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Adlerian Concepts: Humanity

Multicultural Challenge to Adlerian Approach

Xenia J. Kozlov

In 1938, Alfred Adler wrote, “Individual Psychology stands firmly on the ground of evolution and in the light of evolution regards all human striving as a struggle for perfection" (p. 19), and cultural development of humanity was seen as a result of evolution as well. Today, we are likely to approach the next stage of our evolutionary development when everyone needs special knowledge to be fully included in everyday life. This knowledge is known as cultural competence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cultural competence has become a problem of national health in the United States (CDC, 2015).

The reason for this knowledge is a must-have in nowadays is that world has faced its cultural diversity, and it is reasonable to suppose that Adlerian concept of the ideal of perfection as the essence of past experiences applied to our present (Adler, 1938, p. 20), i.e. the through-time cross-cultural values – will remain working for the wide-world, cross-cultural values as well. CDC refers to culture as a set of behavioral patterns that include "language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups” (CDC, 2015), so we can see which exactly directions should be taken into consideration as potentially problematic. From the interrelational perspective (emic and etic standpoints), humanity faces with problems of inclusion/belonging, adaptation/acculturation, cultural borrowing, cultural diffusion, etc., and all of these rest on self-identification and self-awareness – that is, on the self-concept (Dreikurs, 2012). The Adlerian approach is a perfect way to address these problems, as it understands the uniqueness of each subject, and at the same time realizes the alignment of the core values in different cultures (e.g., the concept of social interest - Aslinia, Rasheed, & Simpson, 2011). Moreover, a specific problem of a specific population in a specific environment and conditions sooner or later inevitably leads to investigating the historical-cultural plane both of the population and the environment. Thus, the Adlerian concepts worked effectively in addressing problems of parenting for African-American (Moore & McDowell, 2014) and Mexican American (Chavez, Moore, & McDowell, 2018) populations. The authors were able not only to Adlerian lens and toolset (e.g. tension-resilience points) but create a common scenario for working with cultural adaptation, addressing step by step fear, anger, shame, and anxiety.

Finally, democratic processes which seem to become the mainstream in the integrated multicultural world not only align with main Adlerian principles but also become a necessary environment for successful Adlerian intervention (Ferguson, 2004). Equality, mutual respect, support, negotiation and cooperation, belongingness, the common welfare – progressive society seems to not doubt that these principles are beneficial to the humanity, while the rest are at least explainable through a man’s sense of inferiority and dynamics of conflicts (Dreikurs, 2012).


Adler, A. (1938). Social interest: a challenge to mankind. Oxford, England: Faber & Faber.

Aslinia, S. D., Rasheed, M., & Simpson, C. (2011). Individual psychology (Adlerian) applied to international collectivist cultures: Compatibility, effectiveness, and impact. Journal for International Counselor Education, 3, 1-12. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] (2015). Cultural Competence. Retrieved from

Chavez, A., Moore, N., & McDowell, T. (2018). Mexican American Immigrant Parents Striving to Raise Resilient Children: Obstacles, Tension Points, and Resiliency Factors. Journal of Individual Psychology, 74(1), 4–19. Retrieved from

Ferguson, E. D. (2004). The 2003 H.L. and R.R. Ansbacher Memorial Address: Democratic Relationships: Key to Adlerian Concepts. Journal of Individual Psychology, 60(1), 3–24. Retrieved from

Dreikurs, R. (2012). Social Equality: The Challenge of today. Chicago, IL: Adler School of Professional Psychology.

Moore, N., & McDowell, T. (2014). Expanding Adlerian Application: The Tasks, Challenges, and Obstacles for African American Parents. Journal of Individual Psychology, 70(2), 114–127. Retrieved from

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