Three of the main forms of counselling can sometimes be confusing. In this article I hope to unravel and clarify some of the mystery surrounding these three types of counselling approaches by means of comparing and contrasting with reference to their differing theoretical rationale, therapeutic interventions and processes of change.
The Person Centred Approach (Originator: Karl Rogers 1902 – 1987) focuses on the belief that we are all born with an innate ability for psychological growth if external circumstances allow us to do so. Clients become out of touch with this self-actualising tendency by means of introjecting the evaluations of others and thereby treating them as if they were their own. As well as being non-directive the counselling relationship is based on the core conditions of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard. By clients being prized and valued, they can learn to accept who they are and reconnect with their true selves.
The Psychodynamic Approach (Originator: Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939) focuses on an individual’s unconscious thoughts that stem from childhood experiences and now affect their current behaviour and thoughts. The urges that drive us emanate from our unconscious and we are driven by them to repeat patterns of behaviour. Therapy includes free association, the analysis of resistance and transference, dream analysis and interpretation and is usually long term. The aim is to make the unconscious conscious in order for the client to gain insight.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (Contributors: Ellis 1913 – & Beck 1921 – ) focuses on how an individual’s thoughts and perceptions affect the way they feel (emotions) and behave. We are reactive beings who respond to a variety of external stimuli and our behaviour is a result of learning and conditioning. Because our behaviour is viewed as having being learned, it can therefore be unlearned. By helping clients to recognise negative thought patterns they can learn new positive ways of thinking which ultimately will affect their feelings and their behaviour.
When comparing and contrasting these three major approaches in relation to their differing theoretical rationale, I found the following similarities between the Person Centred Approach and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Both deal with the conscious mind, the here and now and focus on current problems and issues the client may have. They both have a positive view of human nature and view the individual as not necessarily being a product of their past experiences, but acknowledge that they are able to determine their own futures. They both attempt to improve well-being by means of a collaborative therapeutic relationship that enables and facilitates healthy coping mechanisms in clients who are experiencing psychological pain and disharmony in their lives.
In comparing the similarities between the Person Centred Approach and the Psychodynamic Approach, it is possible to see some similarities and parallels between the concepts of the actualising tendency, the organismic self and the self-concept to Freud’s theory on personality structure. The id and the organismic self are both representative of that part of the psyche that is often ignored or repressed. The super-ego and the self-concept, both describe internalised rules and moral values which have been imposed upon us by significant others. The ego is similar to the actualising tendency in that it is concerned with mediating between the id and the super-ego and the actualising tendency seems to echo this.
In contrasting the Person Centred Approach with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in relation to their differing theoretical rationale Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sees behaviour as being a learned response whereas the Person Centred view is that clients have not been able to have previously self-actualised. From a Cognitive Behavioural perspective, human experience is viewed as a product of the interacting elements of physiology, cognition, behaviour and emotion. The Cognitive Behavioural Approach is based upon the theoretical rationale that the way in which we feel and behave is determined by how we perceive and structure our experience. In the Person Centred Approach, a person is viewed as having had various experiences and developing a personality as a result of these subjective experiences.
In contrast to the Psychodynamic Approach, the Person Centred Approach focuses on the conscious mind and what is going on in the here-and-now whereas the Psychodynamic Approach focuses on the subconscious and looks to early childhood to examine unresolved conflicts. “Freud emphasized the need to modify defences, to reduce the pressures from the superego so that the patient could become less frightened of the superego and to strengthen the ego”. The aim of the Person Centred Approach is self-actualisation whilst the aim of the Psychodynamic Approach is insight. The Person Centred Approach focuses on the positive belief in the human ability to self-actualise whereas the Psychodynamic Approach focuses largely on the negative aspects
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