Counseling refers to the process of identifying a practical solution to an identified problem (Tan, 2011, p2). It involves two or more parties, the person rendering the counseling services, or counselor and the patient. The process of counseling takes place mainly through conversation. The counselor and the patient are able to establish a cordial and working relationship with each other to make the process more meaningful and effective (Norcross, 2002, p1).
There are various theoretical approaches to counseling. These are psychodynamic, the humanistic-existential approach and the cognitive-behavioral approach. This essay will focus on only two of the approaches. These are the psychodynamic and the humanistic-existential approach.
The psychodynamic approach focuses on the way patients organize their internal worlds. The counselor digs deep into a patient’s childhood experiences, relationships with others, intimacy and issues of self-esteem and painful memories and experiences. These may be at the root of the patient’s suffering, and, therefore, may need to be addressed as a way of assisting the patient tackle their condition.
Under this approach, the counselor also focuses on the complexities of interpersonal relationships, and this may involve developing a relationship with a patient so that the patient is able to freely interact with the therapist. This theory trains attention to the psychological setup of the patient and the factors that contribute to the problem. In seeking answers to this problem, the counselor has to dig deep into the patient’s history, carefully leading the patient into shedding insights into their childhood experiences, painful memories and the history of their interpersonal relationships with others.
Such history is very crucial to the counselor since it would reveal the conditions that precipitated the current psychological setup of their patients. It is, therefore, a form of treatment that is focused into the subconscious of the patient. This is because some people hide so much in their subconscious and this comes back to haunt them in their later lives. Such people usually develop personality disorders. To effectively assist such patients, it is necessary to dig into the psychological history because it would provide answers to the patient’s current fears and phobia’s as well as some forms of deviant behavior.
The counselor also studies the relationship between them and their patients as it will give them an insight into how the patient relates with other people. The relationship is also an important avenue through which the counselor can explore the patient’s relationships in the patient’s world both in the past and at present. This enables the counselor to identify the problem faced by the patient and give practical solutions to the said problem.
Most patients have a history of painful childhoods or experiences which need to be addressed. The patient may exhibit extreme personality disorder such as being anti-social. This is mainly as a result of a disturbed past, or painful experiences suffered at the hands of known people in the past. However, this information is usually locked away in the patient’s subconscious and the counselor has to find ways of unlocking it. For such a patient to reconnect with the society, they have to face their pasts.
There are two major proponents of the psychodynamic school of thought. These are Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Sigmund Freud is the father of the classical psychoanalysis branch of psychodynamics. Freud pays attention to the unconscious factors related to infantile sexuality in the development of neurosis (Nelson-Jones, 2000, p3). This approach may take years as clients may take time in the transference process in which they come to consider their counselors as reincarnations of important personalities in their lives. The second proponent divides the unconscious into personal and collective. Counseling would include an analysis of transference, dream analysis and active imagination (Tan, 2011, p3).
The second theory is the humanistic-existentialist theory. This theory focuses on the understanding of a patient’s view of the world and their experiences in the same world. Therefore, unlike the psychodynamic approach that focuses on the internal world of an individual, this theory puts into sharp focus the external world of a patient and how it affects the patient in question.
The theory of the humanistic-existential approach lays emphasis on the current life situations of the patients, including transitions, dilemmas and relationships with others. It also focuses on how a given view of the world as held by a patient may affect the patient’s perception of the world. The counselor further assumes that each patient has a unique potential for growth but requires the services of the therapist to facilitate the realization of that ambition.
This approach requires counselor to exercise empathy, respect and non-possessive warmth. This is because the counselor will be evaluating the patient and treating the patient’s condition as if it was the counselor’s own. By so doing, the patient will develop confidence and trust in the counselor and will be able to open up to the therapist. This is very crucial to the healing of the patient. This is the person-centered therapy.
In addition, there is also the Gestalt therapy which is suitable for neurotic individuals who have lost touch with their sense, effectively alienating them from interacting meaningfully with their environments. This kind of therapy emphasizes on creating awareness and vitality in the patient through several means such as experiments, sympathy and frustration, as well as dream work.
Of the two approaches, that is, psychodynamic and humanist, the latter is the most effective. There are several reasons for this. To begin with, there is a lot of information on the psychodynamic approach to counseling. This is because there are two major proponents to the theory, Freud and Jung. Freud looks at the issue of infantile sexuality and how it may come to affect an individual later in their life. Jung, on the other hand, dichotomizes the subconscious into personal and collective. This makes it easier to deal with a wide spectrum of patients.
Secondly, there is a notable rise in personality disorders currently. The humanist approach may not be sufficient to tackle them. This is because people have their unique ambitions, but may not need the services of a counselor to realize their dreams. Therefore, this approach may be ineffective in tackling the current craze in the world. On the other hand, the psychodynamic approach could just be the panacea to a wide variety of the personality disorders seen in the world today.
Third, it may not be possible to study how a patient relates to their external world. The relationship with the counselor may not be conclusive enough to make any decisions concerning a patient’s mental health. Realizing that they are dealing with a counselor, and intending to create an impression, the patient may decide to behave differently with the counselor. This may mislead the counselor into making the wrong judgment on the patient.
This is hardly the case for the psychodynamic approach. This is because the counselor is able to make correct judgments concerning the mental health of the patient by digging deep into the patient’s subconscious. The counselor works by unraveling the patient’s childhood experiences as well as any other experiences in the life of the patients that are less than palatable. The counselor can easily establish these by monitoring the patient’s dreams and reactions to certain stimuli. The counselor will, therefore, be able to prescribe the right interventions for their clients.
It may also be easier to establish a meaningful relationship with a patient in the psychodynamic approach than in the humanist approach. This is because in the classical psychoanalysis presented by Sigmund Freud, therapy works through transference. This is when clients begin to perceive their counselors as reincarnations of important personalities from their earlier lives. The patients will, consequently, treat their counselors with reverence and respect and this would foster a conducive working relationship with the counselor.
It is also important to note that that the psychodynamic approach may take longer compared to the humanist approach. However, this is a small price to pay since the outcome would be positive. This may not be the case for the humanist approach in which due to one reason or another, the patient may not realize their dreams and will end up being more frustrated than before. It may also not be very easy for patients to bond with their counselors like in the psychodynamic approach. This is because the principle of transference does not apply in this case. This makes the psychodynamic approach the most appropriate method to follow when assisting people with personality disorders.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that the different approaches to counseling may complement or supplement each other in the rendering of counseling services (Mills, n.d, p19). This is because no single approach may be conclusive enough to handle a patient. One may need to combine a few of them in order to come out with the most effective interventions. The choice of the approach to be taken will depend on the nature and extent of the psychological condition of the patient. However, the psychodynamic approach would be the most appropriate in handling the ever-increasing cases of mental complications in the world today, especially those that lead personality disorders.