Interviu : Vesna Pfeiffer, Dostopno.si at RTVSLO, Slovenija
What is Adlerian psychotherapy/Adlerian approach?
Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler is a theory of bio-psycho-social-spiritual personality. The name of the individual psychology refers to each person like an indivisible whole. Each person is an individual who function as a whole human being. Adler focuses on the interrelationships between people. A fundamental aspect of Adlerian psychotherapy is the concept of holism as essential principle. Adlerian’s focus is behavior oriented for a particular purpose, as it would be a psychological destination. The Adlerians underscores how important is to understand the "movement" of a person in the world, usually from “minus” to “plus”. The self-feeling is a function of identification with others. Adler says that each person's primary need is to belong, to have a place in the community. For the little child this community is the family. The fundamental need to "belong" connects people to each other. Children's beliefs about this need are crucial for later development. If a child believes he has a place which he belongs in like his family, he will endeavor to contribute to the welfare of the family and then to the community. The child who grows up in Adlerian principles is a child who feels equal in his family. On the other hand, a child who does not consider himself worthy deploys enough energy to find a place in the world and less to help others.
R. Dreikurs says if the child has doubts that he “has a place in the world” and he belongs, the striving to prove that he belongs turns into an unattainable goal. Children with autism do not feel they have a place and they can’t identify with others, to contribute to the world. Therefore their purpose is always to avoid connection and cooperation with others. The therapeutic role at the beginning is to help them to connect, to delimit theirs space/place and give them a sense of belonging. Another concept of Adlerian theory is social interest defined as concern for the good of others. This feeling is innate also for child with autism, only that the early personal experiences and his subjective assessment make the child with autism to believe that he can’t help the others. So he chooses to live life in isolation as a defense mechanism.
Before contribute for others the children with autism need to identify with the group to which they belong. To develop this potential autistic child needs trust, cooperation, and respect, equality, making joint decisions and taking the logical consequences of their own actions. In Adlerian theory every individual who is born has three essential characteristics: a type of intelligence, creativity and social interest. The child with autism needs a fertile ground to develop their innate intelligence type, needs to learn how to make decisions, respecting his free will and thus he will become creative and will knows how to solve problems. And also he needs to learn how to contribute to his own good and to the others.
Adler says that people do not like to feel inferior. Children with autism have a very low self-esteem due to feelings of inferiority felt after countless attempts to face the world, and countless failures. Therefore the tendency is to compensate inferiority of manifesting certain superiority to the world. For example he ignores the wishes of others people, or uses them just to satisfy an interest. In their private logic (another Adlerian concept) humans beings are hard to understand, intangible for autistic child. Adler also speaks about common sense, that people follow their own goals and ideals, taking into consideration the needs of the whole to which they belong. Well, children with autism need to be grounded in a reality where personal wishes are taken into account as long as they will take into account the needs of the group which they belongs. In this case the limits imposed of family and the needs of society are meant to educate his self-discipline.
Adler talks also about emotions as having a fundamental role that directs the behavior of the individual to a particular purpose. If a child with autism feels to be moving toward success, it will have positive feelings, and if he feels he is useful, he will feel hopeless: "I am not good for anything".
2. How holistic approach understands autism or how can we see autistic symptoms through holistic perspective?
Holistic approach is a vast and complex concept, just as complex it is autism in its essence. Our center promotes the idea of holism, considering a fundamental aspect that characterizes children with autism namely exaggerated individualism and focusing on details, eliminating the fundamental context issues at a time when they are absolutely necessary to constitute a whole. Primordial autistic child psychotherapy is CONNECTION. Records show that at the beginning there is not ME and YOU in autistic disorder. Interdependence between “Me” and “You” is the first step to discovering the entire called “Us”. “Me and You” means o functional connection, in order to understand how we move through the world. At this point, the therapist becomes a model for the child, a whole human being!
The human brain is based on complex series of connections that form synapses to transmit information. For children with autism, one of the key issues could be the lack of "cleansing" of connections. A new research has confirmed that, in children with autism, there is an abundance of synapses in the brain too. The children’s brain with autism has several connections than to typical children's brains. Furthermore, the brain impaired in social behavior is characterized by a hyper-connectivity of neurons. The play room is the space adjustment and synaptic integration that is a "blend into a whole" and generate a response from a stimulus, is a place where therapeutic process teaches the child about prioritizing and encouraging synaptic cleaning.
In the holistic approach the symptoms are considered clause in healing. So symptoms are the only way of autistic child to communicate. Our intervention interpret them in psychotherapeutic terms: for example walking peaks can be interpreted as "I need to be above you, I feel inferior", ordering of objects "I need to be secure", lack of eye contact can mean "I don’t trust you” or “I do not feel equal with you" etc. Understanding autistic symptoms and interpreting nonverbal behavior are very important at the beginning. Symptoms are a barometer for measuring the effectiveness of the therapeutic process.
As you know autistic child sees the world in puzzle pieces. He sees only a part of a whole, and seems to be always concerned about the details. Well we know that the puzzle is the favorite activity of autistic children. I wondered what would be the need behind this behavior. What gives us this symptom? A fundamental need to see the whole of the picture, to see the meaning, purpose. Imagine life through the eyes of child with autism as a sentence in which the order of the words is random, meaningless. Then, if you discern the meaning of each word and organize them, the sentence seems to have significance, sending a message. Or imagine some puzzle pieces thrown on the floor. They need to be assembled piece by piece to form a whole and to gain a meaning.
Word holism defines that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”. This often includes the view that systems function as a whole and that their functioning cannot be fully understood just in terms of their component parts. Many times playing a game, the child with autism takes one piece and goes away to auto stimuli. For him is difficult to understand that the piece belongs and connect with others pieces to make a game with significance. So if your child sees pieces of a whole his primordial need is to emphasis the whole of everything: the game as a whole with significance and structure, a day in his life as a whole, the family as a whole, etc.
In holistic approach we treat the autistic child as part of a whole called family. Therefore, the family becomes the main beneficiary of our center. In working with the family is necessary to consider the good of each group member. Only like this way we can speak of a functional family. We cannot treat the child without taking into account the context in which he lives. Therapy room is so organized that take in consideration all areas of child development: personal autonomy, language and communication, motor development, emotional development, cognitive development, sensory integration etc.
When a child with autism can look at himself in the mirror and can talk about himself as a whole person, we believe that the therapeutic process has ended.
By Sinziana Burcea, aprilie 2015
Interviu : Vesna Pfeiffer
Dostopno.si at RTVSLO