September 21, 2023

Theories of counselingA number of psychotherapy theories underpin counseling.

It’s counseling’s intention to supply shoppers a secure and confidential place to discover their emotions, ideas, and behaviors.

Whereas there are numerous theoretical approaches to counseling, every shares the objectives of explaining and predicting behaviors and providing instruments, expertise, and methods to unravel shoppers’ issues (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2015).

This text explores a number of of those fascinating theories, figuring out what makes every distinctive and apply them to shoppers throughout therapy.

Additionally, our fashionable e book, On Changing into A Therapist, is a 96-page important information, offering a wealth of details about the training, certifications, and commonplace practices concerned in turning into a therapist.

What Are Counseling Theories in Psychology?

Counseling theories try to reply tough questions, together with (modified from Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2015):

  • What motivates us? And what makes or breaks us?
  • What disturbs our considering and feelings, inflicting us anger and unhappiness, and damages relationships?
  • What causes a few of us to be glad with our lives whereas others should claw their approach to the highest?
  • Why do some folks recuperate from tragedy stronger and extra resilient whereas others don’t?

We should always notice that there isn’t a single appropriate reply to those questions, and psychologists, therapists, and counselors disagree on underlying theories and utilized approaches. Consequently, psychological analysis continues to contribute “each to creating counseling theories and to evaluating counseling processes and outcomes” (Nelson-Jones, 2014, p. 10).

You will need to keep in mind that counseling theories will not be remoted truths however outcome from a time and place–based on politics, beliefs, scientific approaches, and discoveries–working collectively (whereas not at all times in settlement). Certainly, over the historical past of psychology and counseling, theories have been influenced by 4 important views (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2015):

  • Biomedical
    Researchers have tried to make use of biomedical procedures to focus on and affect mind functioning.
  • Non secular/religious
    Previous and even current psychosocial approaches embrace religious elements (similar to mindfulness).
  • Psychosocial
    Approaches typically acknowledge that relationships and communications with others can drive psychological change and therapeutic.
  • Feminist-Multicultural
    Traditionally, many voices in psychology had been white and male, influencing each concept and utility. Psychological well being professionals should concentrate on theoretical bias and undertake different views, together with minority voices.

A profitable counseling concept ought to “precisely describe, clarify, and predict a variety of therapist and shopper behaviors” (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2015, p. 9). Theories also needs to be related to their area, explaining what’s inflicting shoppers’ difficulties, and providing methods and methods to scale back or take away their issues.

Counseling & Psychotherapy Theories: A Checklist

Counseling & Psychotherapy TheoriesFinally, every counseling concept makes an attempt to do the identical factor: discover and clarify human motivation, functioning, and alter (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2015).

In spite of everything, “counseling approaches give attention to altering how folks really feel, assume and act in order that they might reside their lives extra successfully” (Nelson-Jones, 2014, p. 10).

Whereas there are numerous different counseling theories, we now have chosen a pattern of a number of of essentially the most fascinating and fashionable (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2015; BACP, n.d.; Nelson-Jones, 2014):

Behavioral Counseling Theories

“Behavioral remedy seeks to switch learned behaviors that are problematic and undesirable and replace them with more acceptable positive behaviors” (Davies, 2013, p. 424). Rather than analyzing the past, clients learn new, positive behaviors to help them cope with difficult situations and emotions and overcome phobias, addictions, fears, and obsessive behaviors.

Multimodal therapy draws on techniques from behavioral theories, dividing personality into seven major areas and creating complex maps linking each aspect of the client’s personality together (Corey, 2013).

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT does not look at past causes for how we behave. Instead, it focuses on our present problems, cognitive processes (thoughts), and their consequences, finding practical solutions to feeling better now. How we think about situations impacts how we feel and behave.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists encourage clients to challenge negative thinking in an effort to manage stress, anxiety, phobias, and eating disorders.

