Note: Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are citations from The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writings. (H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.). © 1964, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Used by permission of Perseus Books Group.
Adler asked clients a particular question to uncover the purpose of symptoms. Dreikurs emphasized use of this procedure, referring to it as The Question. He advocated its use for differential diagnosis (to establish whether or not a symptom pointed to an organic disease process or a functional disturbance). The Question is: “How would your life be different if you did not have ____________ (the symptom)?” For Dreikurs, if the patient answered that his or her life would be the same, only the symptom would be gone, the answer indicated the likely presence of undiagnosed organic disease. If, however, the client responded that being free of the symptom would mean being able to do something (get a job, get married, move, settle accounts with someone, excel, have a child, etc.), Dreikurs took the answer to mean that the symptom was more likely to represent a functional disorder (Dreikurs, 1973, p. 56). Examples of Adler’s use of the technique in treatment follow, below.
Ask the patient: “What would do if you were completely well?” Most certainly he will name precisely that demand of society which we would expect him to avoid (p. 332).
If you want to find out how insomnia fits in with the whole personality, ask the patient: “What would you do if you could sleep?” Then he will tell of what he is afraid (p. 311).
© 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 (p. 87).
Definitions of concepts are used by permission of Jane Griffith. A comprehensive list of concepts and definitions can be found in The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers, available for purchase on Amazon.com.
Dreikurs, R. (1973, Rev. ed.). Psychodynamics, psychotherapy and counseling: Collected papers of Rudolf Dreikurs, M. D. Chicago: Alfred Adler Institute.