Meeting of the minds: Richfield graduate school hosts international psychology conference


A Richfield graduate school joined the ranks of cosmopolitan locales such as Paris and Vienna in hosting an international psychological conference this week.

Adler Graduate School welcomed psychologists from at least 16 different countries July 10-13 for the International Association of Individual Psychology’s 27th Congress, as the professionals put their heads together at the University of St. Thomas’ downtown Minneapolis campus.

With professionals from around the world meeting for an event that occurs every three years – having taken place in Vienna and Paris the last two times, respectively – “it’s a big deal, and we’re honored to do it,” said Dan Haugen, president of Adler Graduate School, based in southeast Richfield.

Practitioners of Adlerian psychology follow the teachings of Alfred Adler, an Austrian who broke from Sigmund Freud’s circle in the early 20th century. The theme of this week’s conference, “Inferiority Feelings: New Manifestations and New Approaches,” builds off a central idea to the Adlerian community.

“Adlerian psychology has, among other things, been interested in the concept of inferiority,” Haugen explained last week as he prepared for the conference.

“And the notion is that most of us, as we pursue our own growth and maturation – and you’d say mental health – try to manage those feelings in such a way that we master them.”

Just look at any high school, and the competition for grades and college admission, he said. Haugen called it “a cultural phenomenon that our young people are not feeling good enough because they’ve somehow fallen short of those definitions of success.

“Therein lies the inferiority feeling of not having achieved, when the bar keeps getting set higher and higher and higher.”

At the conference, the assemblage of psychologists worked to break new ground, Haugen said, in an effort to help patients cope in a contemporary society where “there are phenomena that you might say conspire to produce different versions of inferiority, and so it’s important to come up with more creative responses to these phenomena.”

One unfortunate manifestation of this condition is the surge in opioid abuse in the United States, he said.

“Opioids are on everybody’s mind, on everybody’s tongue these days, and there are reasons why there are those upsurges,” Haugen said.

In addressing some of the most pressing issues of the day, Adler Graduate School was selected as conference host based in part on its track record of organizing other large gatherings, said Haugen, expecting approximately 200 attendees for the conference. The school hosted a similar conference in the spring of 2016 for the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology.

As one of the few institutions in the world offering graduate-level Adlerian instruction, Adler Graduate School has made the Twin Cities a “hot spot” for that branch of psychology, according to Haugen.

Since hosting its last big conference in 2016, Adler Graduate School encountered new challenges this time around. For one, ESPN’s X Games came to town at the same time, intensifying competition for hotel space, according to Haugen.

But the challenges were more than logistical.

“It seems like there been a fair amount of concern about traveling to the United States,” Haugen said, citing uncertainty around U.S. international travel policy.

The conference, after all, attracted a diverse crowd in a mission to break ground and share new ideas.

“It’s definitely a melting pot of experiences,” Haugen said.

Follow Andrew Wig on Twitter @RISunCurrent.