substance abuse disorder Treatment using Adlerian psychotherapy

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Carlos's Substance Addiction Disorder

Carlos, one of my clients, is a victim of substance addiction disorder. Despite the fact that testing found three DUIs in his record, he remains defiant. Alcohol and cocaine are not an issue for him because he admits to just using them "socially" and only until he throws up, at which point he stops. Nonetheless, he admits to being highly aggressive when he drinks and has been arrested for assault and domestic abuse while intoxicated. I plan to employ Adlerian psychotherapy to treat Carlos's problem.\u00a0 Adlerian psychotherapy developed by Alfred Adler in the year between 1870/1937 is a personality theory which seeks to treat a psychological problem by establishing the social context of the problem which the client faces. The therapist using this theory is supposed to familiarize themselves with social factors which are likely to affect the client’s behavior such as lifestyle, parental education as well as the birth order of the client (Carlos & Slavik, 2013). For Adler, every individual in their daily operations strive to feel significant and to belong. As a result, a person will engage in a certain behaviour whenever they feel inadequate and inferior to others within their surroundings. Furthermore, whenever individuals within the society feel discouraged and thwarted at the same time, such individuals will most likely exhibit counterproductive actions. Such persons will most likely behave in a manner that exhibit withdrawal, defeat as well as competition.

Establishing the Social Context

Adler points out that in order to treat a psychological problem, the therapist ought to establish the reason why the person feels inferior and inadequate within the given environment (Sperry, 2013). This feeling could stem back from the person’s childhood or from an event which took place within the life of the individual that made them feel incapacitated, inferior or inadequate to other members of their social cycle. The individual should then be encouraged to feel adequate, accepted and respected as well as increase their level of fulfilment and optimism.

Assessing Carlos's Situation

To help Carlos recover from substance abuse disorder using the Adlerian psychotherapy, I will first of all seek to establish the social context of the behavior. I will establish whether there is any factors within the working environment of Carlos which have made him feel discouraged, withdrawn, unaccepted, inferior or inadequate. From his employer, I learn that Carlos was recently involved in an accident. I have to establish whether the accident could be the reason behind the drug abuse disorder. To do this, I will establish whether there has been a behavior change in the lifestyle of Carlos before and then after the accident. Was Carlos involved in drinking alcohol and cocaine use before the accident and if so then to what extent? Did the alcohol and cocaine use increase after the accident? How does Carlos view himself before and after the accident? Answering such questions will enable me establish whether there is a feeling of inferiority or discouragement in Carlos which could be the root cause of the drug and substance abuse disorder.

Childhood Evaluation

If I discover that Carlos was involved in alcohol drinking and cocaine use before the accident then I will interrogate the childhood of Carlos to establish the root cause of his problem. Some of the social factors I will consider include the level of education of Carlos’ parents, his birth order as well as any challenge be it a physical limitation or absence of social empathy in his life as he grew up. All these will be geared towards the establishment of whether my client is a victim of feelings of inferiority, discouragement, withdrawal, lack of acceptance or inadequacy. Just as in reality therapy, I will view Carlos not as a victim suffering from a mental illness but as one involved in drug and substance disorder as a result of lack of social needs and desires.

Techniques Used

To get all the necessary information which will enable me assist Carlos, I will use various techniques such as engagement, assessment, insight as well as reorientation (Ivey et al. 2011). For instance, engagement will entail drawing my client in the therapeutic process. This begins by the establishment of a cordial relationship which enables the client to openly talk about his problem. I will involve my client in the assessment of the problem by inviting him to openly talk about his family history, feelings, beliefs as well as his early re-collections. This will enable me establish the overall lifestyle patterns of Carlos which he might have thought were irrelevant. Similarly, I will use insight as a technique to assist my client to view life from a different angle and to develop a feeling of self-worth. Furthermore, I will reorientation as a technique to encourage my client to establish productive activities to engage in as this will not only divert his attention from alcohol and drug use but also make him busy and bring satisfaction.

Pros of Adlerian Psychotherapy

The use of Adlerian psychotherapy in Carlos' case is appropriate as it enables an in-depth analysis of the root cause of the problem. This theoretical orientation evaluates the social context of the problem from childhood. I will be able to evaluate the lifestyle of my client in all stages of his growth right from childhood. This analysis increases chances of discovering the root cause of the problem and come up with the most appropriate treatment. Moreover, going through the client’s lifestyle allows them the opportunity to reflect back to their past experiences and as a result enables them to discover on their own where the problem began. Furthermore, involving my client in the evaluation of his past will enable him realize that he controls his own fate and should not destroy his life due to the feeling of being inferior, discouraged or unwanted by anybody.

Cons of Adlerian Psychotherapy

Adlerian psychotherapy evaluates an individual’s childhood to treat the current psychosocial problem. The individual with the problem must therefore acknowledge that what they are going through is a problem which needs a solution. In the case of Carlos, this theory may be limited by the fact that the client does not view alcohol and cocaine use as a problem. According to him, he uses cocaine and alcohol only ''socially'' and he is in control since he manages to stop whenever he throws up. Therefore, for him, it not a problem hence it may be quite difficult getting him to open up especially on private issues such as childhood and family.

Progress of the Therapy

To enable my client to open up, I will be warm, understanding, friendly, and empathic. These, together with my focus on the soul, body, and mind will enable me gain full trust of my client and hence overcome alcohol and cocaine use through lifestyle readjustment. Moreover, I will gather as much history as possible on the family of my client, his childhood, dreams, early memories, as well as any other event in their life which might have made them harbour a feeling of being inferior. Having evaluated and gathered the necessary information, I will offer the necessary insight as well as implement techniques which will make my client aware of his problem. Finally, I will offer feedback with all honesty and advice Carlos on how he can end the problem of alcohol and cocaine use. If Carlos finds it difficult to stop the drug use, I will recommend him to a good rehabilitation centre where he will be assisted properly.


Carlson, J., & Slavik, S. (2013). Techniques in Adlerian psychology. Taylor & Francis.

Ivey, A. E., D'Andrea, M. J., & Ivey, M. B. (2011). Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: A Multicultural Perspective: A Multicultural Perspective. Sage.

Sperry, L. (2013). Psychopathology and psychotherapy: From DSM-IV diagnosis to treatment. Routledge.

April 26, 2023

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