Free Paper on Theories of Personality: Alfred Alder System Theory Summary

Published: 2023-12-19
Free Paper on Theories of Personality: Alfred Alder System Theory Summary
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Psychology Personality
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1193 words
10 min read


Alfred Alder System theory is one of the psychiatric theories that understand individuals within their social context. Alfred Alder was a renowned psychiatrist during the early 1900s who took it upon himself to address the crucial and contemporary issues of lifestyle, equality, parent education, and individuals (Alder Graduate School, 2020). According to Alder, the need to belong and feel significant is every individual's basic desire and goal (Alder Graduate School, 2020). People feel capable and appreciated and generally act in a connected and cooperative way when encouraged. However, discouragement leads to unhealthy competition methods, withdrawal, and giving up. As a result, Aldean’s philosophy attributed disorders to pessimism.

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How Disorders Develop

Those who ascribe to Alderian philosophy believe that individuals misbehave because they are discouraged. According to individual theory, human’s primary goal is to self-mastery and competence; a process that Alder referred to as striving for superiority (Watts, 2015). The strife for supremacy is man's answer to the ordinary and universal feelings of insignificance, disempowerment, and the accompanying belief that a person is less than they should be, otherwise known as an inferiority complex. Alder's theory of individual psychology indicates that people with an inferiority complex tend to be overly focused on how people perceive them rather than solve their problems. As a result, they would be passive and withdrawn and respond to inferiority with a superiority complex characterized by arrogance and boastfulness. That goal of exaggerated significance or superiority leads to mental disorders.

Avoidance and Resolution of Disorders

Based on Alder’s psychology, disorders can be avoided or resolved through a non-pathological perspective. The model emphasizes the holistic, phenomenological, teleological, field-theoretically, and socially embedded functions of human functioning (Watts, 2015). Resolving the exaggerated significance or superiority requires viewing people as unique and capable individuals responsible and creative. That means, instead, the Alderian philosophy perceives clients as being discouraged, rather than being sick. As a result, the disorder's resolution is not about curing but instead a form of encouragement.

However, the whole disorder can be avoided by overcoming inferiority feelings during development. According to Schultz and Schultz (2017), the process of inferiority begins in infancy when the individual is small and helpless and entirely dependent on their parents or guardian. The child develops a feeling of inferiority relative to the larger and stronger adults surrounding him or her. The experience applies to everyone, but it is a function of the environment. However, in as much as the inferiority feelings are inescapable, they motivate striving and growing. However, a child needs to compensate for those feelings of inferiority as they get older. Constant encouragement while growing up may help the child overcome such inferiority in infancy and prevent them from overcompensating.

Assessment Method

Assessment in the Alderean theory can be summarized into four phases starting with the relationship phase. The client-counselor relationship is the most important of the four phases as the success of the following stages is dependent on the success of the first (Watts. 2013). The counseling is described as optimistic, respectful, egalitarian, collaborative, and cooperative. The second phase is an assessment that is viewed as a continuous ongoing process rather than a single event. It includes obtaining information about the client’s childhood and early recollections. That is because Alder theorized that personality is created within the first four to five years of a person’s life (Schlutz & Schultz, 2017). The memories from that period, known as early recollections, continue to characterize an individual towards adulthood.

Then there is the third phase known as insight or interpretation. The counselor uses all the information gathered in the assessment phase to develop a provisional hypothesis about the client's lifestyle style (Watts, 2013). They include items such as patterns of behavior, their view of themselves, and the world around them. The last phase is the reorientation, which is also known as action-oriented. Clients are encouraged to make constructive changes that are necessary to reach their desired goals. According to Watts (2013), clients in the reorientation phase must be encouraged because discouraged clients fear taking steps or risks.

Treatment Method

Alderian counseling has different techniques that they use to administer treatment to their clients. Those methods include behavioral, experimental, and cognitive strategies for resolving inferiority complex disorders (Watts, 2013). Some methods, such as early memory recollections, encouragement, and hypothesis interpretation, have already been mentioned in the paper. Another treatment method is the style of life analysis.

The style of life analysis is based on the argument that in the process of compensating for helplessness and dependency during infancy, people tend to acquire a set of behaviors. (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). These behaviors become part of their lifestyle. For example, a sickly child might compensate for a regular visit to the gym. Therefore, Alderian counselors would conduct interviews that lead to the formulation of or summarizing a client's lifestyle style. The interviewers would ask about the client's family, memories, and development domains on the physical and sexual aspects.

Occurrence of Change

Change or development occurs by identifying the conflict within the client's mind to move away from the disorder. The aha! The moment when the client is unable to hide the effect of their symptom. That is the thing purpose or goal of certain behavior that the client has. Alternatively, the client feels a sense of encouragement as they start to realize that all the resources needed to overcome the problem are already available to them (Watt, 2013). As the feelings of disempowerment or insignificance start to recede, the patient begins to feel a sense of encouragement and community feeling. The client becomes less dependent on their compensation mechanism, which they use to safeguard their self-esteem.


The main goal/outcome of the treatment is for the client to come out of the therapy feeling encouraged and feeling less insecure about themselves. That is, start allowing for healthy compensation of childhood insecurities. Since Alderean philosophy perceives disorders not just as reactions to problems, but also as attempted solutions (Watts, 2013), healthy growth and development would be characterized by a community feeling and social interest instead of narcissistic self-interest.

Also, Alderian counselors would want to help clients assimilate and experience information in disagreement with existing cognitive structures. That means that the clients have the option of removing personal beliefs and narratives that are growth-inhibitive and replacing them with the ones that enhance their growth and overcome feelings of discouragement and inferiority. According to Watts (2013), the ultimate goal of Alderian counseling is the expansion of the client's community feeling. Their goals are relationally focused and want to help the clients engage in tasks of living in healthy and useful ways.


Alder Graduate School. (, 2020). Alfred Alder: Theory and Application.,a%20humanistic%20philosophy%20of%20living.&text=According%20to%20Adler%2C%20when%20we,a%20connected%20and%20cooperative%20way.

Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2017). Theories of personality. Cengage Learning.

Watts, R. E. (2013). Adlerian counseling. The handbook of educational theories, 459-472. Information Age Publishing.

Watts, R. E. (2015). Adler’s individual psychology: The original positive psychology. Revista de psicoterapia, 26(102), 123-131.

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