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Unlock your potential with Adlerian therapy

By Remy Meraz February 14, 2023

Adlerian therapy - Unlock your potential with Adlerian Therapy

Tapping into your own potential is crucial for leading a fulfilling and meaningful life. Each of us has unique strengths and abilities that can be developed and utilized to achieve our goals and aspirations. By unlocking our potential, we can improve our self-esteem and confidence, create a sense of purpose, and live a life that aligns with our values and personal beliefs.

In this post, we will explore the principles of Adlerian therapy, how it works, and how it can help you unlock your potential and achieve your goals. Whether you are struggling with a specific issue or just looking to improve your overall well-being, Adlerian therapy can be a valuable tool in your journey of self-discovery and growth.

What is Adler's psychology?

Adlerian therapy, also called Individual Psychology, was developed by Austrian psychiatrist and psychologist, Alfred Adler. Adler was born in 1870 in Vienna and began his career as a physician, but soon became interested in the field of psychology. He studied under Sigmund Freud and was an early member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. However, he later disagreed with some of Freud's theories and developed his own unique approach to psychology.

In 1911, Adler opened his own private practice in Vienna and began developing his theory of Individual Psychology. He believed that the individual is a unique and holistic entity and that mental health is not just the absence of symptoms but the ability to function well in society. He emphasized the importance of understanding the individual's life history and context, including their early memories, childhood experiences, birth order, and social interactions.

Adler's approach to therapy focuses on the individual's goals and aspirations, and how they can be achieved. He believed that individuals are driven by a "life task" or a desire to overcome feelings of inferiority and achieve a sense of belonging and social usefulness. Through therapy, individuals can identify and overcome obstacles that stand in the way of achieving their goals and living a fulfilling life.

Adlerian therapy was widely accepted and used in Europe, but it did not gain much attention in the United States until the 1950s. Today, Adler's theory is a globally used approach and is used to treat a variety of mental illnesses and mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Benefits of Adlerian Theory

Adlerian therapy has many benefits compared to other therapeutic approaches. Adler's ideas centered around the individual as a whole, including their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as well as their social context and environment. This holistic approach enables the licensed therapist to understand the individual's unique strengths and limitations, and how these affect their mental health.

Additionally, Adlerian psychology places a strong emphasis on helping individuals understand their own goals and aspirations and how to achieve them. This helps individuals to feel motivated and empowers them to take control of their lives and make positive changes. This includes identifying and overcoming obstacles that stand in the way of achieving their goals and building self-esteem and confidence.

Stages of Adlerian Therapy

Whether you are struggling with a specific issue or just looking to improve your overall well-being, understanding these four stages of an Adlerian approach can be a valuable tool in your journey of self-discovery and growth.

If you're experiencing symptoms of a midlife crisis, our detailed guide on how to deal with each stage of a male midlife crisis can offer more help.


The stage of engagement in Adlerian therapy focuses on building a therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the client. This stage is considered essential for the success of therapy and involves the therapist actively engaging with the client and establishing trust and rapport. The therapist will typically begin by gathering information about the client's background, current concerns, and goals for therapy, and will use this information to create a personalized treatment plan.

During this stage, the therapist works to help the client feel comfortable and understood and will establish clear boundaries and expectations for the therapy sessions. Overall, the goal of the engagement stage is to create a safe and supportive environment in which the client feels empowered to explore and work through their issues.

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In Adlerian theory, the evaluation stage is an important aspect of the therapeutic process. It involves the therapist gathering information about the client and their concerns to gain a deeper understanding of the client's unique perspective and life situation. The therapist will typically begin by taking a detailed history of the client's life, including their past experiences, family dynamics, education, work, and relationships.

The therapist will also use observation and assessment tools, such as interviews, questionnaires, and psychological tests, to gather information about the client's symptoms, problems, strengths, and resources. This information will be used to identify the client's unique behavior patterns and develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses the client's specific needs and goals. The therapist will work with the client to become goal-oriented and set objectives for therapy and track their progress over time.

During the evaluation stage, the therapist will be paying attention to the client's lifestyle and gaining insight into how they view the world, how they deal with problems, and their social and economic position and will try to understand the client's feelings and attitudes towards themselves and the world.


Reorientation refers to the process of helping a client change their perspective on themselves and the world in order to adjust their current behavior, overcome problems, and achieve their goals. The reorientation process is considered the core of Adlerian principles and it aims at helping the client to shift their viewpoint and attitude, which can lead to a change in behavior and ultimately to an improvement in the quality of life.

Once the therapist has a clear understanding of the client's perspective, they will begin to challenge the client's beliefs and assumptions about themselves and the world, in a gentle and supportive manner. This process is called private logic, which refers to the way the client interprets and makes sense of the world and their place in it.

Reorientation also involves addressing the client's feelings of inferiority and superiority, since these feelings can cause people to adopt negative beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors which in turn will limit their ability to live a fulfilling life.


