Book Review: Fundamentals of Adlerian Psychology

The featured book is ‘Fundamentals of Adlerian Psychology’ by Rudolph Dreikurs. There is a very short introduction by Alfred Adler who writes about Individual Psychology that:-

‘It will give its followers such keenness of vision that no corner of the human soul will be hidden from them and it will ensure that this hard-earned capacity shall be placed in the service of human progress’

Dreikers writes about individual psychology that the main idea is that

‘the importance of human society, not only for the development of the individual character but also for the orientation of every single action and emotion in the life of a human being’

In the first chapter there is a brief discussion of the development of human behaviour referring to Freud’s psychoanalysis, Bechterev’s reflexology and Watson’s behaviorism. Indeed throughout the book the influence of Freud is evident on many issues as is Nietzsche on the will to power and Beard on the neuroses.

Dreikers argues that cause and effect are not invoked in the individual psychology and that this leads to criticisms of a non-scientific approach. Nevertheless the early chapters are impressive in their elucidation of a very simple model of development of the human psyche. Thus Dreikers explains Adler’s individual psychology in terms of a number of principles:- every action having a specific goal, that the spoiled child does not learn about the ‘natural order’ inherent in the community, and that when the spoiled child is rebuked they interpret this as rejection, the snubbed child who feels inferior, the drive to be accepted by the community, organ inferiority whereby a perceived impairment in one part of the body leads to compensatory thoughts and actions giving the examples of musicians and artists with disabilities including Smetana and Manet, the achievement of potential, the family including the order of children, the life plan, ‘the masculine protest’ discussing the role of gender in society, the unconsciousness which he argues is that area where unpleasant goals are stored and the unity of personality. Particularly interesting is Dreikur’s comment that

‘Character is therefore simply the manifestation of a certain plan which the child has evolved and to which he will adhere throughout the rest of his life’.

He argues that after the age of 4-6, the child cannot change readily without psychotherapeutic intervention.

The latter half of the book focuses on the areas of work, love, friendship, upbringing, psychotherapy, the neuroses and crime. When reading the chapter on neuroses, I thought perhaps the book had not stood the test of time. There were many generalisations in this chapter and it was difficult to recognise from the present day situation where diagnoses in the category of ‘neurotic, stress-related and somatoform disorders’ in ICD-10 have mushroomed with each having it’s own subtle nuances. Instead Dreikurs refers simply to the ‘neurotic’ as behaving in a particular way under certain circumstances and uses this approach for numerous arguments. Similarly for the chapter on crime there is again a tendency towards generalisation.

I was able to identify two journal references at the back of the book as well as a dozen or so book references and perhaps it might have benefited from a broader evidence base. The book was well argued and easy to read but was an exposition of a model. I thought that the model’s explanation of the neuroses highlights the importance of the interplay between modelling and clinical practice.  What was interesting for me was to think of how the book might have been different had Dreikurs had access to the knowledge of the anxiety disorders that we now have available to us. What was also interesting was the influence of a relatively small number of figures throughout the book. For example there are several sections where Dreikurs discusses Freud’s theories in relation to his arguments. There are many more figures that could be influential today and it was again interesting to think about which figures might have influenced Dreikurs were he to have been writing the book today.


Rudolph Dreikers. Fundamentals of Adlerian Psychology. 1953. Alfred Adler Institute.


The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


  1. ScienceDaily (Nov. 17, 2008) — A doctoral thesis carried out at the University of Granada has shown that patients with serious anxiety disorders (panic disorder with and without agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety


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