technique gives the client an opportunity to enact in a preferred way and restore oppressive aspects of their style of life.

In Acting as if the therapist asks the client to pretend and emphasizes that they are only acting. For example, the client has suggested a task in which the client has to act. If he/she is unable to complete the task, the therapist explores with the client what kept him/her from having a successful experience

The push-button technique:

The technique helps the client to become a very of their role in maintaining or creating their own and present feelings. This technique takes place in the following three phases:

  • Phase one: in this phase clients are asked to close their eyes and think of a time in their lives when they felt happy, loved, and successful. They are asked to focus on all details the feeling evokes.
  • Phase 2: in this phase clients are asked to close their eyes and think of an unpleasant memory in that Lives.
  • Phase 3: in this phase clients are asked to think of good memory as in phase 1.

After this clients are asked about their experience. They are expected to learn that it’s certain thoughts or images that generate certain feelings and can have a profound impact on our mood.


Razia Rashid is the founder of Psychology To Safety and a freelancer. She is interested in studying psychology, women in conflict, and peacebuilding.