Counseling and psychotherapy are both theory-based practices, such that the strategies and approaches employed by counselors and therapists are heavily guided by existing theories. The objective of this report is to review and evaluate the counseling theories studied throughout the course and integrate personal ideas or thoughts about those theories. In this report, my personal thoughts on normal human behavior, mental disorders, and psychotherapy will be discussed in conjunction with the theories and concepts learned during the course. My personal thoughts and views about normal behavior, mental disorders, and psychotherapy are guided by existential, holistic, and solution-focused approaches. I believe that counseling or therapy should be able to help individuals discover who they are physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally, so they can figure out who they want to be. Both the existential and holistic approaches help people in their journey to self-discovery and consequently offer a means for self-direction. The solution-based approach, on the other hand, contributes to the resolution of problems, which is essential in helping people move forward.
Before discussing counseling theories and approaches in detail, I have to discuss my thoughts on normal behavior. I believe that normal behavior constitutes focus or direction and decision-making on the part of an individual, which is not damaging or does not negatively affect oneself or other people. Moreover, I believe that normal behavior is associated with an individual’s normal routine. When an individual is dealing with death, for instance, normal behavior includes crying, losing sleep, losing appetite, and exhibiting sadness. However, when these kinds of behavior disrupt normal routine or occur for an unusually long period of time, they become an abnormal behavior. When losing sleep and appetite, for instance, poses danger to an individual’s health and well-being, then the situation will require intervention. If sadness and grief prevents an individual from socially interacting with family and friends, then this situation will also require intervention.
The normality of behavior is also relative to a particular situation. To cite one of the most controversial issues in counseling, the idea of relativity in particular situations that determines normal behavior will be justified using sexual behavior. An individual’s sexual experiences could be the subject of discussion during therapy, and people engaging in such activities are normal because it is part of human nature. However, in the case of sexual rituals and practices, for instance, an individual’s interest in unusual sexual practices, like bondage, may be considered an abnormal behavior, especially since most people who engage in such practices use authority to humiliate other people during sex. In some cases, deviant sexual behavior becomes bothersome – engaging unwilling participants and resorting to violence to enact one’s sexual fantasies (Nichols, 2006). Naming a behavior normal or abnormal will, of course, take a significant amount of time through the constant evaluation of an individual, as well as recollection of his past behavior and experiences. However, generally, I believe that certain behaviors become abnormal when they disrupt the normal routine of an individual and his family or friends.
In terms of the nature of mental disorders, I believe that they are both the product of human experiences and physiological factors. Hormonal imbalance, for instance, or neurological dysfunction could be the primary reasons for an individual’s psychological behavior. I think this is mostly true in grave situations where the psychological problem cannot be solved through mere counseling. Take individuals who become psychologically unstable and resort to deviant behavior, such as serial killers and sexual offenders. Some of them reportedly undergo counseling but they still continue to commit heinous acts (O’Leary, 1999). I believe that these kinds of cases can be both man-made and neurological in nature and through further research, scientists could establish solid proof that would relate physiological elements to psychology (Bennett, 2006). However, I think that in most cases, mental disorders are man-made, such that they may be products of an individual’s past or present experiences. In these cases, I think that an individual’s mental or emotional state could be the reason for mental disorders. When an individual is not mentally or emotionally prepared for a disaster or certain event, it may lead to mental instability. Take individuals who have been laid off from their jobs. Those who were not expecting to be fired from their jobs become psychologically challenged due to depression and other outcomes of their situation (Morris & Maisto, 2005). For this reason, the holistic approach is valuable in counseling, because it helps people discover such people’s nature, how they react to certain situations, and their specific behaviors until they slowly become attuned to themselves.
Moreover, the holistic approach in counseling also contributes to helping people develop emotional readiness and stability (Andersen & Vandehey, 2011). Both the holistic and existential approaches contribute to an individual’s self-discovery. Self-awareness is very important in helping people deal with their psychological and behavioral issues, because their awareness of who they are and the knowledge of how they think or react towards certain situations will help them find out how they can get better and achieve stability. In the reading, the impact of self-awareness to an individual was compared to success and excellence. One can only excel in their line of work when they are aware of their strengths, skills, and talents.
Psychotherapy should be initiated when certain behaviors are considered disruptive and in cases when self-awareness is necessary in order to help the patient. Specific cases include individuals with eating disorders caused by their weak view of themselves or in situations when people have attempted or are thinking about committing suicide. In these cases, most individuals do not understand why they do what they do despite the disruptive nature of their behavior. Psychotherapy also provides answers to normal problems that could be solved through a series of counseling sessions, through which the counselor and the patient could arrive at a solution. However, it is different for psychopathology. One can differentiate the “normal” problems that could be addressed through counseling in psychopathology by the nature or severity of the situation. For one, the risks involved are the indicators that differentiate the two. When an individual could be a risk to other people, such that his or her thoughts or ideas could potentially be dangerous for the people around them, then it is under psychopathology.
In terms of systems in psychotherapy, I believe I identify with the psychoanalytic approach because it is progressive for both the counselor and the patient. When a patient voices out or verbalizes his thoughts, the counselor is not the only one who can notice certain behaviors that identify the character or personality of an individual. In the process, the individual also understands himself or herself because he or she realizes the realities of his or her behavior when he or she talks about them. Aside from the psychoanalytic approach, I also identify with the humanistic and existential systems. The existential system of psychotherapy focuses on helping an individual discover who he is while the humanistic system in psychotherapy focuses on an individual’s self-actualization. Both systems are focused on helping the individual know himself and at the same time discover a path that he or she wants to take. Therefore, I think that an individual has improved if he or she realizes what he or she needs to do. This does not necessarily mean that an individual will be able to turn his or her life around in an instant during or after counseling. However, when the individual establishes a sense of direction, such that he or she knows his or her problems and what must be done about them and when the individual sets a goal, then there is improvement on the part of the patient.