An Introduction to Counselling Theory


Unit 2: An Introduction to Counselling Theory

Level three certificate in counselling skills

Word count: 2675

The Historical Development And Basic Philosophy Of The Main Therapeutic Model Used By The Centre

Historical Development

The views developed by several American psychologists Maslow, Rogers and May in the 1950s constitute what has become known as humanistic psychology. Whilst there are some differences between their ideas, their is an overwhelming agreement about key themes. Carl Rogers is best known for his theories, Rogers was born in rural Illinois in 1902 in the United States of America. Rogers studied to be a psychologist and his first position was with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Whilst practising here he became unhappy with the current theories and practices being used and began to develop his own methods. Rogers particularly disliked the fact that clients were often treated as objects for study and examination and believed that they should be treated as individuals deserving respect and understanding. Rogers published a book, ???Client Centred Therapy??™ in 1951, which set out his own theories on ???non directive counselling??™, later to be called the ???Person Centred Approach??™ (PCA).

Basic Philosophy

The basic philosophy of the PCA is that ???Individuals have within themselves vast resources for self understanding and for altering their self concepts, basic attitudes, and self directed behaviour; these resources can be tapped if a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.

Importance of Approach

Rogers and his colleagues influenced the development of counselling and psychotherapy in the following ways:

1. Emphasising the central role and importance of the counselling relationship itself as a significant factor for promoting change
2. Describing ???the person??™ as resourceful and tending towards actualisation of potential
3. Emphasising and developing the central role of listening and empathy in counselling and other relationships
4. Using the term ???client??™ rather than patient to signify respect for the person coming for help and to acknowledge his or her dignity
5. Making sound recordings of counselling interviews for the first time and using them to learn about the counselling process
6. Engaging in scientific research and encouraging others to do so
7. Making the counselling process more democratic and encouraging non-psychologists and non-medical people to become counsellors.

Supposed Limitations

One favourite criticism of this approach made by behaviourist is that Person-Centred Counselling only works because when the counsellor is understanding, genuine and warm towards her clients she is doing nothing more than teaching them to do the same and so they become understanding, genuine and warm themselves. Brian Thorne noted that there were some individuals who believed that the PCA had the following limitations:

That it was naive and too simplistic.
That it was overly optimistic in how trustworthy people are.
That subjective experience is not wholly reliant as some people are clearly not in touch with reality.
That the climate for growth was too simplistic and must rely on other factors being present.

It is interesting to note that while Roger??™s theories may be simplistic in practice they demand tremendous skill to carry out in the correct way.

The Key Concepts And Principles Of The Model

Key Concepts and Principles of the Person Centred Approach

?· Concentrates more in the present

Emphasises uniqueness of the individual

Core belief that the therapeutic conditions are correct so the client will fulfil their potential

Relationship focussed

The core concepts are the actualising tendency, the self concept, conditions of worth, the internal external locus of evaluation and the therapeutic core conditions.

Conditions of Worth
As children we develop behaviour which will gain us approval from others and discard behaviour which does not. This can sometimes lead to a ridged way of behaving, always seeking to do things that gain approval and disregarding thoughts, feelings and actions which may not.

Locus of Evaluation
Fully functioning individuals have a source of wisdom within themselves which they trust to guide them in there lives this self referent is the internal locus of evaluation. When an individual has been subjected to a critical and judgemental environment they become separated from there internal guide and try to gain direction and approval from external sources, the external locus.

Therapeutic Core Conditions
Everyone has an inbuilt capacity to grow and achieve their full ptential, everyone can solve their own problems and heal their own psychological hurt. If a counsellor provides these conditions in which we can explore our own thoughts and experiences this will help strengthen our self structure and our tendency towards actualisation.

