This statement ‘Every counseling theory’s view of human nature, key concepts, therapeutic goals, and intervention strategies are closely connected to one another” reveals how these 4 components are intertwined for the formation of each counseling theories respectively.
Human nature – Sigmund Freud has a pessimistic view on humans such that they are void of any potentials (Marković, 2014). This view was mainly influenced by his traumatic childhood during World War 1 and the post-Darwin period (Human Nature-Scientific, 2018). Humans are regarded as deterministic, complex beings where their attitudes and behaviors are mainly driven by the unconscious mind, irrational and instinctual drives. Psychoanalytic Therapy stated that humans have two instincts such as libido (life instincts) or sexual drive (Eros) focuses on growth, development, and creativity whereas aggressive drive (death instincts or Thanatos) focuses on destructive behaviors towards self or others (Corey, 2016).
Key Concepts – Psychoanalytic Therapy focuses on the unconscious mind of an individual. A conscious mind is within an individual’s awareness such as our thoughts and perception whereas an unconscious mind refers to outside of awareness like childhood memories, hidden desires, and drives. For example, an individual has repressed the memory of being abused and this traumatic experience is locked in his unconscious mind which he may not be aware in the conscious mind (McLeod, 2018).
Freud’s theory states that an individual’s personality is governed by three components and they are id, ego, and superego. Id operates in the unconscious mind and is governed by the pleasure principle where an individual’s instinctual needs to get instant gratification and avoid pain which often causes him to become either irrational or impulsive. Ego operates in the conscious mind and is governed by the reality principle where the reality sets in with rational thoughts. Superego can operate in both the conscious or unconscious mind and is governed by the perfection principle where an individual’s moral code and conscience become dominant to attain the society’s deemed moral standard. These three components are in constant conflicts with one another and causing an imbalance in personality. To balance it, ego needs to be strengthened for an individual to become rational. However, it often faces anxiety which forms defense mechanism (DM) to protect individuals’ ego and annihilating any emotional distress. DM denies or distorts an individual’s current reality and it operates in the unconscious where one may not be aware of its existence to manage their distress. They are repression, denial, projection, displacement, reaction formation, regression, and sublimation. Anger and guilt are DM too. (Corey, 2016).
Therapeutic Goals – Firstly, the objective is to make the unconscious conscious for individuals to receive insights for cathartic experiences like healing or constructive changes. Secondly, the constant conflicts among id and superego are often mediated by ego and thus ego strengthening helps individuals to adopt healthy self-concepts and behaviors that align more with reality and less toward instinctual desires or irrational guilts (Corey, 2016).
Intervention Strategies – Few techniques (in bold) are employed to achieve PT’s therapeutic goals.
Interpretation is the cornerstone of psychoanalytic therapy where the therapist helps to analyze and explain the client’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to get insights into his past and present events. Apparently, interpretation can be found in other PT techniques.
Free association is one of the main techniques that aim to uncover the unconscious mind by allowing the clients to share any immediate thoughts, words or anything that comes into their mind without any censorship. Eventually, therapist can interpret for clients. This technique also inhibits the act of transference (transferring one’s feeling on a person to another), projection (projecting one’s qualities onto someone) and resistance (blocking one’s feelings or memories) (Good Therapy, 2018).
Transference is an event during therapy when the client begins to interact with the therapist as though he is a significant individual in the client’s life. This process usually happens unconsciously, and it often indicates an unresolved issue between the client and his significant other(s). Hence, analysis of transference is used to observe client’s verbal and non-verbal communications before interpreting it to identify any defense mechanisms or unhealthy behaviors that exist in his past or present relationship (Positive Psychology Program, 2018). Eventually, the client may become more aware of his unresolved issue with his significant other(s).
