Alfred Adler Institute of Northwestern Washngton

The Five Phases of Classical Adlerian
Family Assessment and Therapy

Developed by Henry T. Stein, Ph.D.

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The following charts are from the handouts and material based on lectures that are included in the Alfred Adler Institute of San Francisco's Distance Training Program, Course DT304: Classical Adlerian Child and Family Therapy. These simplified graphic illustrations represent a comprehensive family assesssment process and the major phases of Classical Adlerian family treatment; they are intended as a general guide for teaching. In practice, not all of the steps or phases may be necessary in each case.

Phase One: Comprehensive Family Assessment

Focus Office Interviews Written Questionnaire, Testing On-Site Observation Consulting Testing Referral
Home - Family Functioning Mother Current Problem,
Family History, Personal History
Personal Questionnaire, Family Questionnaire -- -- If Needed (MMPI)
Father Current Problem,
Family History, Personal History
Personal Questionnaire, Family Questionnaire -- -- If Needed (MMPI)
Couple Current Problem, Relationship History -- -- -- If Needed (TJ-TA)
Child Current Problem, Family, School, Interests, Friends Toy World Test, Hand Puppets, Drawing -- -- If Needed: Intelligence,Psychological, Neurological Battery
Sibling(s) Current Problem, Family -- -- -- If Needed
Other Caretaker(s) Current Problem -- -- -- --
Family Unit -- -- Home Visit, Family Council -- --
School Behavior- Medical, Psychological Evaluation Teacher -- -- Classroom Observation Phone Consult --
School Counselor -- -- Playground Observation Phone Consult --
Other Therapists -- -- -- Phone Consult --
Pediatrician -- -- -- Phone Consult --
Psychologist -- -- -- Phone Consult, Report --
Learning Disability Specialist -- -- -- Phone Consult, Report --
Summary Couple Summary of Assessment, Treatment Recommendations -- -- -- --

Phases Two - Five: Classical Adlerian Child and Family Therapy

General Notes:

  1. Phase 1: The extent of a family assessment depends on the complexity and severity of a presenting problem. The table represents a comprehensive process that is not always needed, but often very illuminating when dealing with difficult cases. Although this phase is included in the course lecture, for clarity, a table has been added and the title of this page has been revised. The Toy World Test, by Charlotte Bühler, is very appealing to children and quite compatible with Adlerian assessment and treatment. It is fully described and demonstrated in the course lecture and handout material.

  2. Phase 2: To avoid parental misinterpretation and distortion of child guidance reading material, it is usually necessary to verify each parent's understanding of the principles and techniques. For example, logical consequences are often administered in anger, and consequently become a disguised form of domination and punishment.

  3. Phase 3: Unlike traditional Family Therapy, the Classical Adlerian approach starts with each family member individually, building the one-to-one therapeutic relationship, providing critical encouragement, fostering insight, and promoting the change of each family member's style of life. Gaining an accurate picture of the child's world may be enhanced by psychological testing, home visits, and school consultations.

  4. Phase 4: Healing each dyad effectively requires insight into to the complementary dynamics of each pair of life styles. Getting both members to “lay down their weapons” and discover new, positive aspects of each other often demands great therapeutic diplomacy.

  5. Phase 5: The genuine re-unification of a family into a cooperative, caring whole is achieved by winning each family member into a less self-serving and more generous view of the welfare of others. Overly-protective and overly-helpful parents may seem to be positively motivated to provide for their child's well-being. However, they actually often rob the child of courage and initiative when they over-emphasize their own importance in his life.

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