Adlerian therapy utilizes a holistic view in its conceptualization by including how the individual’s environment and family have impacted their behaviors. Additionally, behaviors are believed to be goal oriented, and working to reach personal goals. Keep reading to learn 35 questions to ask clients in Adlerian Therapy.
Alfred Adler believed that it is not an event itself that influences our personality, but rather how we interpret and understand the event that impacts us. This concept can help us understand the different reactions that individuals can have after experiencing or witnessing the same events. As an example, two siblings who grow up in the same environment, and are exposed to the same traumas, can have differences in the way that their experiences impact their life.
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Another important component of Adlerian therapy is that each of us has a need to belong and find our place in society. Social interest behaviors can be observed at each stage of our lives, including our childhoods. Personal traits that can impact our social experiences include our social interest, hope, optimism, benevolence, empathy, belonging, and cooperation. A great significance is placed on social connectedness, and having a sense of belonging.
The 7 foundational principles associated with Adlerian therapy include:
Socially embedded- social connectedness allows us to develop as individuals
Subjective- Heredity and environment are influences, however, our interpretation and conclusions about events and situations are more impactful
Self-determining and creative- Our belief systems can change and with encouragement, we can choose to find meaning and value in our social life
Goal-directed or teleological- All behavior is a movement towards personal goals
Holism- The mind, body, and emotions all work together, and we are unable to divide ourselves into separate parts
Social justice and systematic thinking- Viewing the world from a system perspective that takes into consideration experiences of conditions and oppression that can increase an individual’s risk for adverse experiences
Philosophical orientation- Adlerian therapy is psychoeducational, present/future-orientated, time-limited, integrates cognitive and systematic perspectives, resonates with postmodern approaches, shares concepts with cognitive behavioral therapies, can be used in conjunction with Rational Emotive Therapy, and has similarities with constructivist, solution-focused and narrative therapy
There are four stages associated with Adlerian therapy. The initial phase focuses on developing the therapeutic relationship and gaining insight into their life. In the second stage, you will learn to understand your client’s lifestyle, which often includes a lifestyle analysis. The focus of the third stage is to develop insight into your client, which can include focusing on their strengths. The final stage of Adlerian therapy focuses on your client taking responsibility for the changes in their goals and developing new ones.
Getting Ready for Your First Adlerian Therapy Session with a New Client
When you are getting ready for your first Adlerian therapy session, you will be focusing on developing the therapeutic relationship. You will also spend time learning about their strengths, goals, and the effort that they have made in making changes in their life. You may find yourself showing empathy and using active listening skills.
To prepare for your session, it can be helpful to review any paperwork that you are expected to complete. This varies for each clinical setting; however, it can include consent of release, informed consent, assessments, and screeners. You may find that feeling organized as you go into a session, you feel a bit more relaxed. Ideally, you will have time to review any paperwork and information that has been provided by your client, or any other medical providers.
Worksheets can be a valuable tool for mental health professionals. TherapyByPro offers a variety of Adlerian therapy worksheets that can aid in the facilitation of therapeutic interventions, and act as a resource for your client when they are home. Examples of Adlerian worksheets that you could use in your clinical work include:
We encourage you to be mindful of your own needs before going into your session. As clinicians, our focus is often on supporting our clients and making sure we complete our work-related tasks. If you find yourself getting lost in the busyness of the day, it can be helpful to take a moment to check in with yourself. Maybe you could use a snack, some water, a stretch, or engage in a quick breathing exercise.
Practicing regular self-care practices can help you with your own mental health, which can have a positive impact on your clinical work. It is not always possible to fit time into your workday for self-care, which is why finding things that fit into your routine and schedule can be the most impactful.
Adlerian Therapy Questions to Ask Clients
Adlerian therapy questions can be used in each of the stages associated with this approach. Questions can be used to explore your client’s strengths, goals, and previous experiences. They can help you develop insight into your client’s worldview so that you can support them in a personalized manner that would be best for them.
Examples of Adlerian therapy questions to ask clients include:
What brings you in today?
What changes would you like to notice in your life when our work together is complete?
Can you tell me about the roles different members of your family had growing up?
How would you describe your parent’s relationship? What about your relationship with them?
Can you tell me about the person you would like to be?
What are some of the differences between your present self and your ideal self?
What would you like to be different in 6 months?
Can you tell me about your biggest or most challenging difficulty at this time in your life?
How do you feel your life would be if these difficulties were not present?
Would your behaviors look different if this difficulty was resolved?
Can you tell me about your siblings, in addition to describing your relationship with each?
Where do you fall in the birth order among your siblings?
Were there any personality characteristics that you had when you were younger that received attention? The good and not-so-good.
How would you describe your childhood? Are there any experiences or times that stand out to you?
Can you share some of your interests with me?
Do you have any fears? Can you think of when this fear began?
Can you describe your friendships for me?
Can you tell me a bit about how you ended up with your career? Was this a choice, or were there other factors contributing to your choice?
Is there a career path that you feel you would have liked more than your current role?
Can you think of any thoughts or images that elicit an emotional reaction? This can be a good or an uncomfortable reaction. Why do you think this reaction occurs?
What would you like your future to look like?
Can you share with me a personal goal you have? Try to be specific
Do you feel as though you are able to reach the goals that you make for yourself? Have you encountered difficulties with any goals in the past?
What are some strengths or resources that can help you work towards your personal goals?
Can you think of 2 things you can do today to take a step closer to meeting your goal?
Are there any barriers that are making it challenging for you to work towards or reach your goal?
Can you think of any behaviors you do that are causing you harm?
Are there any behaviors you engage in that cause harm to those around you?
Can you think of a new or healthier alternative to that behavior?
What impact do you feel your new behavior could have on you and those around you?
Is there anything else you would like to share with me today?
What brings meaning to your life?
Can you tell me what inferiority means to you?
Can you think of a time when you struggled with feelings of inferiority?
How did that feeling impact your behaviors?
Final Thoughts on Asking the Right Questions in Adlerian Therapy
Thank you for taking the time to read our blog about Adlerian Therapy questions! Adlerian therapy is a great therapeutic option for clients who struggle with social connectedness, and those who are carrying feelings of inferiority. Adlerian therapy can be a good approach for clients who are living with anxiety, depression, conduct disorder, and substance use disorder.
With a strong therapeutic relationship, Adlerian therapy allows us to support our clients as they piece together the effect that their early life experiences have on their current mental health. With a holistic approach, Adlerian therapy incorporates the different areas of our client’s life to help them reach their optimal mental health.
If you find yourself thinking that the concepts and principles associated with Adlerian Therapy align with your clinical work, there are great resources available to you. When you have an opportunity, look into Continuing Education and training opportunities that interest you. It is important to note that your credentials may have unique requirements that need to be met before you can begin applying your new knowledge and skills to your clinical practice.
TherapyByPro is an online mental health directory that connects mental health pros with clients in need. If you’re a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your practice listing here. We have assessments, practice forms, and worksheet templates mental health professionals can use to streamline their practice. View all of our mental health worksheets here.
View all of our Adlerian Therapy Worksheets
Foundational adlerian principles. Adler University. (2022, March 1). https://www.adler.edu/center-for-adlerian-practice-and-scholarship/foundational-adlerian-principles/
Erbas, M.M. (2023). Adlerian Therapy: A General Review. International Journal of Innovative Approaches in Education, 7(2), 79-90. doi: 10.29329/ijiape.2023.567.3