In summary, PT stated that the human’s unconscious mind plays a big role in determining their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The constant conflict between id (basic urge), superego (moral values) and ego (real world) dampens an individual’s ego strength which regulates self-concept and emotions during challenges (Staik, 2017). If an individual’s ego strength is affected, he will struggle to function properly and hence anxiety appears with defense mechanism (DM) to prevent us from being overwhelmed by such distress. However, DM operates from the unconscious mind to either deter the client to face the harsh reality or delay it by avoiding. This does not resolve but prolong an individual’s issues. Freud’s deterministic view on human nature assumes that the client can only receive healing or help to his issues through insights derived from the unconscious realm. Therefore, PT’s intervention techniques focus a lot on what the therapist does than what the clients can contribute. Techniques such as the therapist’s ability to interpret, unveil the unconscious, inhibits transference with clients, lower ego defense mechanisms and resistance. This aligns with PT’s therapeutic goals to make unconscious conscious and strengthen one’s ego to function realistically.
Person-Centred Therapy (PCT)
Human nature – Carl Roger’s PCT views humans as potential beings who have free will and within themselves vast resources to seek for self-understanding, positive self-concept and attitudes (Freeth, 2007). They strive for personal growth through self-actualization and are capable to resolve their own issues. His therapy involves a therapeutic relationship that emphasizes positive interactions between the therapist and client, empowering the client through facilitation to work on their issues during sessions.
Key Concepts – PCT stated that if ideal self (preference) and real self (self-concept) are incongruent, it affects an individual’s self-esteem and hinders growth through self-actualizing (Lumen Learning, n.d). Therefore, the therapist needs to provide a climate with the growth enhancement conditions such as congruence, unconditional positive regard (UPR) and accurate empathic understanding (AEU) for clients’ growth. These conditions are the tenets of PCT where they pave the path towards positive change for clients (Corey, 2016).
Congruence refers to the therapist’s ability to be real, authentic and genuine towards the clients. Rogers termed this as “transparent” where the therapist’s openness allows the client to see through his real self underneath. For example, if the client has an inconsistent and unruly behavior, the congruent therapist will not fear in notifying his client about his perception of the existing situation in a constructive manner. This creates a safe environment where the client can freely share and accepts their own feelings in which he may attain more insights, self-awareness and self-esteem for healing and growth. Thus, the client’s ideal self may become congruent with real self to self-actualise. By being authentic, the therapist becomes more trustworthy for clients to share in-depth. The therapist’s congruence also tackles the unsolicited negative view or unjustified expectation the client may have received from others. For example, the client may receive negative remarks from others and the therapist’s genuineness may make him feel valued hence increases his self-esteem and renewed trust in own judgment (Counselling Tutor, 2019).
UPR is also known as “prizing” which to think of someone as very valuable and important (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d). UPR is when the therapist shows non-possessive caring to the client which is not influenced by scrutinizing his thoughts, feelings, and behaviors based on absolutist thinking. It values the client and recognizing their autonomy for their sets of beliefs and emotions. When UPR is shown to the client especially those with self-acceptance issue, it may inhibit them from developing negative self-defeating behaviors and being defensive but making them feel safe in exploring deeper in their real self (Corey, 2016). Eventually, the client may learn to accept and value themselves which enables them to make constructive changes in their lives (Thorne, Mearns, & McLeod, 2013).
AEU refers to the therapist having the ability not just listening but also feel the client’s emotions. It was coined as ‘frame of reference’ or ‘walking in someone’s else shoes’ where Rogers stated that the state of being empathetic is to understand other’s internal frame of reference accurately accompanied by emotional factors and meanings as though you were the person. Simply to say that once the client felt understood, he will feel secure in sharing his difficulties with the therapist (Counselling Tutor, 2017).
Therapeutic Goals – It is to provide safe environment to enhance therapeutic relationship by having clients to self-explore deeper their growth’s blockage and experience characteristics of self that were not accurate or denied. Eventually, this environment enables clients to become more receptive, more trusting in self, very engaged, involved and the willingness to improve and grow.
Intervention Strategies – Reflection of feelings refers to the act of the therapist being able to repeat what the client has shared about his feelings. This makes the clients feel heard and understood by the therapist plus delves deeper into their feelings (Positive Psychology Program, 2017).
