Last week, my counselling course (Level 3) started again – therefore, my weekly learning journals and insights will return. Please feel free to comment and share your own experiences of counselling training.
Learning Journal for Week 1: Wednesday 26th September, 2012
One of the aspects of Level 3 Counselling Studies that I am most looking forward to is gaining an understanding of the theories of counselling and mental health. Coming from an academic background, much of my work for the last few years has been based on theory. I even developed and tested my own theory of subjective health perceptions as part of my PhD (Davies et al., 2008). Theory is what I find interesting – it excites me to learn the underlying factors that drive a discipline, in this case person-centred counselling (PCC). Having an understanding of the theory can give meaning to what is being taught and why.
During my reading of PCC I have learnt that although all counselling approaches are based on some theoretical framework, PCC is an approach that has traditionally stayed away from being taught as based on an explicit theory or model. The theory is there and clearly described by Rogers (1951), however, it is not emphasised or tested to the level of other counselling approaches. It could be argued that this needs to be addressed, since theory provides the foundations of good counselling. After all, a theory provides the counsellor with a framework that they can use to explore the counselling process, the clients problems, and indeed, to measure progress against.
Boy and Pine (1983) state that there are six functions of theory in counselling:
1) It helps counsellors find unity and relatedness within the diversity of existence.
2) It compels counsellors to examine relationships they would otherwise overlook.
3) It gives counsellors operational guidelines by which to work and helps them evaluate their development as professionals.
4) It helps counsellors focus on relevant information and tells them what to look for.
5) It helps counsellors assist clients in the effective modification of their behaviour, cognitions, emotional functioning, and interpersonal relationships.
6) It helps counsellors evaluate both old and new approaches to the process of counselling.
From my work in the healthcare sector, I would add that another function is to establish an evidence-base for PCC. There is a growing need for different approaches of counselling to be proven via theory and the testing of theory through research. This is why cognitive behavioural therapy has become so popular and recommended by the NHS; it is evidence-based – at least in the short-term anyway (NICE, 2008).
The theoretical framework that PCC is based on is humanistic counselling, which is also the theory that Existential and Gestalt counselling are based on. Humanistic therapies focus on the potential of individuals to actively choose and decide about important matters within their lives. At the core of this in PCC is the self-actualizing tendency, which is the “inherent tendency of the organism to develop all its capacities in ways which serve to maintain or enhance the organism” (Rogers, 1959, p. 196) – in other words, Rogers believed that each person has the capacity to find personal meaning and life purpose. This is only a small aspect of PCC theory, the rest of which will be discussed in a future learning journal.
Boy, A.V. and Pine, G. (1990). A Person-Centered Foundation for Counseling and Psychotherapy. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C.Thomas Publisher.
Charema, J. (2004). Theoretical framework and literature review. PhD, University of Pretoria etd.
Davies, N., Kinman, G., Thomas, R., and Bailey, T. (2008). Health baseline comparison theory: Predicting quality of life in breast and prostate cancer. Health Psychology Update, 17(3), pp. 3-12.
National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE). 2008. Cognitive behavioural therapy for the management of common mental health problems. Commissioning guide.
Rogers, C. (1951). Client-centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications and Theory. London: Constable.
Rogers, C. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships, as developed in the client-centred framework. In S. Koch (ed) Psychology: A Study of a Science, Vol 3. New York: Penguin.