Wednesday, June 5, 2013

New Series on Understand Counseling Theories: Part One - Understanding Theoretical Orientation

We are all unique individuals with certain needs in therapy. I hear very often people say, "I only went to therapy a few times, I didn't like my therapist."  This concerns me because not all therapists are meant for every client. Taking the time to interview your therapist about their approach to counseling is advisable. Any good therapist will give you some time on the phone to discuss their theoretical framework and approach to your specific concerns and issues.

Each therapist is going to have their unique theoretical orientation. This simply means they follow certain schools of thought in the way they interact with clients. What this means is that counselor uses certain techniques to engage clients in meaning for processing of their issues. In this series, I will do my best to explain what a therapist's theoretical orientation is and how you can choose a good fit for your reason for therapy.

There are several central figures in the history of psychology. Sigmund Freud is quite possibly the most renown psychotherapist and the "Father of Psychotherapy." As the field of psychology grew, so did the theories of great thinkers and researchers alike. Freud's psychoanalytical theory provides a set of terms, guidelines, therapy techniques, ways of thinking etc. The picture comes to mind of a person on a couch exploring their experience through talk therapy. Consideration to what you seek therapy for may often dictate which orientations suit your needs. If you like the "talk it out" process and believe that a listening ear and thoughtful insight are good counseling, a psychoanalysis may be the way to go. However, most therapists' are going to use talk therapy and psychoanalysis to an extent, and their actual theoretical orientation is something they call "eclectic," which maybe a combination of many schools of thought.

Often times, our issues maybe central to the relationships in our lives.  Our family structure or relationships may post strains on our ability to cope with difficult problems or emotions. If you are seeking counseling for your marriage and family issues, a marriage and family therapist would engage you in the Family systems theory and process your issues with you through this theoretical framework. A session would look very different than an individual counseling session where the therapist practice existential counseling theories (but more on that later.)  Family systems theories are often performed as an ancillary function of their role as a leader in the community, such a priest or reverend, chief of a tribe or head of a spiritual group.  This approach can be useful with interventions for drug and alcohol abuse if the person holds those in high regard and it fits within that person's belief system. Generally, this spiritual framework will only work if the person accepts the intervention and is willing to do the work to repair broken relationships.

Generally, counselors employ the techniques of more than one theoretical framework.  You will often her them say they are "existential therapists" which means that person employs the use of more than one theoretical approach.  A counselor can practice more than one type of therapeutic intervention and even take into consideration the beliefs of their client in order to meet their needs. An individualistic approach tailored to that client's needs is the best approach by any counselor. However, some therapists choose to work within their framework and don't adapt to client's needs. A counselor who offers you a person centered cognitive behavioral therapy combination may favor may be guided by the behavioralist in their interventions but uses a person centered approach to their session style. You have a right to know, understand, and be educated on the theoretical orientation that your treatment is derived from.

Some types of theoretical orientations simply do not mesh well with Christian beliefs. Aspects of the theory might be used but be weary of a counselor who uses one of these theories for their main practice. Psychoanalysis provides a good example of the foundation of unconsciousness, this is not necessarily
against Christian beliefs but a psychoanalyst explains the unconscious through repressed sexual feelings. The family system, relationships, your overall experience with the world outside of yourself is largely determined by unconscious sexual urges in psychoanalysis. Consideration of this factor determines that Christian morality might not mesh with this framework.

While most of psychology is based on Freudian thought, it possible to counsel a Christian even though psychology is considered an analysis of abnormal behavior. The process of thinking, conceptualizing and formatting your ideas into your moral code and analyzing your cognitive dissonance may allow a person to match the inconsistency of their thoughts, words, beliefs and actions. Recognizing how your beliefs relate to your actions can change a person to live a more morally congruent life.

I know, this has nothing to do with bariatrics, weight loss surgery or weight loss--- yet.  I'll get to that part in the next post.  Next up, your personality and how it relates to your therapist.

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