Therefore, the therapist and counselor should be aware of the subjective view or interpretation of reality of the patient. This has important implications in many fields; for example, in education. Using Adler's theory, "…apparent under-achievement in school is to be understood more in terms of the student subjective interpretations than in terms of standardized test results" (Dunn, 1971, p. 8). This also relates to Adler's emphasis on the uniqueness of the individual. For example he states that, "I have found that each individual has a different meaning of, and attitude toward, what constitutes success. Therefore, a human being cannot be typified or classified ( Adler, 1964, p. 68). This is a crucial aspect of his theoretical stance and the refusal to categorize human beings leads to an open-ended view of personality.
Holism is a concept that has a particularly significant place in the overall meaning of Adlerian theory. This refers to the integrated and individual nature of the human personality. In terms of a holistic perspective the individual cannot be understood as a collection or amalgam of separate psychological aspects or "parts" but rather as a whole and integrated dynamic system. This also takes into account the understanding of the individual in relationship to the environment and social context in which he or she lives and functions. From this perspective the individual is seen as a "…unified psychobiological organism" (Dunn, 1971, p. 8). This is underlined by Adler's statement that; " Individual Psychology has established the presumption, against which no argument can be found, of the unity and self-consistency of the personality" ( Adler, 1964, p. 24).
The above point on holism also leads to the Adlerian concept of Style of Life. Style of Life is the overall understanding of the overall psychological unity of the individual. According to Adler, "…every individual is characterized by unity across the broad spectrum of personality-cognitions, affect, and behavior" (Wattsand Critelli, 1997. P.147). Therefore, Style of Life is in essence a "cognitive blueprint" of the unique individual, which includes aspects such as subjective perceptions, goals as well as belief systems (Watts and Critelli, 1997. P.147). A person's lifestyle is therefore the unique and characteristic way that the individual perceives himself as well as other. It is also the key to understanding his world and immediate environment and, even more importantly, this perception is central to the way that the individual strives and is motivated towards certain life goals (Lewis and Osborn, 2004, p1).
Lifestye, or rather an understanding of lifestyle, is also important in terms of maladjustment and developmental problem. "For Adler, maladaptive core lifestyle convictions (cognitive constructs) are at the heart of maladjustment" (Watts & Critelli, 1997). Therapy is therefore aimed at a reconstruction of these cognitive constructs. As referred to above, the maladjusted personality is one who shows little social interest and has a high level of negative "discouragement." "They either have not developed or have lost the "courage" to meet the demands of life" (Watts and Critelli, 1997, p.147).
Even though Adler died more than seventy years ago, his influence is still felt in academic research and various areas of psychotherapy. In fact many critics are of the opinion that Adler's view of the individual and his specific type of "Individual Psychology" is very appropriate and in line with 21st Century thinking. His views on the creative autonomy of the individual and the concept of subjectivity resonate well in the contemporary world and relates to theoretical movements such as humanistic psychology. Of particular note is Adler's refusal to accept stereotyped and normative classifications of there individuals. This view is in line with the more open-ended and postmodern approach to understanding human nature.
There are of course many critiques of aspects of his work. If we are to honestly evaluate his contribution to modern thought and psychological theory we heed his views on the search for truth. While Adler's theory is in essence the search for truth about the reality of the human individual, he also stated that, "….We are not blessed with the possession of absolute truth, and on that account we are compelled to from theories by ourselves about our future, about the results of our actions" (Saba, 1983, p.27). In the light of this statement we should acknowledge the immense and valuable contribution that his work has made towards the understanding of the human personality and its development.
Adler a. ( 1964) Superiority and social interest: A Collection of Later Writings. New York: Basic Books.
Dunn, a. (1971) an Introduction to Adlerian Psychology for the School Counselor.
Annual Convention of the Canadian Guidance and Counseling Association, Toronto, Canada.
Ewen Robert B. An Introduction to Theories of Personality. 5th ed. Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998.
Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 1, 2010.