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Adlerian counselling and hynosis: strategies for African American adolescents.

Adlerian counseling and hypnosis are strength-based models that can capitalize on African American youths' cultural differences. For example, both approaches have applications for minority groups (Sapp, 2004a; Sapp, 2009; Sapp, 2010a; Sapp, 2010b). Because Adlerian counseling is optimistic, it stresses equipotentiality of growth. In contrast to deficit models of Adlerian counseling and hypnosis suggest that African American youths are in an increasing phase of growth. Many African American adolescents are academically at-risk, and Adlerian psychotherapy or counseling and hypnosis are useful tools. In a similar view, from a hypnotic view African American adolescents are in a state of ego development, and hypnosis could be used to increase ego strength and to enhance self esteem and possibly academic self-concept.

Sapp (2004a, 2006) stated that Individual Psychology or Adlerian counseling is a forerunner to cognitive-behavioral theories of counseling. In fact, it predated the cognitive-behavioral movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Moreover, Adler was a subjective and socially oriented theorist (Mosak & Maniacci, 1999), who made the following 7 contributions:

a. the confluence of drives,

b. the transformation of drives into opposites,

c. the projection of one's drive onto another,

d. the relationship between the aggression drive and anxiety,

e. defense mechanisms as safeguards of the ego,

f. The ego-ideal concept, and

g. Ego psychology. Philosophically, Adler was influenced by Kant, Nietzche, Vaihinger, Goethe, Shakespeare, and the Bible.

Long before many areas were popular such as social and public policy issues, Adler addressed them, and 9 of these issues were the following:

1. At-risk children and students.

2. The rights of women.

3. The rights of women to have abortions.

4. Adult Education.

5. Teacher training.

6. Community mental health and family counseling clinics.

7. Experimental public school education.

8. Short-term and brief forms of psychotherapy.

9. Family education and family counseling.

One can clearly see that Adler had a strong influence on many areas, and he is seen as the father of self-help programs (Mosak & Maniacci, 1999). In addition, Adler influenced the following 15 approaches and or areas of counseling:

1. Existential psychotherapy (Frankl, 1983).

2. Person-centered psychotherapy (Frankl, 1983).

3. Transactional Analysis (Berne, 1961).

4. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (Ellis, 1973).

5. Cognitive Therapy (Beck, 1976).

6. Family Therapy (Minuchin, 1974).

7. Group Therapy (Sapp, 2004a).

8. Extensions and adaptations of psychoanalysis such as Karen Horney (1945) and Harry Stack Sullivan (1953, 1964).

9. Social adaptations of psychoanalytic theory such as Erich Fromm (1941), Victor Frankl (1983), and Rollo May (1983).

10. Gestalt psychotherapy (Corsini & Wedding, 1989).

11. The self-psychology of Kohut (1971, 1977).

12. Object relations theory and psychotherapy (Kernberg, 1975).

13. Borderline personality (Kernberg, 1975).

14. The integrationist and constructionist views of Guidano and Liotti (1983).

15. Founder of phenomenology (Mosak and Maniacci, 1999).

In with the context of this paper, hypnosis is an interpersonal relationship in which a helping professional offers suggestions to African American adolescents that can produce physiological changes (Sapp, In Press). Moreover, hypnosis is an adjunctive procedure that can be used to treat many psychological disorders such anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders, academic and self-esteem related disorders. Likewise, hypnosis is a theoretical construct that can enhance clinical practice and has effect sizes, quantitative measure of effectiveness, larger than many other procedures (Sapp, 2004a; Sapp, 2009). Flammer and Bongartz (2003), in a recent meta-analysis, found that with 57 randomized clinical trials using hypnosis produced a weighted average post-treatment effect of d=. 56. With 37 studies using hypnosis to treat ICD-10 coded disorders the weighted mean effect size was d=.63. In addition, they did a meta-analysis with 133 studies, and found a d effect size=1.07 (r effect size=.47). They found a mean correlation of .44 between hypnotic susceptibility and treatment outcomes. Finally, hypnosis is an efficacious treatment across a variety of settings and conditions.

In contrast to Freud's intrapsychic notion, Adler based his theory on social psychology, or the notion that adolescents live within a social field or social context. Freud viewed problems as existing within the individual, hence the term intrapsychic conflict. Even though Africa American adolescents can be conditioned to respond to conditions that no longer exists, they can choose to stop responding once conditions change; this is the notion of choice and soft determinism. While Adler embraced a social psychology view of humans, he realized that not all problems are social and that problems can exist within adolescents. When an African American adolescent has an intraindividual problem, when he or she engages with others, the problem can become a social problem if the adolescent whines or complains and others become involved with him or her. Freud saw the transference relationship as necessary for psychoanalysis; in contrast, Adler did not emphasize the transference relationship, since Adlerian counseling is educational and does not involve the deep analysis and interpretation of African American adolescents' unconscious influences from the past.

