The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (Second Edition, 2007) by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers
A Review by James Robert Bitter
East Tennessee State University
Recently, a young woman from another university asked me, "What makes Adlerian Psychology a phenomenological approach?" She was specifically interested in Adler's meaning for phenomenology.
Good question, really: I know what phenomenology means. I even know what Husserl, the philosopher most associated with the term, meant by it (Welton, 1999). But Adler?
In the old days, I would have picked up the Ansbachers' (1956) The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler, starting with their index and then a search through many different pages to find an answer. With the publication of Griffith and Powers' (1984) original Adlerian Lexicon, some of that searching came to a very convenient end. The revised edition, The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology(Griffith & Powers, 2007), provides almost double the number of terms defined, greatly expands the references to Adlerian primary sources, and is organized alphabetically so that any of the 106 terms can be found easily.
To be sure, this lexicon is an essential time-saver for all Adlerian scholars and teachers. It should also be the first next source for students who want to know more than they are being offered in survey courses on theories of personality, counseling theory and practice, or clinical approaches to psychotherapy.
In an educational period when students of psychology and counseling no longer read original sources until they get to a doctoral program--and when 45-minute video presentations hold more of their interest than actual books--much of the psychological foundation, the view of human nature, the approach to learning and change, and the moral values of any model get lost in simplified textbook overviews and a focus on "what works in therapy." Many of the most used textbooks over-emphasize some Adlerian phrases (e.g., spitting in one's soup) and ignore some of the most important, like The Question. Some textbooks even create terms for Adlerian psychology that can't be found in original sources, like Hall and Lindzey's invention of the Creative Self(Hall, Lindzey, & Campbell, 1977), rather than Adler's emphasis on the creative power of the self, the child, or the individual (see Griffith & Powers, 2007, p. 21).
Even some of the most accomplished practitioners of the Adlerian approach have lost at least some of the connection to the ideas and concepts that are the foundation of the model. Try these questions: Are irrational beliefs and cognitive distortions the same as private logic? And conversely, are rational ideas the same as common sense? If there is a difference, would it make any real difference in how therapy is practiced? What did Adler mean by arrangements and do they help us understand unusual behavior today? Is Adlerian therapy essentially a cognitive-behavioral therapy or does it have links to existentialism, field theory, feminism, or family and systemic process? Do you have a sense of what Adlerian dream work would be like?
Adler--and those who have followed him--developed a highly complex and fully integrative psychological model for human understanding and effective therapeutic interventions. The model has been so thoroughly validated that many of Adler's most significant terms have been incorporated in the practical, everyday language of western societies.
The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology provides a crucial link between language and meaning. It reclaims Adlerian psychological formulations from common parlance and defines the distinctions that make an actual difference.
So what about phenomenology? From Adler as originally noted by the Ansbachers:
I am convinced that a person's behavior springs from his opinion. We
should not be surprised at this, because our senses do not receive
actual facts, but merely a subjective image of them, a reflection of the
external world. Omnia ad opinionem suspensa sunt [Everything
depends opinion--Seneca) (Griffith & Powers, 2007, p. 80).
I couldn't have said it better.
Ansbacher, H. L., & Ansbacher, R. R. (1956). The individual psychology of Alfred Adler. New York: Basic Books.
Griffith, J., & Powers, R. L. (1984). An Adlerian lexicon. Chicago: American Institute of Adlerian Studies.
Griffith, J., & Powers, R. L. (2007). The lexicon of Adlerian psychology: 106 terms associated with the individual psychology of Alfred Adler (2nd ed.). Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates. [http://www.adlerianpsychologyassociates.com]
Hall, C. S., Lindzey, G., & Campbell, J. B. (1997). Theories of personality (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Welton, D. (Ed.). (1999). The essential Husserl: Basic writings in transcendental phenomenology. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (Second Edition, 2007) by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers is available at
Adlerian Psychology Associates. [http://www.adlerianpsychologyassociates.com]