Core Theoretical Perspectives in Counselling

In this essay I’m going to describe and evaluate the three core theoretical perspectives in counselling, personal centred, cognitive behavioural and psychodynamic I will look at the general theory, the view of the person in therapy, the blocks to functioning of the person in therapy and the goals and techniques of each theory. I will compare and contrast the three approaches looking at the similarities and differences between the three counselling perspectives and how the counsellor in each theory differ in their techniques to counselling their clients.

The person centred counsellor needs according to Carl Rogers to have three core conditions which are unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence towards their clients however there are six “necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change” that Rogers thought needed in order to get the most out of person centred counselling and if these conditions continued over a period of time then no other conditions are necessary.

Personal centred counselling sees the individual as a whole, as an organism that is motivated towards achieving its potential. This is called the “actualising tendency” In an aim to move away from the doctor-patient relationship and into a more equal and relaxed relationship Rogers called his patients clients this is very different from the psychodynamic theory which is very much based on the doctor-patient relationship? The person in personal centred counselling is viewed as acting to fulfil two primarily needs.

The first is the need for self-actualisation. The second is a need to be loved and valued by others. Maslow’s view of the person is essentially positive and optimistic and like Rogers he believed individuals to be unique and with the right experiences could grow to their full potential and proposed a hierarchy of needs (see appendix 1) which he believed responsible for human motivation. The clients in personal centred counselling have the power to control their own growth.

A client seeking person centred therapy might have incongruence caused by conditions of worth by their caregivers as a child, making a client anxious or depressed, in this theory of the client having some unresolved childhood process, it could be compared to psychodynamics theory of childhood experiences affect the adult we become, although in person cantered therapy they do not go looking for the experience as deeply as they would in psychodynamics, they allow the client to choose what is best for themselves. Unlike cognitive behavioural therapy which work on a here and now process with their patients.

Personal centred counselling is really all about the client becoming their own counsellor, and the counsellor leading the client to their own decisions therefore the client reaching their full potential learning to become the best they can be, the relationship is the therapy in personal centred counselling. The objectives in personal centred counselling are helping the client to self-actualisation by creating the right conditions so organism values and positive self-regard can be achieved. And that everyone can reach self-actuality by moving through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Personal centred counselling more so than psychodynamics and cognitive behavioural therapy is very much about the relationship between client and counsellor. The Psychodynamic theory is really where it all started, with Freud although today counselling theories have moved on considerably Freud’s theories are very much still the backbone of the psychodynamic theory. The psychodynamic counselling theory is one which places emphasis on the past as well as the present experiences and tries to link the past with the present, believing that behaviour was deeply influence by unconscious thoughts, impulses and desires.

The counsellor is trying to reach the unconscious mind with the patient were memories that are painful, dramatic or too shameful and often unacceptable to us so we repress them, but unconsciously influencing our adult experiences. Freud thought during the first five years of life our personalities are developing and went on to develop psychosexual development theory where the child goes through five stages, the first stage the oral stage which Freud thought began at birth and went on to the age of one at this stage the main source of pleasure is through the mouth such as sucking for food.

The second stage is the anal stage which is from age 1 to 3 years at this stage the child’s obsession and pleasure comes from the anus. The third stage is the phallic stage which is from age 3 to 6 years this was the most controversial stage of Freud’s theory in psychosexual development Freud believed at this age a child would begin to identify with the parents of their own gender, boys at this stage will develop and unconscious longing for their mothers he called this the Oedipus complex and girl’s at this stage discovering that they have no penis and struck by penis envy this he called the Electra complex.

The fourth stage the latency stage a child goes through from age 6 to 12 years and is a calm period of the child development. The fifth stage is the genital stage where puberty begins and sexual changes occur. Freud believed if the child did not pass through any of these stages successfully then they would become fixated in this stage. Hough, 2002) Freud developed the idea that the human mind consists of three elements of the personality (see appendix 2) he called, The id, The ego and The superego and these three components of our psyche find themselves in conflict with each other at this time he also believed the mind to have three parts the first part being the conscious mind which holds what we’re doing in the here and now the second is the preconscious mind which holds information we can recall if we wish and the unconscious mind that holds things that too painful to remember so are kept out of reach from our conscious mind .

Melanie Klein was highly influential in the psychodynamic theory she was Neo-Freudian and went on to develop object relations theory which relates to infants and their relationship with their mothers or an object off comfort. Her work today is still widely used in child psychology she believed that children project their feelings from the use of playing with their toys or drawings. (www. mythosandlogos. com/klein. html) The therapists in psychodynamic theory are neutral and detached to their clients this is because the relationship could go on for months and sometimes years.

