Adler and Siegel: Things persist for a purpose

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

I’ve drawn the title for this issue’s column from an earlier presentation (Connections, March 2021) about similarities between Dan Siegel (Brain-iac) and Alfred Adler (Human-iac).

Siegel’s summary presentations of Interpersonal Neurobiology acknowledges that neuro-connections grow stronger once they happenstancially form in our prenatal and perinatal brains. Adler concurs that infants take information in as it presents itself to them – from within their bodies and from outside of them. They make sense of it only later when structures of the developing brain mature enough to evidence a developing mind. Infants start out only relatively open-to-experience. Siegel emphasises that we can continue a certain openness to form new pathways all our life. But that flexibility is not automatic, nor accessible to all, at the personal-growth level. Why not?

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.”

CADP in Action

Presented May 29, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the Annual NASAP Convention.   Panel Participants: Erik Mansager PhD, Xuan Qu, MA, Diana Sandborn PhD, and Dyanne Pienkowski, MA.

Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy in Action
Celebrating 150 years of scholarship, community and the variety of Adlerian experience

During our presentation at the 69th annual NASAP convention, we were happy to be able to share our passion for Adler. We weren’t unique in that passion, of course. But our passion does have a certain twist to it that we hoped the audience found stimulating.

Readers are likely a little familiar with the differences between Adlerian schools of therapy which fall roughly into three categories:

  • the American mainstream/Dreikursian approach,
  • the European mainstream/psychoanalytic approach; and
  • the classical-depth approach or CADP

Our task at the conference wasn’t to differentiate among them (although there are some good articles in our journal if you’d like more info). Instead, we wanted to share our own depth-focus within therapy, how we move into “action.” Thus, our presentation title: Classical Adlerian Psychotherapy in Action.

Trauma Relief! Then What?

Published May 31, 2021, The NASAP Newlsetter (The Connection), Erik Mansager, PhD

Here’s part of an email I received recently from a former counseling student now in private practice. I’ve added in some links [in square brackets] for easy reference to the training referred to.

I'm really loving working from a Polyvagal Theory lens [Polyvagal theory in practice - Counseling Today].  I also work with a protocol called Safe and Sound [The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) - The Safe and Sound Protocol UK], which works the middle ear through specially filtered music - the results are so interesting.  Finally started training on eating disorders called Embodied Recovery [Home - Embodied Recovery in Los Gatos, CA] - it is a soma-psycho-social model that sees the behaviors and symptoms as the body actually speaking about how it makes sense of the world, how it feels safe and how it thrives and that the body itself is a resource in the recovery process.  The model pulls in work from Polyvagal, Sensorimotor [Home page - Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute], and SE [Home - Somatic Experiencing - Continuing Education (] - really interesting way to approach addictions. I imagine it can be used broadly.

Wow! That is a dedicated practitioner of the healing arts! One of many I’m thrilled to know for the seriousness with which they take their practices.

I appreciate very much that colleagues practice new approaches and report about their application with great enthusiasm. After all, I’m an Adlerian enthusiast myself.

From Human-iac to Brain-iac and Back!

Published March 2, 2021, The NASAP Newlsetter (Connection), Erik Mansager, PhD

I enjoy reading Dan Siegel and deepening my understanding of our interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB). Currently I’m finishing a re-read of his work, The Mindful Therapist (2010). What a clever and useful book it is for learning about our capacity for mindfulness and how to apply it in therapy.

Neurotic Character as Device

Published January 2021, The NASAP Newlsetter (Connection), Erik Mansager, PhD

Adler spoke a lot about the neurotic character over the course of his therapeutic career. It is a rich and complex construct; one whose dynamic is still helpful to our work today even though the term “neurotic” has morphed into useful and not-so-useful connotations.

Encouragement in Action

Published May 18, 2020, The NASAP Newlsetter (TNN), Erik Mansager, PhD

Creative power and active encouragement belong together!


Maybe you have examples in your own life of the ingenuity and stick-to-it-iveness of this little one. Isn’t ingenuity a version of creative and tenacity a show of courage?

We professional helpers need a flexible and deeply rooted creativity ourselves to seek out the specific root of our client’s discouragement – their distorted inferiority feeling. We need to understand the discouragement in an empathic manner by taking in the wholeness of the individual – which will include what lies beyond or beneath the discouragement: that original core of courage with which they addressed initial feelings of inferiority!

Therapeutic Encouragement

Published March 16, 20120, The NASAP Newlsetter (TNN), Erik Mansager, PhD

The stuff of Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy (CADP) is never a fixed formula applied to clients. This goes for therapeutic encouragement as well. While there are general guidelines about the process, the specific application must be re-invented for each of our clients. Their personal effort needs to be inspired to grow and then to be compared with their old activities. Seeing their current development compared to where they have been in the recent past offers encouragement to sustain their growth in the new direction.

So, how does therapeutic encouragement happen? Is it a technique or an art? Is encouragement found in a rich list of memorized sayings that are at the ready and strategically applied? Does a permanent smile on a counselor’s face or readiness to offer a pat on the back encourage personal and interpersonal growth? Adler suggests the origin of encouragement is more elusive. It originates in authentically caring interactions between the therapist and client. If our clients can begin to feel our care as a sense of equality, they can extend it to the new tasks in front of them.