Alfred Adler Institute of Northwestern Washngton


"Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy, Volume 1; Theory & Practice: A Socratic Approach to Democratic Living," by Henry T. Stein, Ph.D. Reviewed by James Wolf, M.S., MFT. Originally published in the May/June 2014 issue of The CAMFT Therapist.

          In his chapter on Alfred Adler in The Discovery of the Unconscious, Henri Ellenberger discusses Bernard Gasset’s theory of genius. Gasset, Ellenberger writes, “contends that genius is the capacity to create a new obviousness. This means that genius is the ability to discover and to formulate something that has always been there, that no one has noticed. As soon as genius formulates it, that thing seems so obvious that it is quickly assimilated to common knowledge and one forgets that it has been newly discovered.” (Ellenberger, Henri, The Discovery of the Unconscious, p. 620, Basic Books Inc. 1970)

          It is now widely understood that Adler’s principles have permeated modern schools of psychotherapy in one form or another. But often those schools have not recognized where many or at least some of their principles originated. The Adlerian influences have often been unacknowledged or have been unrecognized as theorists “rediscovered the wheel” - the obvious that Adler’s genius first noticed. Since numerous theories of psychotherapy use an aspect of Adlerian thought, the whole of it is not seen, nor appreciated.

          There have been many excellent works on Adlerian Psychology despite obstacles. For example, Adler has often been poorly translated. He was a charismatic and dynamic speaker whose books were often created from his lectures. Because the spoken word in German does not always translate adequately into written English, his books do not always read well. Further, much has been written on his personality theory, but very little has been written on his actual conduct of psychotherapy. Adler’s method centered on Socratic questioning which he once made reference to as “a gentle barrage of questions.” Most therapists today have been exposed to over-simplified and overly systematized offshoots of Adler’s original principles. As a result, Adler’s unique creative ways of conducting his impactful psychotherapy have been in danger of being lost.

          Enter Dr. Henry Stein whose longtime mission has been twofold. First: to have Adler’s complete works re-translated as faithfully and accurately as possible. This has resulted in the publication of the 12 volumes of The Collected Clinical Works of Alfred Adler. Second: to learn, practice, teach and document Adler’s original method of psychotherapy. Stein’s life’s work has now taken him to an eloquent presentation of this method in Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy, Volume 1; Theory & Practice: A Socratic Approach to Democratic Living.

          This new work is the first in depth written presentation of Adler’s original principles of the science, philosophy, and art of the psychotherapy that he taught his students. Dr. Stein’s primary mentor, the late Sophia DeVries, was one of these students. Stein spent over 20 years studying and consulting with DeVries, taping & transcribing their meetings, dissecting and analyzing what DeVries demonstrated and taught him. He also studied the work of others directly trained by Adler or trained by some of his closest associates.

          Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy (CADP), Volume 1 is an absorbing, engaging read for any therapist. For any serious student of Adler, it is a must read worthy of repeated meditations. I found it to be an extremely inspiring book, detailing the principles of therapy to be used creatively by the uniquely individual therapist with the uniquely individual client. Though well grounded in Adlerian psychology, I felt as if I were reading the principles for the first time, fresh and lively on the pages.

          In essence, the therapist creates the therapy for each unique client. The principles appear at times simple, but deceptively so. The creative application is the greater challenge and requires years to master. It is in learning the artful application that the therapist is challenged to achieve the deeper understanding of Adler’s principles and philosophy. The therapist must internalize the principles and philosophy in order to be effective as a person as well as a clinician. This means to present to the client a person who projects genuine “social interest” or “community feeling,” Adler’s measure of good functioning.

          The book is divided into 4 sections, appendices, and includes useful diagrams with Internet links to the full color graphics illustrating core principles. Dr. Stein has included impactful quotes from Adler and others to add to his own enlightening explanations of the concepts.

          In Part One: Overview of Classical Adlerian Theory, Dr. Stein begins with the centrality of “Creative Power” as the driving force in human existence, followed by the inferiority feeling. This section moves on through important principles such as the striving for completion, community feeling, and the fictional final goal, among others.

          In Part Two: Stages and Tasks of Depth Psychotherapy, Stein has identified and detailed 12 Stages of a full therapy (CADP), the process of which he analyzed over many years of study.

          In Part Three: Socratic Questioning in Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy, Stein describes the art he learned from Sophia DeVries who was a master of the Socratic therapeutic dialogue. She practiced this dialogue in a gentle caring way, speaking to a client “as a mother would to her child.” (A quote from Adler frequently emphasized by DeVries)

          In Part Four: Providing the Missing Experience, Stein discusses his use of other compatible non-Adlerian modalities that one can adapt and use in an Adlerian creative way, among which are marathon group therapy, primary relationship therapy, guided imagery, and bibliotherapy.

          This book is well worth taking a great amount of time to read and absorb. If you want to know what Adler’s actual creative approach was and what he taught his students about the art of psychotherapy, I think this is where you need to come. The book will enrich any clinician’s thinking.

          (James Wolf is an Adlerian psychotherapist and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Oakland, CA.)

Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy - Volume I
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