Other closely related therapies include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which invites a greater awareness of inner experiences, and Dialectical Behavior therapy (DBT), a talk therapy for clients that experience emotions very intensely (Crane, 2009).

In contrast to CBT’s approach to challenging dysfunctional thoughts, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) emphasizes non-judgmental awareness of cognitions and reduces unnecessary dwelling on the negatives (Corey, 2013).

Humanistic theories

The humanistic approach addresses the client as a whole. In therapy, it emphasizes self-development and a realization of a client’s potential rather than focusing on their problems.

Theoretical approaches include (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2015):

  • Gestalt Therapy
    Gestalt Therapy focuses on the individual’s self-regulation, using self-awareness to restore equilibrium.
  • Person-Centered Therapy
    Client-Centered Therapy is based on Carl Rogers’s complex theory of personality and the view that the self is capable of both stability and change.
  • Transpersonal Therapy
    A holistic and spiritual approach to addressing the client’s mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs.

Helpful theories for school counselors

School counselors have many roles, including preventing dropout, managing poor behavior, supporting students through trauma, and remedying bullying.

There are many different approaches available to assist the counselor’s work in schools, two of which include (Wright, 2012):

  • Adlerian counseling
    Adlerian counseling suggests that children misbehave due to faulty logic regarding how the world works.
  • Behaviorism
    Arising from the understanding that a child’s actions result from experiences with their environment.

2 Marriage counseling approaches

Couples may enter counseling for many reasons, including poor communication, infidelity, parenting issues, and financial problems (Williams, 2012).

Helpful theoretical approaches include (Goltzman, 2022):

  • Emotionally Focused Therapy
    During Emotionally Focused Therapy, couples work together to uncover maladaptive behavioral patterns that may interfere with their relationship.
  • Narrative Therapy
    Narrative Therapy is when both members of the relationship describe their problems in narrative form before being helped to recognize there is no single story, accepting inconsistency and failure.

Treating addiction & substance abuse

Addiction and substance abuse can take many forms. Therefore, treatment must be specific to the individual and their circumstances. Several theories and approaches have proven successful, including (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2015):

  • Reality Therapy
    Reality Therapy adopts the view that all behavior comprises choices based upon five genetically driven basic needs.
  • Interpersonal Theory (IPT)
    While Interpersonal Theory (IPT) was initially developed as a treatment for depression, it focuses on the addict’s social and interpersonal context and is as effective as CBT.

3 Popular Techniques Used by Counselors

As discussed, there are different counseling theories and approaches. And yet, the following powerful techniques are effective in most, if not all, of them:

Attending to feelings

The therapeutic relationship relies on creating a solid bond between therapist and client. Attending to the client’s feelings and needs and building upon this connection involves skillful techniques from the therapist, including (Nelson-Jones, 2014):

  • Assessing the client’s readiness and motivation to do the work
  • Creating a safe environment for the client to share their feelings and thoughts
  • Distinguishing between the client’s personal thoughts and those taught to them
  • Recognize the client’s defenses and identify when they are being resistant
  • Offer and provide support to your client during learning, rehearsal, and practice

Manage demanding rules

Progress can be hampered by demanding rules (musts, shoulds, oughts, and have-tos) that clients set regarding themselves and others, for example (Nelson-Jones, 2014):

I absolutely must do well in all my performances and receive maximum approval.
Others must treat me as I expect them to do so, or everyone should condemn them.

Counselors can support clients by:

  1. Helping them identify when they use language that indicates demanding rules or irrational beliefs.
  2. Disputing such demanding and absolute rules and beliefs, replacing them with more helpful ones.
  3. Restating demanding rules as preferential ones. For example, I must do well, is replaced by, I’d prefer to do well, but don’t have to.

Taking control of self-talk

Even if unaware, we spend a great deal of time talking to ourselves. Being in control of what we say can be a helpful tool for managing stress and anger and coping with difficult situations. And yet, negative self-talk can damage self-esteem and self-confidence and leave us unable to cope (Nelson-Jones, 2014).