The insights stage is the final stage of the therapeutic process, and it involves helping the client to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their behavior, and to integrate this understanding into their daily lives. This stage builds upon the work done in the previous stages, such as engagement and reorientation, and it is where the client's new perspective and understanding of themselves and their problems are consolidated.

During the insights stage, the therapist will continue to work with the client to identify and challenge any negative or maladaptive patterns of thinking and behavior, and to reinforce positive and adaptive behaviors. Additionally, the therapist helps the client to identify and work through any unresolved issues or emotions that may be related to their problems.

The therapist encourages the clients to practice self-reflection and self-awareness in order to gain insight into their own feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. This process can help clients to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their motivations, which can lead to more successful problem-solving and goal attainment.

The therapist will also work to help the client develop a sense of personal responsibility and self-empowerment, which will encourage them to take an active role in their own growth and change.

Techniques of Adlerian Theory

Adlerian psychotherapy incorporates a variety of techniques to help clients understand and change their behavior. Some of the techniques that Adlerian therapists may use include:

  1. Encouragement and praise: Adlerian therapists will often provide clients with positive reinforcement in order to build their self-esteem and encourage them to engage in positive behaviors.
  2. Goal setting: Adlerian therapists work with clients to set realistic and achievable goals for therapy, which helps to give clients a sense of purpose and direction.
  3. Lifestyle assessment: Adlerian therapists assess the client's pattern of behavior, including the client's occupation, leisure activities, and relationships, to gain an understanding of how the client views the world and their place in it.
  4. Guided discovery: Adlerian therapists use questions and guided discussions to help clients explore their thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
  5. Role-playing and modeling: Adlerian therapists may use role-playing exercises to help clients practice new skills and behaviors in a safe and controlled environment.
  6. Social interest and democratic approach: Adlerian therapists emphasize the importance of encouraging clients to develop a sense of social interest, which is the desire to contribute to the well-being of others. This democratic approach encourages clients to become actively involved in their communities and to develop a sense of belonging and purpose.

These techniques are tailored to each client's unique needs and they are used to help clients understand themselves, others, and the world better, identify their unique strengths and resources, and develop new skills and strategies for coping with problems and achieving their goals.

Tell me the expected outcome.

The ultimate goal of Adler's holistic theory is to help clients achieve a greater sense of personal satisfaction, self-esteem, and well-being. Adler believed that people should strive for social interest, which means seeing themselves as important and contributing members of their community and society. By developing a sense of social interest, clients can experience improved mental health and feel fulfilled and satisfied in life, which can help to reduce feelings of inferiority, anxiety, and depression.

In general, people who go through Adlerian therapy report feeling more self-aware, better able to understand their thoughts and feelings, and more empowered to make positive changes in their lives. They may also report improvements in their relationships and social connectedness, self-esteem, and overall well-being.

However, it's important to note that individual experiences with therapy can vary, and the effectiveness of Adlerian therapy can depend on a number of factors, such as the skill and experience of the therapist, the individual's willingness to engage in the process, and the specific issues being addressed.

It's also important to note that different individuals may have different experiences during therapy; some may find it helpful, while others may not feel significant relief in its methods. It is always important to find the best-fit therapy for each individual.


By understanding the motivations behind our thoughts and actions, Adlerian counseling can help us to unlock our true potential, achieve success, and live a more fulfilling life. If you are looking to make a change in your life and believe that Adlerian therapy may be the right fit for you, consider reaching out to a qualified Adlerian therapist who is trained in this approach and seeking treatment. Learn more about the benefits of life and career coaching.

If you're interested in exploring more about psychological development, you can also check out our post on Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development Explained.

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About Remy Meraz

Remy Meraz, co-founder, and CEO of Zella Life, is a visionary leader who leveraged corporate glass ceiling challenges as a woman of color to drive systemic change.

While leading and cultivating high-performance teams from VC-backed startups to Fortune 500, she consistently faced obstacles such as inadequate mentorship, lack of psychological safety, and non-personalized training. Taking matters into her own hands, she turned to executive coaching and NLP training. This life-changing growth experience led to breaking leadership barriers and a passion for cognitive psychology.

Motivated by her experiences, she co-founded Zella Life, an innovative AI-driven coaching platform bridging the talent development gap by enhancing soft skills and emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace.

Her vision with Zella Life is to transform professional development into an inclusive and impactful journey, focused on the distinct needs of both individuals and organizations. She aims to promote advancement and culture change by ensuring every professional's growth is acknowledged and supported.

Today, Remy is recognized as an influential innovator, trainer, mentor, and business leader. Under her leadership, Zella Life has delivered significant measurable outcomes for numerous well-known brands. This track record of positive outcomes garnered attention and funding from Google for Startups and Pledge LA, establishing Zella Life as a pivotal force in the learning and development arena tackling and resolving fundamental talent development issues for organizations of all sizes.

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