Happy Birthday to the “Grandfather of Coaching,” Alfred Adler! (b. February 7, 1870)

Happy Birthday to the “Grandfather of Coaching,” Alfred Adler! (b. February 7, 1870)

adlerAlfred Adler was a Viennese psychiatrist (1870-1937) who was a contemporary of Freud and Jung, and participated with them in the Psychoanalytic Congress, until he broke away due to philosophical differences.

Why has Alfred Adler been called the “Grandfather of Coaching”?

The philosophical foundation of the Adler School is rooted in the science-of-living system developed by Alfred Adler (1870-1937). Dr. Adler was a Viennese psychiatrist whose theories were far enough ahead of their time that they continue to be considered current, and sit at the foundation of many contemporary disciplines including Positive Psychology, modern parenting theory, education, community work – and coaching!

Adler has been called the “Grandfather of Coaching” for a number of reasons. Rather than focusing on pathology like his peers, he shifted his attention to the question “What supports human thriving?” Similarly, the focus in coaching is on supporting the client’s success and fulfillment, as they self-define those things.

Adlerian Psychology emphasizes the uniqueness of every individual and stresses the individual’s relationship with society. Like Adler, coaching helps clients to identify their unique strengths, and to leverage those gifts to achieve their goals and to make meaningful connections and contributions.

Adler said “Encouragement prompts people to access the courage it takes to make the changes they need to make.” Like Alfred Adler, coaching maintains a core focus on encouragement that expands self-trust, to support coaching clients in being their best selves and raising the bar for themselves.

He recognized the intricate interplay of social/cultural and family/individual life. He thought of mind and body as an integrated whole. Coaches help clients to look both within and around themselves, and to zoom in and out to see both details and the big picture, and the multiplicity of connections, so they can navigate their lives and choices most effectively.

Adler gave credit to people’s creativity in solving problems. Coaching embraces the client’s creativity, and provides a framework to support them in finding their own best answers, rather than telling clients what they should do.

He emphasized the impact of our subjective perspective and private logic on our choices and actions. Likewise, coaching helps to make visible to the client their unseen beliefs, assumptions, mental models, preferences, etc. that may be undermining them, and helps them to identify fresh perspectives that are more likely to produce the results they are seeking.

And, most importantly, Adler wanted to apply his theories to everyday life, not just to subjects in a research study. Those theories come alive in today’s most powerful coaching interactions!

Adler’s Coach Training Program recognizes strong parallels between Adlerian principles and coaching precepts. We highlight those congruencies to provide an additional context and framework for students to consider and use in their coaching.

Want to start coaching for positive change? Contact us to learn more!

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