The purpose of this research paper is to draw the main concepts of counseling and psychotherapy, the goals of the process itself and how they change with respect to the counselor and client, as well as to address and differentiate between number of approaches to counseling, i.e. Person Centred Theory, Solution Focused-Therapy, and Existential Therapy.
In general, counselling and psychotherapy refers to organized meetings between a client and a psychological therapist, in which, through conversations, the client is encouraged to talk about feelings, thoughts, wishes, memories and dreams, with the aim to make him feel better and/or resolve issues/problems. The specific goals of psychotherapy or counselling sessions, however, vary between many theories used by the counsellor himself. Recognizing when results and goals have been reached also depends on the type of approach used and its philosophical theories. The main question one can argue when talking about psychotherapy, is how a counsellor decides which approach to use and what makes him certain that it will give the right effect.
C.H. Patterson (1989) has tried to give an explanation to the question addressed above by arguing that values or the lack of such are the locomotive of every human being, including counsellors. One of the most useful definitions of values that he uses is of Smith (1954) “by values, I shall mean a person’s implicit or explicit standards of choice, insofar as these are invested with obligation or requiredness”. He continues with Grant’s (1985) distinction between values and moral values: “moral values are distinguished from values in general in that they encompass only attitudes towards other individuals and attitudes towards actions that affect them”. Furthermore, though values vary among each individual, there seem to be “universal” values, such as that killing and lying are wrong, or the value of freedom, and are based on the instinct of survival of a society. Looking back at history, one can see that societies with amoral values have not lasted long.
One of the major difficulties encountered in counselling and psychotherapy is the ability of the counsellor to preserve the client’s values- while his goal is to deal with issues connected to the patient’s values, he is not required to agree or disagree with them. One’s self should be respected and disconnected from the values he perceives as part of himself.
The argument goes between the old orthodox psychoanalytic view which believed that a counsellor should stay neutral and not impose his own value system on the client, versus newer theories in which it is broadly accepted that the counsellor’s values are strongly connected to the process of the therapy. Moreover, these doctrines argue that a counsellor should use a strong value system, as well as a philosophy of life that will give further help and guidance to the patient. on the other hand, who decides which values and philosophies are more appropriate than others? Some say that a counsellor should not impose his own view about the meaning of life to his patient, but rather help him develop his own, or at least deal with several core values, without which any philosophy will not stand long in today’s society. Thus, even though core values are important for a person’s life, they do not constitute a philosophy of life.
There are inconsistencies created between the concepts of psychotherapy, such as consequences of personal choices, and the imposition of values. However, a therapist should discuss these issues with the patient; in general the process of psychotherapy is dynamic and individual and the consequences vary, depending on both parties involved in the process.
Based on recent researches, society today believes that no matter how professional a counsellor is, he is still a human being, involved in an interpersonal relationship with his client, thus creating a subjective influence in therapy is inevitable. Being aware of this fact gives the therapist an opportunity to draw his views to the client, explain them to him, so that he would be conscience enough about what he has perceived as his own point of view, and what he hasn’t.
Drawing conclusions from the stated above, it should be clear that counsellor’s goals are tightly connected to his value system, as well as to his philosophy of life. In addition, a system created by Maslow- the Hierarchy of Needs- suggests that the highest possible need of a person is self-actualization- meaning the realization of what we believe is of most value to us in the physical world. (p. 164-176)
There are three main approaches to psychotherapy throughout the years- behavioural, analytic and humanistic. The latter emerged in the 1950s, focusing on personal growth and choices. Being one of the most optimistic approaches to counselling, the humanistic approach has several methods, such as person-centred counselling, solution-focused therapy, and existential therapy.
The person-centred approach puts the patient in the centre- the theory lies upon the belief that, though we strive for reaching our full potential, this path is distort by negative life experiences. Further, the goal of a counsellor in this therapy is to create a new environment for the client, in which he is not being judged or punished, helping him accept himself more, find self-worth and rearrange his own values.
Existential counselling, on the other hand, coming from a more philosophical frame rather than medical or diagnostic one, works on specific problems a client has, such as trauma, mood disorders, sexual issues, panic and others. The goal of this approach is to build a richer self-knowledge and self-awareness which in turn will assist in uncovering new choices. Further, it claims that the trauma or event that has happened is directly connected to the bundle of choices we make. Learning how to make the right choices and taking responsibility for our lives, is the objective of this approach.
Last, Solution Focused Therapy is future focused, goal oriented approach and it has an influence on broader aspects and doctrines in life, such as business, social policy, education, and criminal justice service. The base of this therapy is for the client to become aware of what in general will make his life better, and strive for that path.
To conclude, arguing which approach is more efficient than the other is by itself a philosophy of life; the Humanistic Approach to counselling has shown that values of a person can be observed, perceived, changed (when needed), and influenced by a therapy. The degree to which it happens and the goal of the therapy itself depends on the value system of the therapist, the value system of the patient, the relationship between them, and the possibility of obtaining a desired outcome. The goals of counsellors’ may be one today, but change tomorrow, as society’s perception of the world changes, even though there may be core values that will stay the same, but these again are not finite. In any way, in today’s democratic society, the development of self-actualizing people is the core of psychotherapy’s goals.
Aengel, Anna, the Counsellor’s Guide(26 October, 2010). The
Person Centered Approach to Counselling. Retrieved from
Counselling Directory, (18 February, 2009). A Bit About Existential
Counselling/Psychotherapy.Retrieved from http://www.counsellingdirectory.org.uk/counselloradvice9844.html
De Shazer, S. & Dolan, Y. with Korman, H , Trepper, T. S., McCollom,
E., Berg, I. K. (2007). More Than Miracles: The State of the Art of Solution-focused Brief Therapy. Binghamtom, N.Y: Haworth Press.
Patterson, C.H. (1989). Counselling and Values: Understanding
Psycholtherapy: Fifty Years of Client-Centered Theory and Practice. PCCS Books.
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