An Adlerian Renaissance

Published April 10, 2019, The NASAP Newsletter (TNN), Erik Mansager, PhD

Ahead to Adler? Ahead to Adler!

Including this issue, for six NASAP Newsletters I’ve shared ideas about Adler as a depth psychologist and the impact of his theory on depth psychotherapy. As I write this installment, I hope that the information presented has been accessible, stimulating and useful.

The point of the column has been to introduce readers to another way of looking at Adler, his theory, and his therapy. This isn’t a new way – but one that has been around since he was providing therapy himself.

Taking a hint from one of Adler’s students and Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy (CADP) mentor, Sophia DeVries, I have intended to show where we are going – not where we aren’t going – and to be respectful while contrasting this original direction and mainstream Adlerian counseling. To read these columns as promoting CADP as the only way to do Adlerian counseling would be misunderstanding the intent. Those who read it as if I were “heresy hunting” (as a reviewer commented about an article recently accepted for publication in JIP) may be willfully misunderstanding.

Surely one can see in CADP much that NASAP members can recognize from their own training. I hope that they are also able to draw clear distinctions between that training and CADP. These are very different approaches to Adler’s ideas and practice.

Of course, Adler had his own unique way of healing. None of us can do it as he did. He was a genius who felt it in his bones and then did a pretty good job of articulating his wholly synthetic vision of humanity in extensive writing and orally to the first generation of practitioners who followed and listened to and practiced with him. The data about this style can be found in his biographies (including Bottome, 1957; Ellenberger, 1970; Hoffman, 1996; Orgler, 1963; Sperber, 1974) and attestation of the kindness involved can even be found in contemporary critical writings about Adler (e.g., Jacoby, 1975; Stepansky, 1983).

This early group found consensus: to be Adlerian involves the gentle and kind use of one’s own creativity and healed personality for applying Adler’s insights within the therapeutic process. They also concurred that this can’t be learned from books – and did all they could to pass it on with care, to interested others.

I’ll leave the last word to Adler himself, who faced many controversies over his career – some quite acrimonious. He was tough-minded when he felt his methods were being compromised or used lackadaisically in a potentially harmful way. But, by nature, he looked for the benefit in disagreements, knowing that none of us have access to the absolute truth. I believe the attitude conveyed in the closing statement will serve well those interested in an Adlerian renaissance – in learning and applying his whole theory and therapy for the benefit of our needy world.

All movements should be judged only in accordance with their ability to further interest in our fellow men and we shall find that there are many ways to help in increasing cooperation. Perhaps there are better and worse ways; but, if the goal of cooperation is granted, it is useless to attack one method because it may not be the best. (Adler, 1931, p. 254)