Self Concept
Theory of the self-concept suggests that a person possesses not only a concept or definition of self ???as I am now??™, but also a sense of self ???as I would ideally like to be??™. One of the aims of person centred therapy is to enable the person to move in the direction of his or her self-defined ideals. (J.Mcleod page 165)

The actualising tendency is the belief that all individuals have within themselves the ability to reach their full potential; to grow as individuals, through self understanding and have the internal resources to change their behaviour, attitudes, self concepts. In order to facilitate the actualising tendency and there needs to be the right climate for growth; this climate exists between a client and a therapist when the following core conditions are met:

The therapist must be genuine, real and transparent in the relationship with the client; I understand this as being the same on the outside as on the inside.
The therapist must not be judgemental towards the client in any shape or form and must express a positive, accepting and loving attitude towards the client. This ???prizing??™ of the client creates a relationship where the client feels safe to disclose problems, feelings or observations to the therapist.
The therapist tries to place themselves in the client??™s shoes and to align themselves with the client??™s internal frame of reference. Being able to sense and feel those feelings allows the therapist to have a genuine empathy with the client and allows them to have a greater understanding of the client??™s perspective.

Rogers suggested in relation to the core conditions that these could be communicated to the client in many different ways, for example through psychoanalytical interpretation (Rogers 1957). On the other hand, there is the danger that counsellors working in this fashion may merely use person-centred ideas as a gloss beneath which they are operating in a quite different fashion. For example, a rigorous interpretation of person-centred principles involves a reliance on the actualising tendency of the client, and continual use of self in the relationship. These are characteristics that can easily become lost when ideas from other approaches are introduced

On the other hand, the theoretical framework of the person-centred approach places great emphasis on the quality of the relationship between counsellor and client: For example, in terms of a gradual growth in trust and safety. It also states that this mode of working relies on the presence of a set of attitudes and beliefs in the counsellor, and an ability to convey these qualities in terms of a powerful, authentic presence. Clearly, brief skills training and self help programmes can do little to address relationship and attitude issues in any serious or systematic manner. There are times when this split between technique and underlying philosophy produces uncomfortable results: for example, when managers are taught empathic listening skills in the context of organization-centred or profit centred rather than person-centred relationships with employees. (page 185 An introduction to counselling John Mcleod)

Relationship between Client & Therapist

The Core conditions are often trivialised. There are 6, and not 3, as many books report. They are as follows:

1 Two persons are in psychological contact
2 The first, whom we shall term the client, is in a state of incongruence, being vulnerable or anxious.
3 The second person, whom we shall term the therapist, is congruent or integrated in the relationship.
4 The therapist experiences unconditional positive regard for the client.
5 The therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client??™s internal frame of reference and endeavours to communicate this experience to the client.
6 The communication to the client of the therapist??™s empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard is to a minimal degree achieved. (Rogers 1957) (page 42 student guide Rogers also said that if these conditions are in place therapeutic change will of necessity occur. He said that the conditions are both necessary and sufficient for change.)

This shows that the relationship is about being tuned into the other person and the counsellor is able to communicate through the use of there skills The PCA therapist enters into a relationship with the client as an equal; who is presents in the relationship is to be honest, caring and empathic. In other forms of Counselling the therapist??™s role may encompass all of these properties but due to the nature of the therapy, the role of the professional or expert will be played, providing an imbalance in the relationship; with the therapist being superior to the client.

Illustrate Through Three Scenarios Various Aspects Of The Concept Of Self And The Development Of Self Concepts In Terms Of The Chosen Model

Condition of Worth
Theory: As children we develop behaviour which will gain us approval from others and discard behaviour which does not. This can sometimes lead to a rigid way of behaving; always seeking to do things that gain approval and disregarding thoughts, feelings and actions which may not.

Scenario: As a child I grew up in a family which expressed little emotion and frowned upon any drama. I learnt very quickly that my parents did not want to know if I was having problems and expected me to get on and deal with life??™s trials. I therefore learned to keep my problems to myself and tried to be as independent as possible. Being strong, independent and successful was the only way I could think of gaining approval from my parents.

This scenario shows how I adapted my behaviour in order to gain my parents love and approval. I felt driven to be someone my parents were proud of and in the course of doing so, lost sight of who I was and what I really wanted to do in my live.

Locus of Evaluation
Theory: Fully functioning individuals have a source of wisdom within themselves which they trust to guide them in their lives; this self referent has been described as the internal locus of evaluation. When an individual has been subjected to a critical and judgemental environment, they become separated from this internal guide and try to gain direction

and approval from external sources. This often leads to the individual trying to please everyone and behaviour which is variable and incongruent. An individual can find and become re-attuned to this reference point through therapy.

