Growing the Dialogue

Published June 15, 2019, The NASAP Newlsetter (TNN), Erik Mansager, PhD

It was this same time last year that “Adler in-Depth (and breadth)” first appeared in The NASAP Newsletter. The column has intended (= aimed) to reawaken the spirit of Adler’s whole-theory and therapy among current Adlerian practitioners. At the 2018 NASAP conference in Toronto we re-introduced the idea of Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy (CADP) to NASAP in little ways: a poster presentation, published articles were made available, and CADP books were distributed among several students and offered for the silent auction. Just this month in Tucson, at the 2019 NASAP conference, we were a little more present with three workshops being offered during the main-conference.

The attendance at each was heartening – even when the attendees didn’t agree with all that was presented, they were respectful, candid and interested in the dialogue. I’m happy to say the CADP discourse seems to be well-underway. The following are what I consider some highlights at each of the workshops.

The first presentation, “Theoretical Variance between Adler and Dreikurs” drew quite an interactive crowd.  I don’t doubt that many came to see Jane Griffith again (I’ve passed on to her the many greetings entrusted to me). Nonetheless, they stayed to hear the larger context Jane and I have developed; we discussed the findings that she and her late husband, Bob Powers, first noted: the major change that Dreikurs introduced between the two thinkers’ theory.

Our discussion continued around what difference it makes that Dreikurs believed the fundamental motivator for humanity is to belong and Adler believed it was a striving to overcome. Not everyone was satisfied, being of the opinion that it makes little if any difference. One well-articulated question went like this: “Can you address what seems to be a hidden agenda item that is not clearly articulated in this argument? Is this an argument against Dreikurs or against Dreikurs-Ferguson?”

I was as clear as possible – as in this column and a forthcoming article (Mansager, E. & Griffith, J. S. [in press].): There seems to be a concerted effort to present Dreikurs’ extensions of Adlerian theory as Adler’s own. They are not the same, and the effort to differentiate them can be done respectfully and convincingly, to the benefit of both Adler’s and Dreikurs’s thought.

The issue of fundamental motivation is only one of a number of Adler’s constructs that Dreikurs and his students have modified.  CADP practitioners, I found at the conference, are not the only ones who find these modifications to be of questionable benefit. Others include the life tasks, the issue of creativity, the fictional final goal, and even the lifestyle. A fine list that assures there will be plenty to be discussed at future NASAP gatherings.

There was also a presentation on “Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy – A web-based Conversation with Henry T. Stein.” The attendees were able to address Henry directly with their questions and many sought clarification and understanding of CADP. One of the questions asked what specifically might be missing in current Adlerian training when compared to CADP. An attendee commented, “Bringing about change is really where the challenge is. Are there specific things that Henry could inform us as to what we are missing in regard to change?”

Henry replied, “One of the most important things is that in getting the training – whether theory, principles of practice or how to work with cases – one has to be absolutely congruent with what Adler’s philosophy is all about.  Not just what he said, but his feeling and his attitude which was warm and gentle, deep and creative. This is not easy for people to simply learn by reading a book – it is the quality of treatment that is important. The other thing is whether you have experienced … how [to] overcome [your] life style. And [overcoming] it is not as a result of being faced with it in an interpretation. It is a long, gentle and gradual process of encouragement; of moving in another direction. If a therapist has not overcome his own or her own life style, they don’t know it’s possible. They don’t know how to do it; they don’t know what it feels like. For many it is sufficient that they ‘know their life style’ and they try to manage and control it. My point is, that’s a nice beginning, but we can go further.”

Our last presentation was “ ‘A’ is for Adler. The A-B-s of Individual Psychology.” This was an introduction to many of the original constructs that Adler developed to illuminate his philosophy and to apply it therapeutically. The discussion included a lot of interaction around the therapeutic constructs along with a brief case conceptualization and initial treatment plan. This prompted one of the participants to share how he differentiated between coaching, counseling and levels of therapy. The discussion of these differences seemed new – and helpful – to many there. It was clear such differences are not often discussed among practitioners.

Tucson was a great venue and delivered spectacular weather and a desert in full bloom! It was great to share with colleagues and to receive from them. At next year’s Atlanta NASAP 2020 we’ll be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Adler’s birth. I look forward to growing the dialogue and interest in Adler and his vision of healing.