The Case of Sally with Adlerian Therapy

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The Case of Sally and Mid-Life Transition: An Adlerian Perspective in Therapy

Title: The Case of Sally: An Adlerian Perspective in Therapy


Document Type:Article

Subject Terms:Psychology; Adler; Adlerian

Abstract: Examines the counseling case of Sally in perspective of an Adlerian view. Sally’s somatic complaints and mistaken beliefs allows Adlerian technique to help her to experience a full life including career and social connections. Adlerian assumptions: Interpreting Sally’s record; Effect of Sally’s Birth order; Tasks for the counselor. Full Text Word Count:

Sally’s predominant reason for coming to counseling is to alleviate a number of somatic complaints such as panic, anxiety, and possibly depression. Her physical symptoms have included: hot flashes, cold sweats, shortness of breath, tremors, fainting, heart racing, fears dying of heart attack, shakes, hot flashes, and cold sweats. Although there was no stated medical causes, hot flashes could be the beginnings of peri-menopause due to her age being 39 years old and although early, hormonal changes could be contributing to her distress.

I chose an Adlerian approach because Sally needs immediate help as panic can be debilitating and frightening and an Adlerian therapist can get to the core issues quicker than could a psychoanalytic approach. I would be concerned that an existential approach could exacerbate her problems and cause her to look elsewhere for therapy. An Adlerian therapist would look beyond Sally’s symptoms to the causes which could include the following: transitioning to mid-life and her role of parenting coming to a close, dissatisfaction with her marriage, feeling stuck about actually getting a job as a teacher, and feeling overweight. Although she takes pride in her role of homemaker, mother and wife, she is aware that she has lived for others and wants to become more motivated and assertive about her own life goals. That is, Adlerian therapy never places the counselor in a 'superior' position with respect to truth, or express disrespect, condescension or lack of empathy. Sally is feeling very inferior and and needs to know that the therapist will provide the support to find encouragement and hope again. An Adlerian therapist would work to build respect, confidence, equality, and cooperation with Sally.

Sally reports a number of fear based thoughts that the therapist should take note of such as: her husband will leave her if she makes any changes in herself, she might go to hell for not believing the same dogmatic beliefs as her parents, and she is afraid of taking the initiative to work outside the home. Her reasons for most of these issues are losing the approval of her family, husband, and children. She does not report that she has friendships or social contacts other than attending a church. Since childhood she has always felt socially awkward, constantly being worried about what others have thought of her. Finally, she has concerns about death and dying and evidence supports that panic attacks can certainly perpetuate that notion in a client with high anxiety.

It seems appropriate that Sally is questioning life right now and she does show some insight into her issues already as she previously questioned the dogmatic beliefs she was raised with enough to attend a different church than her parents. And yet this too has caused consternation as well because of her fear of going to hell and losing parental love and approval. Even though her life is consistent and stable, she considers it boring and stale and wants help from therapy to push her out of this and yet fears that therapy could make her even worse. According to Adler, all behavior is purposeful and for Sally to be this anxious and panicky has hidden goals. The therapist would work with Sally to help her assume responsibility for finding her life beyond her role of only a mother and wife. An Adlerian therapist...
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