Paths to Becoming an Adlerian
Karl H. Witte, Munich, Germany
Looking back at a life of 60 years, my encounter with the writings of Alfred Adler and the teachings of many Adlerians seem to have shaped the set-up of my life more than any other influence. I work full time day after day as an Adlerian psychotherapist in my private practice with patients, and as a training analyst with students of the Munich Alfred Adler Institute. Besides, I spend many of my free hours and holidays studying the development of Adler's theory, writing articles, and preparing a critical edition of his original texts. But all of this is, so to speak, the third job of my life. And, to be sure, both of the previous jobs have influenced my attitude toward Adler and psychotherapy a lot: first studying philosophy, especially Heidegger, and doing historical research on medieval mysticism, second being a high school teacher and a students and parents counselor.
My practical work in the social field has taught me to appreciate a clear communication and a personal relation and cooperation with the patients which is one hallmark of Adlerian psychotherapy. But as an evaluation of my social work with Adlerian concepts I am convinced that all pedagogic and cognitive approaches must fail when they do not address 'early' or 'archaic' or unconscious motives because these unconsious motives determine a person's life style and irrational goals that erroneously compensate for the person's felt 'dark secret of her/his worthlessness' (Adler). As most of my patients suffer from severe emotional and mental disorders I prefer long term psychotherapy with some psychoanalytical methods (couch, free association, analysis of the transference), which Adler used to apply in the early stages of his development, yet unfortunately neglected in the late twenties and thirties when social and preventive issues superseded his psychiatric interest.
The philosophical formation of my Adlerian theory enables me to appreciate the stance of Adler's Individual Psychology at a historic point of philosophical thought: the turn from Kantianism to phenomenology and the hermeneutic approach. Unprecedented in psychology, Adler's comparative study of the ‘individuum', and his holism find the whole of a person's self as a symbol in the microcosm of every single phenomenon. His dynamic vision of the psyche dissolves (‘deconstructs' in a postmodern term) every structure into activity, and sees every characteristic form as a ‘frozen movement' (Adler) or a preparedness. Thus he connects us as psychotherapists with a wide range of non- mainstream psychological, philosophical, and even psychoanalytical thinking.
In the summer of 1996, I had the opportunity to attend Henry Stein's seminar on Classical Adlerian Psychotherapy. Not being strictly speaking a Classical Adlerian myself, I was impressed by Henry's rich knowledge of Adler's teaching and clinical concepts, his deep understanding of life style, the warmth of his Socratic/therapeutic approach, and his respect and open-mindedness towards all kinds of personal points of view.
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