Help clients with reframing their self-talk by:

  1. Describing and demonstrating negative self-talk (I’m useless, I never do anything right) and positive self-talk (I’ve done this before, I can do it again).
  2. Walking through a problem situation, eliciting the client’s negative self-talk.
  3. Coaching the client to replace the negative self-talk with more positive statements.
  4. Practicing positive self-talk in session, then setting homework for the client.

A Look at Multicultural Counseling Theories

Multicultural counseling theories“Psychoanalytically oriented therapy can be made appropriate for culturally diverse populations if techniques are modified to fit the setting in which a therapist practices” (Corey, 2013, p. 91).

Therapists need to help their clients reflect on their own influences (cultural and otherwise) at critical turning points in their lives and consider their positive and negative effects.

Counselors must also identify and consider their own biases and those of the theories and interventions they adopt when working with clients to avoid racial, ethnic, or cultural stereotyping and potentially harm treatment outcomes. To best meet the client’s needs, they should confront their own expectations, attitudes, and assumptions resulting from the culture in which they grew up and now live (Corey, 2013).

Approaches to Group Counseling Explained

When group therapy was first introduced in psychiatric practice (often as a way of saving time), practitioners soon discovered that it was practical and effective for helping people change (Corey, 2013).

Research has found group therapy to be as effective as individual therapy, even in traumatic situations, such as individuals facing life-threatening illnesses (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2015).

Group work has proven particularly valuable where role-playing is involved, such as Gestalt therapy or psychodrama. Each member benefits by sharing their own experiences and witnessing those of others in the group. And while clients develop as individuals, they also grow as part of a group entity (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2015).

How to Apply the Theories in Practice

How to apply theories in practice“Because counseling is an intimate form of learning, it demands a practitioner who is willing to be an authentic person in the therapeutic relationship” (Corey, 2013, p.18).

Indeed, due to the nature and experience of counseling, who the therapist is, affects their bond with the client and the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Whatever theory–or theories–the counselor is adopting and applying in their practice, they must identify and consider how to apply the following (Corey, 2013):

Therapeutic goals

We can summarize and simplify the goals of psychoanalytic treatment as increasing adaptive functioning, reducing the occurrence and effects of symptoms, and resolving conflict.

In some approaches, the client’s past will be revisited, exposed, and worked through, while others focus on new coping skills for the present and the future. Whatever the approach, the needs and goals of the client remain paramount and must be revisited and reviewed, along with progress throughout treatment.

Counselor’s role

Different theories can have specific expectations of the counselor. A psychoanalyst may engage in little or no self-disclosure to encourage transference of emotions onto them from other significant figures from the past.

And yet, a therapist using Narrative Therapy or ACT may be less neutral, sharing experiences they have faced. Either way, it is essential that the counselor considers their role and remains consistent throughout the treatment.

Therapeutic bond

Whether striving for a nonparticipating role or one in which they are more fully engaged, it remains crucial to the therapeutic outcome that the counselor’s relationship with the client is one of trust, honesty, and openness.

If the relationship breaks down, it must be repaired quickly or risk damaging the process.

3 Fascinating Books Every Counselor Should Read

While there are many books on counseling, we have included three of our favorites below that encourage a strong foundational knowledge of counseling theory and the skills that underpin successful treatment.

The following books all provide insights which we find helpful and believe you will too:

1. Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories in Context and Practice: Skills, Strategies, and Techniques – John Sommers-Flanagan and Rita Sommers-Flanagan

Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories

This beneficial textual content introduces the reader to all the foremost theories in counseling and psychotherapy and explores their utility to shoppers.

The authors distinction the historical past of every method with the newest analysis and present cultural, gender, and religious views.

Discover the e book on Amazon.

