What Are Some Types of Counseling Theories?


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Although there are many different varieties of counseling, the three basic theories are reflected in Carl Rogers' person-centered or client-centered approach, Sigmund Freud's psychodynamic approach and the cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, approach promoted by Aaron T. Beck and Albert Ellis. Freud's approach is the oldest accepted form of counseling and places the focus on the unconscious mind and the effect of childhood experiences on an individual's current thoughts and behavior. Rogers' person-centered approach emphasizes self-actualization, self-healing and self-awareness while cognitive behavioral therapy, which is based on conditioned learning and response, seeks to determine how and why an individual reacts in a particular manner in a given situation.

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Similarities can be found when comparing the person-centered and cognitive behavioral therapy approaches. Both place their focus on the client managing events and situations by perceiving them correctly and free of distorted or imposed perceptions. In the person-centered approach, the counselor works toward developing a climate that encourages growth and self-discovery by demonstrating an unconditional positive regard for the client and displaying empathy. Clients are helped along in drawing upon their innate ability to grow and heal without allowing external circumstances and the evaluations of other people to hold them back.

The cognitive behavioral therapy approach is geared toward helping the client to identify an activating event, understand their rational or irrational beliefs regarding the event and to become aware of the consequences of their reactions to the activating event. The CBT approach views people as reactive beings responding to external stimuli in a variety of ways based upon their conditioned learning and response patterns. The theory behind CBT is that learned dysfunctional, inaccurate or negative behavior and thinking patterns can also be unlearned and replaced with new and positive stimulus-and-response patterns.

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