Developing your theoretical approach is one of the most important, yet challenging, aspects of your professional development. It will be a dynamic process with rewards and demands. During your academic career as a counselor, you will learn particular counseling skills and you will be challenged to learn and practice skills specific to certain theories of mental health counseling. Developing a theoretical approach is a lengthy process that will take active learning beyond this course and even beyond this graduate degree. Effectiveness in a particular therapeutic approach takes training, practice, and supervision for years. Understanding the scope of this development will ease some of your anxiety regarding selecting a theory and demonstrating it with competency after taking this course.
A theory is a conceptual framework that assists counselors in assessing and treating clients (Halbur & Halbur, 2006). Theories espouse particular paradigms, or groups of assumptions and beliefs. From those beliefs, a theory will promote a certain way of assessing and treating clients, which aligns with the paradigm. Understanding theory first begins with the textbook knowledge you will gain in this course. Then it will take a professional dedication to further develop a knowledge base around a theory or group of theories that interest you. Utilizing theory in practice takes extensive self-knowledge, as you discover the theories that most closely align with your own assumptions and beliefs, and ends with the techniques you will use with clients. Therefore, this process is lengthy and dynamic (Halbur & Halbur, 2006).
In this unit and throughout this course, ponder some of the following:
• What is a theoretical orientation?
• How does a theory develop?
• What influences my selection of a particular theory?
• How does my previous life or counseling experience affect my selection of a theory?
• How does a theory affect what I do as a counselor?
• How does a theory affect my client?
• What are the pitfalls of not developing a theoretical approach?
Halbur, D., & Halbur, K. (2006). Developing your theoretical orientation in counseling and psychotherapy. Boston, MA: Pearson.
To successfully complete this learning unit, you will be expected to:
1. Create a holistic definition of counseling and therapy.
2. Evaluate practicing from a well-defined theoretical approach.
Learning Activities Studies
Use your Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy text and the Capella library to read the following:
• Chapter 1, “Introduction and Overview,” and Chapter 2, “The Counselor: Person and Professional,” pages 4–34.
• Spruill and Benshoff’s 2000 article “Helping Beginning Counselors Develop a Personal Theory of Counseling” in Counselor Education and Supervision, volume 40, issue 1, pages 70–81.
• Stiles’s 2007 article “Theory-Building Case Studies of Counselling and Psychotherapy” in Counseling and Psychotherapy Research, volume 7, issue 2, pages 122–127.
Your Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy text came bundled with a DVD, The Case of Stan. On the DVD, you will watch Gerald Corey demonstrate aspects of the theories with the same client, Stan. Each theory is presented in three parts:
1. An introduction to the therapy.
2. A simulated counseling session.
3. A commentary on the approach.
You will watch each segment for each theory. You will begin this unit by reading the assessment of Stan in the Corey book on page 13, and you will watch the Intake and Assessment for Stan on the DVD.
Theories of Counseling Chart
As you progress through this course you will study several different theories, some of which have more similarities than differences and vice versa. In order for you to learn about the theories more effectively, you will create a Theories of Counseling Chart that will include important aspects of each theory. As you review the theories each week, you should complete the sections of the chart. You will work on this chart throughout the course and post it in Unit 5 and in Unit 10 as discussion posts. You will be able to refer to this chart throughout your classes, into your fieldwork, and later as you study for licensure exams.
Refer to the Web Sites and Readings for Theories of Psychotherapy document to assist you in completing the Theories Chart.
Discussion 1: 1 page needed with 2 references.
Definition of Counseling and Therapy
To be prepared to explore your theoretical approach, it is important to first determine how you and the profession define counseling and therapy. Provide a holistic definition of counseling that aligns with your beliefs about the therapeutic process. In addition to your readings, you may wish to consult the Web sites of national or state counseling associations or state laws that define counseling and therapy. Include comments on what creates change within an individual as a result of counseling or therapy, and identify the most important aspects of the counselor and the counseling process. Utilize scholarly resources to support your views and beliefs.
Discussion 2: 1 page needed with 2 references.
Practicing from a Theoretical Approach
Discuss the benefits of practicing from a well-defined theoretical approach and the pitfalls of not doing so. Discuss what influences the development of a theoretical approach and the process of how it will develop for a beginning counselor.