Scenario: Up until two years ago I spent most of my time trying to please others and gain their approval, in order to feel that I was valued and loved. My ???people pleasing??™ was becoming a major problem in my life, as I spent too much time trying to help others to the detriment of myself. Having reached breaking point I began through the help of others to understand that I did not have too do things for other people that I did not want to do and it was okay if someone did not like me or approve of my actions.

This scenario shows how through the help of others I became reconnected to my own internal locus of evaluation, in which I value myself and my own deep believes. This ???connection??™ expressed itself through thoughts and actions that I began to take in my life; I became the true me, not the one I had created in order to please the outside world.

Self Actualisation
Theory: Self actualisation is an expression of the actualising tendency. We all have an innate desire to reach our full potential; however this desire may be restrained by environmental factors such as society??™s boundaries or expectations. In reality we try to achieve as much of our potential as we can within the given boundaries; this is a balancing act which, when not achieved, can lead to individuals having psychological maladjustments.

Scenario: Having tried to gain praise and love through pleasing others and doing what I thought society expected of me i.e. to be successful, I found that I was deeply unhappy. My inner ???voice??™ indicated that I needed to change. Change of my belief system was too frightening for me to consider and I believed that ???people??™ would see me as a failure, so I continued to be miserable, drinking more and becoming deeply depressed. The crisis point was reached when I realised that I was losing the will to live; I wanted to be useful and have a happy life, so I sought help from my GP and agreed to have therapy.

This scenario shows how self actualisation can be a strong force in our lives and the denial of our inner directions can lead us to a ???rock bottom??™ where we have to change or remain ???stuck??™.

Introduction Of Material From Two Other Therapeutic Schools

The Psychodynamic Approach was developed from the work of Freud. The key concepts are making the unconscious conscious, concerned primarily with the past and defences develop in order to protect us from the pain of self-knowledge. Ideas central to the psychodynamic theory are as follows:

Psychosexual stages of development
Innate sexual and aggressive drives
Links between childhood and present behaviour
Unconscious motivation
The therapist interprets clients experience and behaviour to unveil unconscious motives

Comparison to PCA
Psychodynamic is more analytical and ???medical??™ in its approach. It deals with clients as individuals who are at ???fault??™ with ???normal??™ behaviour and therefore tries to change this behaviour by giving analytical comment and guidance. The therapist acts as the expert with the client in the patient role; this imbalance in the relationship does not encourage UPR, empathy and congruence.

Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy
The REBT approach was developed by Albert Ellis. The key concepts are the therapeutic collaboration, thought influences behaviour, so faulty thinking leads to faulty behaviour, behaviour is learnt, and can therefore be unlearnt and a structured approach. Core to its central theories are the following:

People choose their reactions to events and it is this choice that is the problem, not the event itself
People are irrational

Irrational behaviour is learnt, along with the associated emotional reactions
The therapist needs to confront the client??™s behaviour and belief??™s in order for change to occur

Comparison to PCA
An REBT therapist confronts clients with their irrational beliefs and actions. The therapist argues that there beliefs are right and the client is therefore at fault. UPR and empathy are therefore not prominent in this type of therapy; however there is a need for the therapist to be congruent with the client in order for the irrational behaviour to be highlighted.

5. Recognition Of The Dangers Of Using Methods And Techniques Without Adequate Training

Dangers of using methods and techniques without adequate training
In recognising that client??™s come to counselling in a vulnerable and anxious state the therapist has a duty of care to ensure that the way the client is treated is with the utmost professionalism. Using techniques which the therapist is not trained or experienced in is dangerous to client and could potentially make the client worse. Any therapist using techniques that they are not trained in is being irresponsible, disrespectful and unprofessional in their duties to the client. The client is therefore well within their rights to sue any therapist who has used techniques on them which they are untrained for.


Way of Being, Carl Rogers, pg.115
Learning and Being, Tony Merry pg.3
Way of Being, Carl Rogers, pg. 221


Student Guide
First steps in counselling ( Pete Saunders )
An introduction to counselling ( John McLeod )