About Alfred Adler

Often referred to as one of the founding fathers of modern psychotherapy, Alfred Adler was once a colleague of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, but branched off on his own due to concerns around Freud’s deterministic approach, focus on sexual drives, and opinions that people remain largely unconscious to themselves, requiring an “expert” to psychoanalyze or explain them to themselves. Alternatively, Adler felt that while early childhood experiences are important and foundational, that people have the capacity towards personal insight, becoming aware of that which was previously in unawareness, and choosing to move differently in life in lieu of such insights. Adler and Adlerian Therapists take the opinion that clients are the experts on themselves, and that the job of the therapist is to encourage, educate (when appropriate), and support clients on their journeys of healing, awareness and growth.

Because of his focus on the early years as being both formative and telling in terms of the way we move through life as adults, Adler was one of the first theorists and therapists to focus on family well-being and parent education as integral to individual development, and thus, the healthy functioning of society. When the family is not well, society is not well. As a result, many Adlerians after him have carried on this focus and Adlerian Parenting remains a strong and powerful aspect of his theory.

Basic Tenets of Adlerian Philosophy

  • Emotions are held within and expressed by the physical body. If we don’t give them an outlet, they will speak themselves in physical symptoms.
  • All people experience feelings of inferiority as children (we are inferior as dependents on parents and other adults) and strive to overcome that either by a positive striving for personal mastery with social contribution or a negative striving to be better than others, or on top.
  • Family Constellation refers to the metaphor that families are like constellations of stars – they all relate to each other differently. No one star relates to two other starts in the exact same manor. Similarly, no one family member relates the same to any two other family members.
  • Birth Order is the concept that our chronological and psychological, or felt, birth order position can result in some general tendencies of personality type or way of relating in the family and moving through life.
  • We form a Style of Life, or way of moving through life, based on (often largely unconscious) conclusions we make about ourselves, others and the world, that are based upon our early childhood experiences.
  • People have the ability to become aware of that which was previously in their non-conscious and can choose a different way of moving through life when they are feeling encouraged and supported to make those changes.

The Platinum Rule

Rudolf Dreikurs, a major figure in Adlerian theory and philosophy, who also focused heavily on parenting and family, coined the “Platinum Rule,” that we are to “do unto others as they would have done unto themselves.” Most of us are familiar with the “Golden Rule: to do unto others as we would have done unto us,” but Dreikurs upped the ante with this updated version. Adler considered our feelings of social interest, or sense of community belonging and involvement, to be a key feature of our mental wellness. Further, he stated that this sense of belonging is exemplified in a person’s ability to see outside of themselves, and both consider and value the perspectives, feelings and opinions of others. Adler himself explained these feelings of social belonging as “to feel with the heart of another, hear with the ears of another, and see with the eyes of another.” When we do this, we are living by the Platinum Rule.

As Adlerian Therapists and Parent Educators, this Platinum Rule guides the perspective we take with clients to such an extent that we have chosen to pay homage to this Adlerian way of being within the name of our practice. At Platinum Counselling Group, we strive to constantly embody this social interest in our approach with clients and encourage our clients to also adopt this perspective in their approach to their personal worlds.