This ensures the therapists that the feelings the client has towards them are not caused by anything the therapist might have done the client therefore can project or transfer material onto the therapist which the therapist can then interpret. Unlike in personal centred counselling it would be unsuitable for the counsellor to share much of their own feelings or their own lives with the client and in personal centred counselling the counsellor would never interpret for the client.

A view of the person in therapy from the psychodynamic theory would be there behaviour as adults has a direct connection to early relationships and that they have conflict going on within themselves. A client could have feelings of displacement, repression, denial, interjection, splitting, aggression projection, regression, rationalisation, reaction formation, compensation and humour these are all ego-defence mechanisms that a psychodynamic counsellor would help their clients work through.

By free Association a psychodynamic counsellor would allow the client to speak freely about all aspects of their experiences and the counsellor would interpret these experiences, as the client relaxes over a period of time, long forgotten memories and connections will come into the conscious mind also the client, counsellor relationship should have moved into more of a trusting working relationship making the client feel more at ease. The interpretation of dreams is also used in this form of counselling the client is encouraged to recall their dreams so the counsellor can interpret them.

Dreams and there manifestations are very much at the four front of Carl Jung’s approach who was also Neo-Freudian he believed the first dream the client recounts is often taken as a starting point in the therapeutic process. A lot of Jung’s work was with schizophrenics he developed a theory of personality that was influenced by Freud’s concepts of the id, ego and superego he called his systems the ego, personality unconscious and the collective unconscious.

The ego is similar to Freud’s ego the personal unconscious is the domain containing repressed feelings and incidents, and the collective unconscious is that part of the mind common to all humankind which he saw been constructed through all major archetypes which are persona, animus/anima, shadow and Self. (Aldridge and Rigby, 2004,p. 46) Cognitive behavioural counselling is very different in its counselling theories to psychodynamics and personal centred as it is very much a scientific experimental based theory.

Ivan Pavlov pioneered classical conditioning with his experiments on dogs; he observed that behaviour that could be learnt could also be unlearnt. An unconditional stimulus causes an unconditioned response and when you pair an unconditioned stimulus with a condition stimulus several times it creates a conditioned stimulus which causes a conditioned response. This is supported by Watson and Rayner with the experiment they did on little Albert to investigate if the classical conditioning can be applied to humans, although the experiments was unethical it did show how phobias can be learnt therefore unlearnt.

B. F. Skinner was also interested in stimulus response reactions in humans and experimented with pigeons and rats to develop his theory of operant conditioning. With his invention of the Skinner box he observed that the rat learned that when you press the lever he would receive food therefore the rats behaviour was reinforced by food by doing these experiments Skinner developed operant conditioning and shaping behaviour.

The experiments of Pavlov and Skinner have shaped the way CBT is used today and unlike psychodynamics and personal centred, CBT counsellors focus on the here and now and not the client’s past. CBT is considered the most rapid in terms of results obtained and it can take only 16 sessions of the therapy unlike psychodynamics which could take years. The CBT counsellor’s role is to listen, teach and encourage while the client’s role is to express concerns learnt and implement that learning.

CBT works on the assumption that your beliefs influence your emotions and your behaviour and by identifying and addressing problematic thoughts you can change your behaviour and experiences for the better (www. davidbonham-carter. com). According to Ellis (1962) most people subscribe to a number of irrational or illogical believes which lead to many of the problems experienced by clients (Hough. 2003 pg. 190). If you have cognitive distortions it leads to faulty cognitions and an unhealthy look at things.

CBT will help you to recognise these unhealthy thoughts through breaking your maintenance cycle (see appendix 3) using the ABC technique (see appendix 4) which was pioneered by Albert Ellis. There are many other techniques the counsellor can use to teach rational self-counselling skills, such as giving the client homework, which at the start of the therapy could be for the client to keep a diary of anything that makes them feel anxious or depressed, so the counsellor can examine the thoughts surrounding what made them feel that way and teach them a healthy way of thinking.

Like person cantered counselling CBT will help you to become your own therapist. CBT will help you to make sense of problems by breaking down into smaller areas so that you can see how they are connected and how they can affect you. Once the therapy is over you will be able to practice and developed on your own with the techniques you have learnt through your counselling.

In this essay I have shown how the three main counselling theories of personal centred psychodynamics and cognitive behavioural therapy are quite similar in some of that approaches to counselling and also how different some the approaches and techniques are. Although the three differ in their approaches and techniques they all achieve their goals they set out in counselling with their clients. I have shown how differently they affect the client and how each perspective affects the client and counselling relationship within each theory.

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