Sigmund Freud introduced “the talking cure” in the late 19th century with his psychoanalytic theory. Since that introduction, talk therapy has become a staple among the treatments for mental and emotional disorders. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory was the first of many theories of counseling. The subsequent psychological theories have become the basis for many types of counseling and psychotherapy. Counseling theories have continued to emerge into four distinct categories known as theoretical orientations.
Everything You Need to Know About Theories of Counseling introduces the reader to each of the four basic theoretical orientations: psychoanalysis, behavioral therapy, humanistic therapy, and cognitive therapy.
The most prominent theories within each orientation are introduced with credits to the originating theorist, the basic tenets of the theory, and a description of how the theory is put into practice. Everything You Need to Know About Theories of Counseling explains the importance of having a strong theoretical basis to guide the therapist work. How to select a counseling theory is explored in terms of the characteristics of the therapist, the client, the problem, and the setting for counseling.
This book is an ideal overview for undergraduate students of psychology and human services. Graduate students of counseling and social work will find it to be a useful quick reference .
A counselor at a local agency complains to her supervisor, “I just can’t work with drug addicts. A person has to want to change. Most of them think they don’t even have a problem.” Her supervisor wisely sends her to a workshop on Motivational Interviewing, explaining that research has demonstrated it to be very effective in helping substance abusers begin the process of change. Motivational Interviewing is based on both cognitive and humanistic theories.
A woman shares with her friends, “I know I need to be in counseling for my anxiety, but we keep going deeper into my difficult childhood. I feel worse walking out of each session I do when I walk in.” Her friend responds, “Maybe you have the wrong counselor. I had a few sessions with a cognitive therapist last year and it really changed my way of looking at things. I’ve never been better!” She adds, “I don’t remember talking much about my childhood.”
A graduate counseling student submits a videotape of her session with a phobic client. “I’m frustrated,” she tells the class. We just can’t seem to get to the root of this client’s fear of public speaking. I think she is getting more anxious because her job is on the line.” The instructor reminds her that, “the most effective treatment for phobias is based in behavioral theory. You are doing your client a disservice, and that’s why she is getting worse.”
Advances in medicine and technology have taken guesswork out of mental health counseling. The ability to view brain activity electronically has made it possible to view effects of counseling on the brain, and to do research using observable changes in the brain. The “talking cure” developed by Freud in the 1900’s has evolved into a constellation of approaches that are very specifically categorized, defined, and practiced. Counselors are charged with the responsibility of knowing what works for whom, and using the treatment most likely to be effective.
A theory of counseling is a philosophy that includes beliefs about the nature of people and their problems. The four theoretical orientations are psychodynamic, behavioral, humanistic, and cognitive. Psychodynamic theories are based in the belief that people are products of their childhood. Assuming that mental disturbances come from developmental issues, psychodynamic theorists seek to uncover those issues and put them to rest. Behavioral theories are based upon the principles of learning through classical and operant conditioning, and the premise that new learning can occur in the context of counseling. Humanistic theorists focus on a sense of self that can be healed and nurtured in the context of a therapeutic relationship. Cognitive theories are based upon the belief that thoughts drive feelings, and when emotions are unmanageable, it is because of faulty, irrational, or underdeveloped beliefs. Cognitive therapy reworks those beliefs.
Professional counselors must be versed in all orientations of counseling, their own theoretical orientation must be a match to their beliefs about the nature of humans and why they struggle, as well as a good fit to the clients they serve and the problems that are being addressed.