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Individual psychology is a term used specifically to refer to the psychological method or science founded by the Viennese psychologist Alfred Adler. The English edition of Adler's work on the subject (1925) is a collection of papers and lectures given mainly in 1912-1914, and covers the whole range of human psychology in a single survey, intended to mirror the indivisible unity of the personality.

The concept of 'individual psychology' was formulated in the process in which Adler broke away from the psychoanalytic school of Sigmund Freud. In this development, Adler did call his work "free psychoanalysis" for a time, but he later rejected the label of "psychoanalyst". His method, involving a holistic approach to the study of character, has been extremely influential in later 20th century counselling and psychiatric strategies.

The term individual psychology can also be used more generally to refer to what is more commonly known as differential psychology or the psychology of individual differences. Usage of this term is likely to imply a more individualistic focus than is found in mainstream psychology of individual differences, where there is frequently a bias towards nomothetic research.

Adler's Psychology Edit

Adler shifted the grounds of psychological determinance from sex and libido (the Freudian standpoint) to environmental factors. He gave especial prominence to societal factors. According to him a person has to combat or confront three forces - (a) societal, (b) love-related, and (c) vocational forces. These confrontations determine the final nature of a personality. Adler based his theories on the pre-adulthood development of a person. He laid stress on such areas as hated children, physical deformities at birth, birth order, etc.

Adlerian psychology shows parallels with the humanistic psychology of Abraham Maslow, who acknowledged Adler's influence on his own theories. Both individual psychology and humanistic psychology hold that the individual human being is the best determinant of his or her own needs, desires, interests, and growth.

The theory of compensation, defeat and over-compensationEdit

According to Adler, an individual derives his personality traits from these essentially external factors. The character of the individual is formed by his reponses to their influence in the following ways:-

1. Compensation
Whenever a person suffers from any disadvantages, his main aim becomes to bring those disadvantages to an end, which make him inferior to others. Those who are able to do this become successful in their lives on both social as well as individual basis.

2. Resignation
There are those who give in to their disadvantages and become reconciled to them. Such people are in the majority. The attitude of the world towards them is of a cool, rather uninterested sympathy.

3. Over-compensation
There are some persons who become so infatuated with the idea of compensating for their disadvantages that they end up over-indulging in the pursuit.
These are the neurotics.

Thus the external factors are vital in character formation.

Adler's views are not only refreshing but are now an indispensable part of all psychiatric treatments and therapies. Examples of psychologists and therapists who could be called "individual psychologists" in the sense of being Adlerian include Rudolf Dreikurs and Henry Stein.

Papers contained in 'Individual Psychology' (1929 English revised edition) Edit

  • Individual-Psychology, its assumptions and its results (1914).
  • Psychical hermaphrodism and the Masculine protest - the cardinal problem of nervous diseases (1912).
  • New leading principles for the practice of Individual-Psychology (1913).
  • Individual-Psychological treatment of neuroses (1913).
  • Contributions to the theory of hallucination (1912).
  • The study of child psychology and neurosis (International Congress lecture 1913).
  • The Psychic treatment of trigeminal neuralgia (1911).
  • The problem of distance.
  • The masculine attitude in female neurotics.
  • The concept of resistance during treatment (1916).
  • Syphilophobia (1911) (Phobias and hypochondriac states in the dynamics of neurosis).
  • Nervous insomnia (1914).
  • Individual-Psychological conclusions on sleep disturbances (1912).
  • Homo-sexuality (Lecture to Jurististisch-Medizinische Society, Zurich, 1918).
  • Compulsion neurosis (Lecture in Zurich, 1918).
  • The function of the compulsion-conception as a means of intensifying the individuality-feeling (1913).
  • Neurotic hunger-strike.
  • Dreams and dream-interpretation (Lecture, 1912).
  • The role of the unconscious in neurosis (1913).
  • Life-lie and responsibility in neurosis and psychosis - A contribution to Melancholia (1914).
  • Melancholia and paranoia - Individual-psychological results from a study of psychoses (1914).
  • Individual-psychological remarks on Alfred Berger's Hofrat Eysenhardt (Lecture, 1912).
  • Dostoevsky (Lecture, Zurich Tonhalle, 1918).
  • New view-points on War neuroses (1908).
  • Myelodysplasia (Organ inferiority). (Summary from Studie uber Minderwertigkeit von Organen).
  • Individual-psychological education (Lecture, Zurich Association of Physicians, 1918).
  • The Individual-psychology of prostitution.
  • Demoralized children (Lecture, 1920).

See alsoEdit

Literature Edit

  • Adler, A., Uber Den Nervosen Charakter: Grundzuge Einer Vergleichenden Individual-Psychologie Und Psychotherapie, (3rd, revised edition, J F Bergmann Verlag, Munich 1922).
  • Adler, A., Praxis und Theorie der Individual-Psychologie: Vorträge zur Einführung in die Psychotherapie für Ärzte, Psychologen und Lehrer (Bergmann, 1st edn. Wiesbaden 1919, Munich 1920, 2nd edn. 1924, 3rd 1927, 4th 1930).
  • Adler, A., The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology, translated by P. Radin (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1925; revised edition 1929, & reprints).
  • Adler, A., Die Technik der Individual-Psychologie. 1: Die Kunst, eine Lebens- und Krankengeschichte zu lesen (1st edn., Bergmann, Munich 1928).
  • Adler, A., Die Technik der Individual-Psychologie. 2: Die Seele des schwer erziehbaren Schulkindes (Bergmann, Munich 1928: Fischer Verlag 1974).
  • Adler, A., Problems of Neurosis - A Book of Case-Histories, Edited by Philip Mairet, with prefatory essay by F.G. Crookshank, 'Individual Psychology: A Retrospect (and a Valuation)', pp. vii-xxxvii (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & co., London 1929).
  • Adler, A., The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler, H. L. Ansbacher and R. R. Ansbacher (Eds.) (Harper Torchbooks, New York 1956).


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