What Is Counseling, Really?
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Humans have sought to understand not only our physical being, but also our emotional and mental being for many years. The field of psychology or counseling evolved to understand humans emotionally and behaviorally, and counseling is generally focused upon how to promote positive change. Over the course of many years, the words "counseling" and "therapy" have been often used interchangeably. Even today, the words are often interchanged. And to many, the words mean the same. Both terms relate to the process of overcoming issues and working towards a change to promote growth and happiness. However, there is a history to both therapy and counseling, and they are each different.
What Is "Therapy"?
The most noted work in psychotherapy is credited to Dr. Sigmund Freud. Freud, from Vienna, received training as a neurologist in the late 1800’s, and his first patients were diagnosed as "hysterical". Freud’s work with his patients helped him develop his theories and develop his method of practice, which he named psychoanalysis, and Freud’s psychodynamic theory outlined his belief that the mind has 3 parts: id, ego, and superego. He also believed that all human beings either pass through or get stuck in developmental phases: oral, anal and phallic stages.
Dr. Carl Jung, studied with Freud, but he developed his own theories of psychology and therapy. Other analysts that contributed to therapy as we know it today include: Alfred Adler, Eric Erickson, Karl Abraham and Carl Rogers. Traditionally, psychotherapy has focused on helping clients deal with serious problems that are associated with intrapsychic, or internal conflicts. The focus is more on the past than the present.
What Is "Counseling"
Counseling began in the 1900’s (about the same time as psychoanalysis), and the profession of counseling developed from the progressive guidance movement. The emphasis of counseling was on prevention, as well as, purposefulness. The goal of counseling is to help individuals to avoid bad choices and to help find purpose and direction in their life. Today, counseling also includes the focus of overall wellness. Counseling is used to help a person to develop, as well as to address issues relating to mental health disorder. Counseling can occur individually (1-on-1), in groups, as couples, or as families. Counseling is considered to be a dynamic process, where counselors must focus on helping their clients identify and achieve their goals. According to the 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling group, counseling is ”This dynamic process comes through using a variety of theories and methods”. Thus, counseling involves making choices as well as changes.
Historically, one major difference between counseling and psychotherapy is that counseling has been conducted by nonprofessional staff, whereas psychotherapy was conducted by a master level or PhD level professionals. Over the years, there has been much change to professionalize counseling and specifically the role of a counselor.
Developments in the 1990s included the following:
• The National Academy of Clinical Mental Health Counselors created a merger with NBCC to facilitate the ability to credential counselors.
• The growth accredited programs in doctoral and master’s level counselor education programs.
• An increase in the number of publications on counseling by ACA, commercial publishers,
and ERIC/CASS (Counseling and Student Services Clearinghouse).
• The Creation and growth of licensure laws for counseling.
Basics of Counseling
Counseling is a direct working relationship between a counselor and a client (patient or resident) either in individually, in a group, or with couples. The counselor may work with various populations including: children, adolescents, adults or elderly, and they may also have a specialized area such as children, autism or dual diagnosis. They may use a variety of techniques or theories of to help a client, but the focus is basically to assist the client with working through issues, mastering coping skills, developing insight, or making transformations in their behaviors. The goal is to seek optimal functioning levels or to hep the client reach their fullest potential.
Examples of Counseling Outcomes
· A development of insight or a self-awareness.
· Change in one’s thinking patterns
· Increase in self esteem or self worth
· Increase in ability to maintain emotional control
· Increase in ability to maintain behavioral control
· Increase in assertiveness
· Decrease in anxiety symptoms or panic
· Increase in motivation
· Improvement in relationship with others
· Recovery from alcohol or substances
· Ability to cope with the grief and loss process
In summary, counseling typically leads to resolution of mental health issues, addiction issues, situational issues or others issues that are affecting a person’s ability to feel overall happiness or success in their life. Counseling with a trained professional can lead to overall improvement in mood, happiness and success. Counseling and psychotherapy are very similar, and the terms are often used interchangeably in these modern times.
- Kim B.