Adlerian Philosophy

Who was Alfred W. Adler and what is important about his contribution to coaching?

Alfrred Adler The philosophical foundation of the Adler School is rooted in theories developed by Alfred W. Adler (1870-1937). Dr. Adler was a Viennese physician and psychiatrist who emphasized the uniqueness of every person and stressed the individual’s relationship with society.

Adler has been called the “grandfather of coaching.” He recognized the intricate interplay of social/cultural and family/individual life. Ahead of his time, he thought of mind and body as an integrated whole and credited people’s creativity in solving problems. Most importantly, he applied his theories to everyday life, not just to subjects in a research study.

The Adler School recognizes strong parallels between Adlerian principles and coaching precepts. We highlight these to provide an additional context and framework for students to consider and use in their coaching.



Adler’s Core Philosophical Assumption

Adler taught that we are all caught in a paradoxical tension between being ourselves and being in relationship with others. On the one hand, we are all unique individuals with a strong need and desire to express our unique selves fully in our life and work. On the other hand, we are embedded in a web of relationships with other individuals, a member of multiple systems, and irretrievably part of humanity. Our creativity in resolving this tension between self-expression and embeddedness determines, to a significant extent, our level of success and fulfillment. We believe that the key to resolving this paradox lies in using our unique, best selves to make a contribution to others.

At Adler, we see coaching as a profession that distinguishes itself by helping people align their choices and actions with their unique “best self”:

  • By connecting more creatively with the deep human desire to make a contribution to the betterment of humanity
  • By using their strengths, values and vision in service of others, whether at home, at work or in the community.

Adler School of Professional Coaching provides transformative learning opportunities for coaches to marshal their own strengths and experience in highly effective and meaningful ways to support positive change and development in other individuals and organizations. Our coaching approach is anchored in core elements of mindset and philosophical/theoretical principles that support students in shifting from merely “doing” coaching to truly “BEing” a coach.

Adlerian theory may be understood & remembered using the acronym “SUPER”

S: Social interest is a barometer of mental health, and connectedness is essential. The “S” can also be seen to stand for “service to others”.
U: Unity of the individual. In contrast to atavistic models (such as ego/id), Adlerian theory holds the premise that there is something that unites us, and the whole of the person is more than the sum of his/her parts.
P: Private logic. We don’t experience reality directly; we filter it through our beliefs, assumptions and experience.
E: Equality. As individuals, we are not the same, but we are equal and equally entitled. Mutual respect and dignity are essential concepts in Adlerian thought.
R: Reasons for our behavior. Our behavior moves us toward our goals, and our actions are purposeful toward those goals. Our conclusions create a pre-formed inner logic

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