Alfred Adler Influenced the World of Psychiatry and Personal Development

Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler was a psychotherapist who developed the idea of individual psychology and established how important feelings of inferiority are in personality development.

 He is considered one of the more important influences on the field of psychiatry and personal development, especially as it relates to problems of inferiority, overcompensation, and the need for social connectedness.


Background of Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler was born on February 7, 1870 in Austria. He died of a heart condition at the age of 67 on May 28, 1937. Adler suffered from rickets early in life, and also developed pneumonia from which he was not expected to recover.

Because of his health problems, he took an interest in medicine and decided at a young age he wanted to become a doctor. Adler pursued his dream and became an eye doctor first, then a general practitioner, and eventually a psychiatrist.

Alfred Adler worked with Freud for a time, but eventually broke from traditional concepts of psychiatry and began to teach his own ideas about unique individual personality development.

Adler also traveled and lectured extensively. Although the war slowed him down some, he still became renowned worldwide for his work with children and troubled adults, and for his new view of the human mind.

The Ideas of Alfred Adler

In addition to addressing fellow psychiatric professionals, Adler also wrote personal development books and articles directed toward the general public, so he could offer help to a wider audience.

Because he was Jewish, his Austrian clinics were shut down in the 1930s and Adler moved to the United States and became a professor at the Long Island College of Medicine. His sudden death by heart attack caused his ideas to languish for a time, but his ideas have had a lasting impact on the field of psychiatry to this day.

Some of the concepts Adler focused on include:

• Development of community
• Mental health prevention
• The creative self and holism
• Social development and embeddedness
• Feelings of inferiority and superiority
• Compensation
• Early memories
• Birth order and family influences
• Unconscious realms
• Life task accomplishments
• Dream interpretation
• Feelings of guilt
• Neurosis and symptoms of mental disease

The core of Adler's beliefs was that people are individuals. That became the basis of his school of individual psychology. However, in addition to thinking of individuals as an indivisible whole, Adler also recognized the deep need for connectedness to the surrounding world. Alfred Adler combined his theories with experience to arrive at a view of psychiatry that was holistic, metaphysical, and designed to treat patients as whole beings rather than a set of symptoms.

Alfred Adler Books - Books by Alfred Adler

If you click the pictures above, you will come to the relevant pages on for the first 4 Volumes of "The Collected Clinical Works of Alfred Adler". Below on this page you will find links to all the volumes.  

Alfred Adler was a prolific writer, and during his lifetime, he had over 300 works published. Many of his writings are contained in "The Collected Clinical Works of Alfred Adler," that was published by the Alfred Adler Institute.

Some of his books are available today and can be read by the general public. These are listed below.

  • "Understanding Human Nature: The Psychology of Personality" is considered one of Adler's key works. It provides an overview of the important concepts in individual psychology. Adler explains topics such as inferiority and superiority complexes, sexuality, dreams, early memories, childhood problems, and relationship difficulties. The material in this book is useful for professionals in the field and students of psychiatry. General readers will also gain insight on human nature and the origin of life difficulties. Even though this book was originally published in 1927, it has valuable applications for modern life.

  • "What Life Should Mean To You" was first published in 1932 and is considered another of the most important works of Alfred Adler. This is one of his personal development books targeted to the general reader. It covers topics such as work, love, marriage, friendship, cooperation, adolescence, feelings of inferiority, and feelings of superiority, in a way that helps readers understand their actions.

   •"Superiority And Social Interest: A Collection Of Later Writings" helps readers understand Adler's concept of inferiority and superiority. He explains that narcissists and those with superiority complexes are often that way due to overcompensation for feelings of inferiority. In addition, he offers personal development advice to parents that is helpful for raising children to be their best selves. Taken from his beliefs on birth order, Adler teaches the best way to raise a mentally healthy and properly socially embedded child is to avoid pampering or neglect.

The Legacy of Alfred Adler

Many people consider the work of Adler to be more relevant today than that of pop psychologists. He has had a lasting effect on the field of psychiatry from the way students are trained to the way patients are treated.

He helped people come to a better understanding of the human mind so reasons behind behaviors could be understood, and change could be brought about. His advice has helped parents raise healthier children, and helped spouses build stronger relationships.

Today, his name lives on. There are schools and institutes that bear his name. The concepts he offered the world are called Alderian studies or theories. His methods are used to help patients in clinical settings and are also used by personal development enthusiasts who enjoy reading his books and modern derivations of his ideas.


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