2. Principle and Observe of Counseling and Psychotherapy – Gerald Corey

Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy

Now in its tenth version, this can be a beneficial addition to the library of anybody involved in counseling and compares all the foremost theories.

Gerald Corey invitations the reader to work via two case research, apply every concept and discover ways to create an individualized counseling type.

Discover the e book on Amazon.

3. Principle and Observe of Group Counseling – Gerald Corey

Theory and Practice of Group Counseling

Additionally, by Gerald Corey, this e book introduces readers to eleven group counseling theories, their worth, and apply them virtually.

Written in a simple type, that is maybe the definitive e book for anybody wishing to discover, create and run group periods.

Discover the e book on Amazon.

Counseling Instruments From

Now we have many sources out there for counselors offering assist to shoppers, serving to them create stronger therapeutic bonds and enhance optimistic therapy outcomes.

Our free sources embrace:

Extra in depth variations of the next instruments can be found with a subscription to the Constructive Psychology Toolkit©, however they’re described briefly beneath:

  • Sensible Thoughts Chair Work
    This intervention was initially designed for DBT, educating shoppers three states of thoughts: the cheap thoughts, the emotional thoughts, and the clever thoughts.

On this train, shoppers be taught to make use of their clever thoughts to handle their habits higher.

  • Utilizing Self-Distanced Language to Achieve Perspective on Unfavorable Occasions
    Unfavorable experiences are an unlucky but unavoidable a part of life. Whereas it’s essential to mirror on one’s reactions to adverse experiences, we should not change into entangled in unhelpful rumination cycles that intensify hostile results.
    Self-talk that facilitates emotion regulation throughout a spread of emotionally intense experiences is an efficient approach to take a step again and mirror on experiences objectively.

Should you’re on the lookout for extra science-based methods to assist others via CBT, this assortment accommodates 17 validated optimistic CBT instruments for practitioners. Use them to assist others overcome unhelpful ideas and emotions and develop extra optimistic behaviors.

A Take-House Message

Counseling helps many as they battle to handle painful feelings, overcome trauma, or construct a significant and fulfilling life.

Whereas there are numerous theories and approaches for counseling, the psychological well being skilled’s aim is to seek out the therapy most suited to the shopper and the state of affairs they’re presently caught in.

We introduce the reader to many such theories inside this text. Whereas they’ve advanced in a different way, they share a give attention to the shopper and the necessity for belief in each the method and the counselor.

Why not work via a number of approaches and determine those who may benefit your shoppers? The place acceptable, mix them and discover a type and method that works for who you’re and the remedies you provide.

Finally, if the shopper feels secure and safe and is shifting in direction of the objectives set collaboratively, the idea is almost definitely appropriate for the shopper – for now a minimum of. By means of ongoing monitoring, counseling could be tailor-made to the state of affairs, and their wants proceed to be met.

We hope you loved this text. Don’t neglect to take a look at our fashionable e book, “On Changing into A Therapist,” to offer you beneficial info.

  • BACP (n.d.). Forms of remedy. An A-Z of therapeutic approaches. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from
  • Corey, G. (2013). Principle and apply of counseling and psychotherapy. Boston, MA: Cengage.
  • Crane, R. (2009). Mindfulness-based Cognitive Remedy. Hove, E Sussex: Routledge.
  • Davies, M. (2013). The Blackwell companion to social work. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.
  • Goltzman, J. (2022). Have you ever tried these 25 {couples} remedy methods? Retrieved April 27, 2022, from being/mental-health/therapy-for-couples#therapy-techniques
  • Sommers-Flanagan, J., & Sommers-Flanagan, R. (2015). Counseling and psychotherapy theories in context and apply: Abilities, methods, and methods. Wiley.
  • Nelson-Jones, R. (2014). Sensible counselling and serving to expertise. London. Sage.
  • Williams, M. (2012). {Couples} counseling: A step-by-step information for therapists.
  • Wright, R. J. (2012). Introduction to high school counseling. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.