What Is the Alfred Adler Theory of Psychoanalysis?

Morsa Images/Taxi/Getty Images

The Alfred Adler theory of psychoanalysis, often referred to as individual psychology, is a theory that emphasizes the social and community aspects of a person’s life as being just as important as his internal realm. Adler’s psychological theory is focused on family dynamics, social interests and the welfare of others.

Adler believed that people’s motivating force is to overcome their inferiority complex by striving for superiority over others. His theory emphasized humans as a whole and stressed the importance of a sense of belonging and feeling nurtured as well as social equality. His approach was oriented toward the achievement of practical goals relating to occupation, society and love. He held a holistic view of the individual and pioneered the practice of family and group counseling.

Alfred Adler was an Austrian psychotherapist who collaborated with Sigmund Freud during the early 1900s in Vienna. However, he broke away from Freud due to his differing ideas about personality development and the relationship between the individual and the surrounding world. He used two chairs, rather than the Freudian method of using a couch, to foster a sense of equality between the therapist and patient.

Although as of 2014 modern mainstream psychology differs from Adler’s approach, which is often referred to as Adlerian psychology, his theories have been influential in shaping the field of psychology, especially in the areas of psychoanalysis and child development.