Establishing a strong therapeutic relationship within counselling practice is one of the most vital aspects in achieving a positive outcome for the client. There are many techniques available to the counsellor in achieving this, including a wide variety of theoretical approaches. The question of whether applying these theoretical approaches to practice is necessary, and to what degree, is a contented issue amongst counsellors, with responses depending heavily on which theoretical model of counselling is being utilised. In this essay it will be argued that theory is necessary to establish an effective counselling practice, only to the degree in which the chosen style of therapy used actually incorporates theory into its practice. Relatively speaking, this is meant that theory is only necessary for an effective counselling practice when the practitioner, and their theoretical position, both consider it to be so. This will be shown by first giving a general definition of counselling – both in relation to theory and practice, outlining some of the major counselling theoretical positions, and then demonstrating how each of these positions places emphasis on theory in relation to practice. It is concluded that applied theory is necessary within a counselling practice, with the degree of importance directly relating to which theory is used and the cultural values present where it is practiced.
McLeod (2007) defines counselling as a reciprocal and interactive process by which one person who is suffering invites another, in this case the counsellor, into their space to communicate with them. The counselling process generally involves trust, affirmation, expression of thoughts and feelings, and empathy, with typical desired outcomes that include, understanding – both in the mind and feelings, rectification or acceptance of life issues, and social integration. McLeod’s definition is both a broad and holistic one, as the multiplicity of available theories must dictate. This definition also encompasses many forms of therapy which are not traditionally defined as counselling, such as religious and spiritual practises. It therefore becomes necessary to include in the definition that counselling is also a product of its cultural climate. The form its takes outwardly is dependent on political, economic and social factors, too numerous to mention here. Suffice to say that in a Western and intellectual sense, counselling takes on a more socially restricted and professional role (Corbet, 1990). It is with this role in mind, and the practices developed in accordance with it, that theory and practice in counselling will be discussed.
In the Western context of counselling, several opposing theoretical approaches will be contrasted: those that take a ‘heavy’ theoretical stance, and those that emphasise a more ‘heart-felt’ and ‘experiential’ approach (Dryden, 2011). The first approach is composed of the psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioural theories, whilst the latter incorporates the humanistic approaches of person-centred and gestalt therapy. Both approaches do actually include more theoretical styles; however the main ones will be used here to highlight specific trends within the main approach, with each approach being only indicative of the ideal or traditional method.
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- Lee Hooper (Author), 2011, An analysis of incorporating theory into counselling practice, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/262257