Adler in Education and the Education of Adlerians

Published August 2, 2021, The NASAP Newlsetter (Connections), by Erik Mansager, PhD

Alfred Adler may well have been the innovator who brought psychological understanding into the classroom, followed only later by the Freudians, Pfister and Aichorn (Ellenberger, 1970, pp. 619-20). In the 1920s Adler and Carl Furtmüller collaborated on a project that paired guidance centers with local schools, and focused on educating teachers and encouraging students.  Their alliance contributed greatly to the 1927 International Congress of Education’ declaration that the “Austrian School is the best in the world” (quoted in Gardner & Stevens, 1992, p. 98).

There is even an anecdote, the source of which I can’t put my fingers on just now, which documented a precipitous drop in “delinquent acts per capita” throughout the districts in which Adler’s 27 or more clinics were located during the time in which they operated. Predictably, the decline in delinquency ended just as abruptly once the clinics were closed by National Socialists in the early 1930s. Reportedly, delinquency has not been as low in Vienna since.

There are innumerable contributions to the development of Adler’s thought in education and I look forward to reading those shared in this issue. For my part, I’d like to address one aspect of “Adler in education”—namely, “the education (training) of Adlerians.”

Of the several viewpoints of educating ourselves in Adlerian thought, I’d like to identify two important ones here. One has to do with the relative thoroughness of one’s Adlerian training and another asks how structuring that training might be most helpful.

The first, thoroughness, is concerned about the extent of touching on the full range of topics and constructs and modality applications that are embraced by Adler’s thinking. While there are numerous publications at the introductory level of Adlerian psychology, surprisingly, the portion that deals with an advanced approach – or that start from the beginning and pace the reader/student into advanced territory – is a surprisingly small number. That’s not to say that our Adlerian literature overall does not cover advanced territory, but it is not especially arranged to grow the therapist into a fuller and fuller understanding of Adler.

The second, structure of training as antidote to simplifying and hit-and-missing, goes to an orderly way of approaching a vast but interconnected body of knowledge. The idea of structure is NOT to put things into a made-up order and connectedness for purposes of memorization and the like. Instead, a developmental approach to the vast material allows mastery of basic concepts that lend themselves to grasping and mastering more complex structures – whether assessment or intervention effectiveness. This isn’t a list of techniques! Creativity is the sine qua non of Adlerian intervention and innovation is more accessible when we own the theory in our bones and have it at our fingertips (DeVries, 2018).

Both thoroughness and structure are essential aspects of effectively educating Adlerian practitioners. We Adlerians are a specialized group that can both use Adler as an adjunct to our general learning or we can focus laser-like on Adler to apply his consistently humanistic approach to specific clientele and clinical situations. In either case – but especially the latter – immersing oneself professionally in Adler’s thought is wanted: thoroughly and structurally.

In this regard familiarizing yourself two important web sites is a good idea:

  1. DISTANCE TRAINING IN CLASSICAL ADLERIAN DEPTH PSYCHOTHERAPY - Alfred Adler. For many years Classical Adlerian training has been a standard for thorough and structured training for in-depth psychotherapy. To take a closer look at what is possible in such training, this site is worth a deep dive. I share it first, as it has been around decades in different and expanding iterations and deserves every Adlerian’s attention.
  2. There is new information and energy at this site, too. Our NASAP conventions are surely helpful in ongoing training – and the development of the Adlerian is being given new and thoughtful consideration. It is inspiring to see the effort put into NASAP’s new certificate.

As keeping abreast of developments and current applications of Adler’s thought is essential, consider keeping thoroughness and structure the watchwords for your Adlerian education.


DeVries, S. J. (2018). The therapeutic wisdom of Sophia J. de Vries. Volume 1: Lectures on Adlerian psychology and case presentations (edited by H. T. Stein).

Ellenberger, H. F. (1970). The discovery of the unconscious. Basic.

Gardner, S. & Stevens, G. (1992). Red Vienna and the golden age of psychology, 1918-1938. Praeger.