THE CASE OF MARIA: AN ADLERIAN APPROACH
The three principles discussed in the beginning of this chapter – goal oriented, social interest, and holism – are used to conceptualize this case. It is framed in the four phases of the counseling process: relationship, investigation, interpretation, and reorientation.
Relationship and Encouragement
The counselor should establish an empathic, collaborative, and encouraging counselor- client relationship with Maria. Encouragement is one of the most important techniques the counselor will use to empower Maria to have the courage to make changes.
During this phase of the counseling process, the counselor is exploring Maria's subjective perceptions of her relationships, family, and lifestyle. A lifestyle analysis will assist in this process. The counselor will use open-ended questions to generate responses from Maria. In the initial analysis, Maria reported that she is a 32-year-old, Hispanic, single parent of two children employed as a teacher. Although she has excelled academically, has been a good teacher and mother, and has been involved in her family and community, Maria states that she is depressed, overwhelmed, and fearful. She reports that her relationship with her family has become distant, and she is distancing herself from her friends and work relationships. This situation has left Maria feeling disconnected and socially isolated. When asked about her childhood, Maria states that her family was very close; however, as the oldest child in her family, she had many responsibilities of taking care of the home and her siblings while her parents ran the family business. As the oldest child, Maria was seen by her siblings as a good role model, and up until college, she was a compliant and responsible family member. Maria reported being very dependable, hard working, and conscientious, which fits with Adler's characteristics of an oldest child. As a result of her childhood development, she is sensitive to her most recent challenges with her relationships and divorce.
Maria may have developed a discouraged lifestyle and felt that she was not as competent as her parents and siblings expected. The felt responsibilities of her role in her family of origin are the roots of her inferiority feelings. Looking back on her childhood, Maria believed that her parents' requirement that she take care of her siblings was an indication of how much they loved her. Maria remembers an incident when she wanted to participate in a school activity but was told she needed to care for her siblings and was not able to attend the activity. After that experience, Maria always was responsible so her parents would love her. That thought continued into adulthood when she married and felt responsible for her own family. Although complete information is not available in this case, this conclusion is consistent with other elements of Maria's story. Maria is discouraged and despondent about her lack of connectedness and acceptance in her relationships with family and friends in her present lifestyle. While her unconscious goal is to be free of all of the responsibilities she had in the past as a child as well as the responsibilities she sees in her present life, Maria also needs to be connected to her family and friends. Maria reports of dreaming of "boxes and crates" that turn into "figures." tier dreams are a reflection of the challenges she is experiencing. As Adler suggested, dreams are expressions of Maria's lifestyle and are reflections of her daytime feelings and problems she is facing. The objects in her dreams represent all of the people in her life needing something from Maria, her feelings of being overwhelmed, and her feeling of being unable to cope. Just as Maria escaped to college and disobeyed her parents, she currently wants to escape again from all of her responsibilities.