Mahler & Adler Evaluation Paper

Mahler & Adler Evaluation Paper

Mahler & Adler Evaluation Paper

According to Adier’s (1932) Individual Psychology the inability to belong or to connect with others results in pathology. In this essay the author presents several case studies that highlight the need to belong as a primary issue in therapy. The case descriptions include therapy with an individual, a couple, a client with addiction issues, a cross-cultural couple, and a mother and daughter-in-law. The case materi- als presented in this article reveal that individuals with psychological disorders can lessen their psychopathology by learning more effective methods to promote belong- ing. Adlerian methods and interventions to promote belonging are discussed.

In Adier’s (1932, 1991) Individual Psychology every child is born with the need to belong and with the ability to connect with others. Acquiring the methods of connecting involves a learning process. This kind of learning is the key for well-being. It is essential that one belongs and is connected to three significant groups in one’s circle of life. I expand Adier’s descrip- tion of the life tasks (Dreikurs, 1950) to refer to these significant groups as being family, friends, and work associates. Feeling a sense of belonging to these groups is the primary universal issue of mental health. Individuals with psychological disorders can lessen their psychopathology by learning more effective methods to belong.

This article reflects my many years of counseling and therapy from an Individual Psychology perspective (Shifron, 2006, 2008). My clinical experi- ences have shown me the universality of the need to belong, and I believe this paper offers an exceptional opportunity for clinicians from different theoretical approaches to learn more about Adier’s optimistic and brilliant perspective. Adier’s Individual Psychology is based on the conceptualization that psychopathology results from the lack of feeling belonging. This is an optimistic view, because the absence of feeling belonging is a curable situ- ation. According to Adier’s theory (Ferguson, 2006), every individual makes choices. In this paper I focus on the belief that every individual is capable and creative and that by making different kinds of choices, each person can learn how to feel belonging.

Throughout my work with clients over many years, each individual or couple presented unique problems. However, there was a common theme among a majority of them. The hidden goal for most of them included the

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The Journal of Individual Psychology,/o. 66, No. 1, Spring 2010 O2010 by the University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713-7819

Editorial office located in the College of Education at Georgia State University.

Adier’s Need to Belong: Mental Health 11

desire to belong. This hidden goal was identified in many instances when exploring clients’ early recollections and dreams. I found the need to belong surfaced among couples, parents, children, and siblings. I found a similar need to belong with friends and in the work setting. I discovered many cre- ative and diversified ways that individuals use to meet this need to belong. In therapy an important process was for clients to learn whether the creative methods they chose were effective or not, and whether they could use their creative abilities to choose more effective methods to feel belonging.

To understand Adier’s concept of belonging, I find it helpful to remem- ber the concept of holism. In a holistic system, the whole is a dynamic, moving, developing, growing, creative system. It operates through the inner links within all parts of the system. Each part has a specific role or place that enables the other parts to operate and to move. The movement is the consequence of the interrelations and the contributions of each part. In a holistic system the cooperative interactions of the parts constitute the whole. “The organism is more than the sum of its parts and if these parts are taken to pieces the organism is destroyed . . . these parts are in active relations to each other” (Smuts, 1926, p. 101, as cited in Linden, 1995, p. 254).

In Individual Psychology the individual is a whole system, but the indi- vidual is also a cooperating and interacting part of larger systems, like the family, the community, and the universe. A sense of belonging is essential in order for one to feel that he or she is an actively contributing part of the larger whole. This feeling, that one belongs and that one has a place in the larger systems, is achieved when one is encouraged and appreciated for one’s special talents and creative abilities. An individual who feels be- longing feels valued and significant, and the person will contribute his or her best to society. That contribution represents social interest (Ansbacher, 1991 ), that is, a concern for and commitment to the welfare of the commu- nity. Adler characterized

the socially useful type as prepared for cooperation and contribution in whom we can always find a certain amount of activity which . . . is in agreement with the needs of others. It is useful, normal, rightly embedded in the stream of evolution of mankind. (Mosak, 1991, p. 316)

Adler emphasized belonging as the primary factor for the individual’s and the community’s mental health. Mosak (1991) wrote, “Closeness is a tran- scendent variable. It encourages people to look outside of and beyond themselves to the need of others in the community and of the community itself. It encourages the feeling of intimacy, empathy, and identification” (p. 315). Mahler & Adler Evaluation Paper

Recently, I conducted workshops on Adierian psychotherapy in Cam- bridge, England. My hostess, Anthea Millar, described a project by Foresight Science Future with the following information that was published in the

12 Rachel Shifron

London Times. The project was led by Felicia Huppert (2008), professor of psychology at Cambridge University, and it was intended to improve men- tal well-being. The project was included in a “well-being” report, compiled by more than 400 scientists, sent to the British government. The research proposed to encourage behavior that will make people feel better about themselves. The researchers concluded that they found five categories that can make profound differences in people’s well-being. They named the pro- gram “five a day”:

1. Connect with people. 2. Be active—do physical activities with others. 3. Take notice—be aware of sensations around you, be in the state of

mindfulness. 4. Keep learning—as a way of rebooting the mind to experience joy in

the here and now. 5. Give—committing an act of kindness each day is associated with

an increase of well-being.

For those following the work of Adler, it is a welcome finding that his ho- listic psychology that emphasized belonging is actualized in reports about well-being to the British government, many decades after Adler first wrote about the importance of social interest and the feeling of belonging.

In this essay, I focus on belonging as the primary variable in clients’ mental health. I discuss case studies with the focus on the clients improv- ing the ways they cope with life through increasing their social interest and through gaining feelings of being accepted and belonging. The issues I ad- dress are as follows:

Belonging to the family of origin—identifying creative methods used to secure the feeling of belonging.

Belonging in a couple relationship—examining the complexity of cul- tural differences in basic norms and values as these relate to the feeling of belonging.

Belonging to the world of work—considering the need to maintain a balance between work and family.

Readers familiar with Adierian psychotherapy know that early recol- lections provide rich clinical material (Manaster & Mays, 2004; Shifron & Bettner, 2003). I employed this technique extensively to explore the impor- tance of belonging in many of the cases reported. For me, early recollections are a type of metaphor. They reveal lifestyle (Ferguson, 2006) as well as the individual’s current emotional situation. The use of early recollections is an accurate and quick method to discover the person’s feelings of belonging and the creative methods the person uses in order to feel belonging. All names and other personal data were changed completely for confidentiality. Mahler & Adler Evaluation Paper

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