Freud viewed adolescents as basically "bad" whereas Adler took a neutral position, where adolescents are neither "good" nor "bad" but have the choice to perform bad acts or good acts. In terms of dreams, Freud viewed them as the royal road to the unconscious, in contrast, Adler viewed dreams from a future or current orientation. Within Individual Psychology or Adlerian counseling, teleology deals with purposefulness and the force that guides self-ideal. Self-ideals organize and guide adolescents toward the direction of the future. Unlike psychoanalysis, which stressed unconscious causation, teleology stresses the continuity among the past, present, and future, but with more emphasis and anticipation for the future (Sapp, 2004a). Finally, because Adlerian counseling did not develop from academic psychology, it can be viewed as a nontraditional form of cognitive-behavioral therapy and can be integrated with other forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy and hypnosis.

Historical Context of African Americans

Even though a few Africans who immigrated to the United States were indentured servants, most were slaves. It may be hard for some readers to imagine, but blacks and whites were legally segregated until the 1960s. Specially, there were separate restaurants, hotels, swimming pools for blacks and whites. Not until 1865, that the United States Constitution abolished slavery (13th Amendment), and it was not until 1868 (14th Amendment) that equal protection was provided to everyone under the law. The 15th Amendment of 1870 provided all persons with the right to vote, but as stated earlier, it was not until the 1960s that the United States started desegregating America. Even with these amendments, African Americans have been held under subservience by a number of tactics. For example, the rise of several vigilante and hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan have used lynching and other intimidation tactics to control African Americans in the post-facto racial segregation error (Sapp, 2004a; Sapp, 2010). Interestingly, racial segregation started in the north as a means to disenfranchise Africans Americans and keeping them in their places. Clearly, even during the 21st Century, still African Americans appear to be affected by the aftermath of slavery, racial prejudice, and social discrimination.

Even though African Americans are divided into at least 3 strata: middle class, made up of white-collar and skilled blue-color workers, working class, consisted of semiskilled workers, and the lower class, consisting of unskilled workers, many Americans are not aware of this fact. Within the United States, most of the attention tends to focus on lower class African Americans-where they tend to have high HIV/AIDS rates, high welfare rates, and low educational attainment (Sapp, 2004a). Unfortunately, with African Americans from the lower strata, there are many problems such as high rates of teenage pregnancies, high crime rates, and so on. Finally, even with the election of President Barack Obama, the first African American president, African Americans still tend to suffer from many social problems.

Therapeutic Goals for African American Adolescents

Adlerian counseling is not a series or techniques (Sapp, 2004a; Sapp, Durand, & Farrell, 1995; Scholze & Sapp, 2006), and Adler urged against just attempting techniques in counseling. In addition, research supports the fact that the adolescent-counseling relationship, especially the one emphasized in Individual Psychology, is more significant than the wild eclectic use of techniques. Sapp (1997; Sapp, 2004a) pointed out that Adlerian counseling is a complicated and intricate intertwine of four objectives or four stages of a counseling process. The reader may recall that psychoanalysis also has four phases that were outlined by Corsini and Wedding (1989); and these phases, which are overlapping, are opening phase, development of transference, working through, and resolution of transference. During the opening phase, the counselor obtains the adolescent's case history, and free association is encouraged. This phase of free association can last anywhere from three to six months. Interestingly, one difference between short-term dynamic therapy and traditional psychoanalysis, other than the amount of time or years used for therapy, is that short-term dynamic therapy does not generally use free association, and there tends to be stringent selection criteria for African American adolescents to enter this form of counseling. The opening phase, along with the development of transference, represents the majority of counseling.

Some argue that Freud's greatest discovery was transference. Transference is part of the therapeutic relationship in which adolescents project feeling and fantasies from the past onto the counselor. If an African American adolescent can distinguish fantasy from fiction, it is possible that transference can be worked through, and that analysis leads to the working phase. When an African American adolescent can resolve issues of transference, the termination of counseling can begin. In contrast to psychoanalysis, the four phases or stages of Adlerian or Individual Psychology that would be appropriate for African American adolescents are the following:

1. Establishing empathic therapeutic relationships with African American adolescents.

2. Helping African American adolescents comprehend their lifestyles, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors (Mosak, 1971).

3. Helping African American adolescents develop insight into their behaviors.

4. Helping African American adolescents commit to change and initiate alternatives to current behavior.

Often, counseling starts with an interview that assesses African American adolescents' strengths and weaknesses (Smith, 2006). In addition, counselors gather information about the African American adolescent's family constellation and questionnaires can aid this process.

Adler and Hypnosis

Adler did not have much to say about hypnosis, but others have linked his approach to hypnosis (Jones, 1997a; 1997b, Mazdzierz, 1990). In addition, Sapp (2010; 2004b; 2005, Sapp and Hitchcock, 2001; 2003a; 2003b) have research hypnosis and African Americans. As alluded to earlier, previous models of counseling for African American adolescents have been deficit models of counseling (Smith, 2006). Smith noted that counselors should focus on identifying at-risk African American adolescents' cultural and individual strengths, rather than focusing on their victim statuses; this is particularly the case for African American adolescents. Moreover, Smith agreed that counselors must come to grips with the fact that racial, gender, and social class discriminations are real, and these factors have to be addressed for African American adolescents. Apparently, Adler's form of counseling is analytical; but it is also phenomenological in that it emphasizes how African American adolescents are affected by their internal worlds, and how their internal world interacts with their external worlds.