The Quality of the Therapeutic Relationship refers to the therapeutic relationship that governs the changes in client’s personality and thus the therapist’s presence plays a crucial role in facilitating such changes. The therapist needs to genuinely listen, attend and understand to the clients’ needs which may gain their trust and further enhance therapeutic relationship1 (Corey, 2016).
Immediacy refers to the technique the therapist uses to monitor the therapeutic relationship with his client. This creates awareness among both parties to ensure consistent collaboration. Egan stated that there are two types which are relationship-focused immediacy and event-focused immediacy. Relationship-focused immediacy refers to the therapist’s ability to inform his client on their development of the overall relationship. The crux is on how their relationship influences the client’s progress and not deciphering the past events whereas Event-focused immediacy also known as “here-and-now immediacy” refers to the therapist’s ability to inform his client on the current situation between them like any incidents that happened instead of verifying the condition of the therapeutic relationship. Immediacy is applicable in some situations like lack of progression or direction in a session, a tension between the therapist and client, trust issues, diversity or cultural differences and dependency like transference or countertransference (Egan & Reese, 2018).
In summary, PCT stated that humans are with potentials and self-direction they can improve themselves to achieve growth and changes through self-actualization. PCT’s three core conditions overarch the therapist’s genuineness, being impartial yet accepting who the clients are and feel or be in clients’ shoes which facilitate their growth. The six conditions for constructive personality change will be: A psychological contact or relationship takes place between the client and the counselor. The client is in a state of incongruence with unstable emotions whereas the counselor is genuine and has self-awareness of his feelings. The counselor then exhibits UPR and AEU to attain his client’s internal frame of reference before communicating this experience to him. Eventually, the client recognizes the counselor’s UPR for him and understanding of his existing difficulties (Positive Psychology Program, 2017).
Thus, PCT’s objectives will be achieved when clients’ ideal self becomes congruent with their real self, having ownership and ability to better manage their issues and forming goals for their therapy’s sessions. Intervention strategies were employed to achieve these objectives like reflecting feelings to make clients feel acknowledged when their words were reiterated correctly. The therapist listens, attends and understands clients’ needs using UPR through valuing each client as one and only individual in this cosmos for positive therapeutic relationship. The awareness to self and surrounding is crucial to maintaining collaboration through relationship-focused immediacy that oversees the overall development in the therapeutic relationship whereas event-focused immediacy rules out particular incidents that have impacts on the present situation between therapist and client. PCT therapist’s task is simply facilitating the session while empowering clients to realize that they know themselves the best than anyone and can resolve their own issues through the therapist’s skilful and genuine guidance.
Personally, I am comfortable to use the Analysis of Resistance from Psychoanalytic Therapy. Whenever the clients feel unsafe or sense a threat, their defense mechanism will activate which inhibits me to delve deeper into their issues. Both mandated and voluntary clients have a certain degree of resistance while the former tends to be greater. To deal with resistance, trust is needed to break barriers by having a safe environment. Once you earn the trust of your clients just like any relationship, the real work begins to get insights into the reasons behind the clients’ resistance. Eventually, collaboration with clients may take place to work on their issues.
The technique I am uncomfortable with is dream analysis. When clients share their dreams, they tend to forget certain parts of the dreams or reconstruct them subconsciously. Thus, it may not be the full truth which jeopardizes my interpretation. For example, in the first session they could tell me one content but totally different one upon the next session. Moreover, other therapists and I likely to interpret the same dream differently. Each dream’s manifest content holds hidden meaning which are liable to the interpretation of the therapist. What if the therapist’s deduction is false? This may confuse clients and jeopardize their treatment.
In conclusion, each counselling’s therapy foundation was built upon the theorists’ views of human nature. The way they see humans influences the way they counsel them. Key concepts are the foundation of each theory which influences their therapeutic goals. Intervention techniques were employed to attain these goals. Psychoanalytic Therapy is more authoritarian like directing the client’s overall progress whereas Person-Centred Therapy is more authoritative by empowering the client to manage their overall progress while having necessary boundaries. For example, if therapist views clients as complex nature, he may tend to advise and direct them whereas if clients have potentials or autonomy, he likely facilitates and guides them for constructive changes during each session.