Phenomenology is the philosophical cornerstone for Humanistic and Existential forms of counseling. In contrast to psychoanalysis, which is pessimistic, Adler's counseling is optimistic by stressing equipotentiality of growth; and this concept suggests that African American adolescents are in an increasing phase of growth. Moreover, phenomenology suggests that these adolescents are in a process of becoming, and this is the foundation for Carl Roger's Person-Centered form of counseling.

Sapp (1990, 1994, 1996); Sapp, Durand, and Farrell, (1995); Sapp and Farell, (1994); Sapp, Farrell, and Durand, (1995a, 1995b); and Scholze and Sapp (2006) suggested that African American and Latino adolescents are academically at-risk and they have issues their academic self-concepts, test anxiety, and issues with learning. Sapp (2005) suggested that Adlerian hypnosis, a nontraditional cognitive-behavioral form hypnosis, could have applications with these students, and this is particularly the case for African American and Latino adolescents. For example, these students could benefit from study skills training assisted with hypnosis. In addition, the relaxation aspect of hypnosis can be used to reduce anxiety and stress with these students, and these strategies could be adapted to a classroom setting. Moreover, the ABCs of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) could be implemented with these students via hypnosis.

Within REBT, A is an activating event or something that has happened within an African American adolescent's life, B is the African American adolescent's belief system, and C is the African American adolescent's emotions (Sapp, 2004b; Sapp & Hitchcock, 2001, 2003a, 2003b; Smith, Sapp, Farrell, & Johnson, 1998). In addition, A can be viewed as events that block African American adolescents from reaching their goals. The activating events (As) can be embedded memories that trigger these adolescents to react consciously or unconsciously, and seldom do the activating events exist in their pure states they tend to interact with their belief systems and emotional or behavioral consequences. Essentially, C=A multiplied by B. Mathematically, this expression states that C is a two-way interaction of both A and B. In summary, Cs are partially influenced by A, most of the influence comes from the Bs.

Academically at-risk African American and Latino adolescents tend to assume that Bs are totally the result of As; therefore, the ABCs of REBT could be implemented with these adolescents via hypnosis. These strategies could help these adolescents see that many of their failures are related to irrational beliefs. Specifically, in terms of test anxiety, African American and Latinos adolescents tend to reindoctrinate themselves with irrational beliefs such as " I must pass all these tests. I must be perfect on all tests, and I must be perfect and never make mistakes, especially on standardized tests. African American and Latino adolescents cannot perform well on tests. White teachers are racist bastards and they are out to get me, and they will always be out to get me. Since I am bound to fail, why try? I cannot stand living!! I am a loser! Damn it, I will always be a loser." Moreover, African American and Latino adolescents tend to have low levels of self-acceptance, and they tend to destroy their chances for success on examinations. Their low levels of self-acceptance tend to correspond with low academic self-concepts; and they tend to have cognitive views of their futures that are invariably based on failure.

African American and Latino adolescents can be taught that being personally responsible they can improve via hypnosis academic performance (Sapp, 2004b; 2005). Specifically, learning to apply study skills is one form of personal responsibility that these students can learn. Moreover, they need to learn that when they fail on examinations, their failures have no connections with their worth as human beings. Basically, hypnosis can help these students learn to deal or cope with frustration.

When African American and Latino adolescents experience Alderian counseling and hypnosis, they tend to tolerate failures on examinations, and develop higher levels of frustration tolerance and self-acceptance (Sapp, 2005). Clearly, counseling services and hypnosis cannot eliminate all the factors that affect African American adolescents, but early interventions at the elementary levels can reduce problems for these adolescents. African American adolescents tend to be affected by a number of general expectancies such as learned helpless, pessimism, optimism, resilience, self-efficacy; however, when they receive counseling techniques and hypnosis that match their response expectancies, they tend to respond. For example, these adolescents tend to respond to encouragement, not discouragement. Many African American adolescents are endangered species; and many are at-risk for future dangers and negative events. Each of these factors need be researched separately. For example, even though resilience is an important concept for African American adolescents; theoretically, it is not clear of the exact mechanism of resiliency with these adolescents. We know that teaching them coping skills to handle adversities of life is one method to promote resiliency. Finally, these adolescents need counseling and hypnosis that identifies their cultural and individual strengths, and Adlerian counseling and hypnosis could be adapted to their needs (Sapp, 2006; Smith, 2006).


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Dr. Marty Sapp is a full professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and he is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. He was president of the Society of Psychological Hypnosis, Division 30, part of the American Psychological Association. His specialty areas are cognitive-behavioral therapies, hypnosis, anxiety disorders, and research methods and designs.


Dr Marty Sapp, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2400 E. Hartford Avenue Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53211, USA Phone: (414) 736-0481 Fax: (414) 229-4939 Email:

Dr Marty Sapp

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Department of Educational Psychology
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Author:Sapp, Marty
Publication:Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis
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Date:Sep 22, 2014
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