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Key Elements in Counselling

Key Elements in Counselling

Key Elements in Counselling

Key Elements in Counselling – Psychodynamic Theory

Key Elements in Counselling. Psychodynamic theory started with the studies of Sigmund Freud. The work of Freud in the late 19th to the early 20th century considered the workings and inter-connections between different mind states or levels of awareness which makes up the whole individual. These are the conscious, pre-conscious and unconscious. The conscious is our current thinking and awareness, the pre-conscious is something that we might be aware of occasionally and the unconscious includes everything we are not aware of.


Freud also contended that we had three levels of personality. These were a deep instinctive, unconscious drive (id). This works with the Ego and the Super Ego (our own internal conscious “policeman”) to drive our feelings and behaviours. Psychodynamic theory looks at getting a deeper insight into our early life influences as a way to increase self-knowledge. This is the oldest of the theories discussed in this assessment and the main approach of this theory is to look back into the speakers past and from there be able to find the causes of their own behaviours, values and  beliefs.


With Psychodynamic Theory the listener might lead and guide the sessions, albeit will remain mostly silent, while the speaker will do most of the talking. In general Psychodynamic Theory is not short term, and work with the speaker may go on for months if not years with the sessions sometimes being several a week. Together with the concept of conscious, preconscious and unconscious mind states, Psychodynamic theory aims to increase an individual’s level of self-awareness by making the unconscious become conscious.
Psychodynamic Theory has been developed and some of the basic principles have been built on since the days of Freud. The theory is also interested in exploring the dynamics between the individual and others in their world.   

Person-Centred Theory -Key Elements in Counselling

Key Elements in Counselling. Person-Centred Theory, which can also be referred to as Rogerian Theory was built on the work of Carl Rogers in the 1940’s who developed these core principles in the USA . This makes this a younger theory than Psychodynamic Theory. Personal centred theory works on the basis that the speaker is at the centre of the helping relationship. This is based on the theory that the speaker discovers the truths about themselves and can draw upon their inner resources to improve their situation which may consist of their emotional pain or their negative behaviours.
The main importance of this theory is for the speaker to take responsibility of the process. This responsibility can be taken as Rogers felt we have an innate capacity to fulfil our potential to grow and become greater than we are. Our “Actualising Tendency” is what Roger’s calls this.

Another part 

Another part of the elements to Person Centre Theory is relating to structured ways of understanding the self, and what is required from the listener. This is based on the theory that our feelings drive our behaviour and we use our behaviour to reinforce understanding of the self. In time this is how we become who we are and how we build our strengths and weaknesses and how we are perceived by others. This is known as “Self-Concept” (Carl Rogers). This self-concept can determine how we become or what we do in our lives. Self-concept also shapes the way we gain approval or disapproval by others.
This is known by Carl Rogers as “Conditions of Worth”. People sometimes feel a strong need to be accepted by others and become too dependent on winning approval. This in turn makes them become victims because their behaviour is inhibited because of the want to be accepted. When this happens, they begin to lose sight of their true self which is known as “Organismic Self” again from Carl Rogers.

Self concept

The Organismic Self realises how it can improve and sends out clues and messages even when a speaker has a poor self-concept. This brings the person to the centre of the process, in that the listener’s role is to help with the problem. On the subject of what is required from the listener, Rogers teaches that while the listener should not structure or direct the sessions they should at all times seek to fulfil “Three Core Conditions”.
These are Congruence, Unconditional Positive Regard, and Empathic Understanding. Congruence means the listener tries at all times to be truthful and genuine, Unconditional Positive Regard means the listener tries to caring and non-judgemental and Empathic understanding means the listener tries to fully understand the speaker and tries to feel how they feel.

Cognitive-Behavioural Theory

Key Elements in Counselling. Cognitive-Behavioural Theory or CBT as it’s known in short is a theory that focuses more in the present time frame. Here the listener helps the speaker to resolve negative or unhelpful reactions to situations by learning new ways to react. This is the youngest theory of them all and was developed in the 60’s,70’s and 80’s. The theory has been developed by integrating behaviour therapy established by Skinner with cognitive therapy (Ellis) .
This theory does not look back at past historic causes but stays in the present behaviour and beliefs and hence it is not concerned about underlying issues. CBT can be practiced on groups or individuals alike and tends to be most effective on things like anxiety, eating, personality, psychotic disorders and substance abuse.
As an example, CBT can be most effective on anti-social behaviour with irrational phobias in youngsters where the main need is to re-learn. With CBT many approaches may be applied depending on the nature of the problem. For example; the speaker may keep a diary of their feelings, thoughts, behaviours etc. The listener may help them question and test cognitions, assumptions, evaluations and beliefs that are unhelpful or unrealistic and gradually encourage them to face activities which have been avoided by trying new ways of behaving and reacting.
In CBT things like Relaxation, mindfulness and distraction techniques are also used. CBT focuses fully on the problems, which helps the listener to develop strategies and structures for managing the problems and enabling them to get into a better situation in life. There is the argument that CBT may not have long term effectiveness as it has not addressed or discovered the root causes of the problems.

Differences between the Therapeutic Models

Issues caused by unconscious motives
Long Term
Analyses causes/why?
Listener – lead
Equal relationship
Needs building trust
Issues caused by their version of understanding
Takes time needed
Considers causes
Needs building trust
Cognitive-Behavioural Theory (CBT)
Issues caused by previous learning
Does not consider causes
Listener- directed
Structures/guides a solution
Needs openness/honesty      


Describe how counselling theory underpins the use of counselling skills

Key Elements in Counselling. Counselling theory underpins the use of counselling skills by having a structure that can be worked to for the benefit of the speaker. There is a need to for a listener to determine which therapeutic model should be most effective for the speaker in a helping relationship providing the listener is capable and knowledgeable of practicing a range of theories.
For examples, in using CBT, the listener is guiding and structuring the speaker through the process of improvement, which is effective with mental health issues such as obsessive compulsive disorder, (OCD) plus clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and bulimia nervosa.  With CBT it is necessary for the listener to guide to make the therapy effective.
Person-centred theory helps to inform and underpin the use of the following counselling skills such as active listening and body language to show the listener is being congruent and authentic, genuine and real. By using open questioning  and being listened to this allows the speaker to not feel judged  and so letting the speaker know it’s fine to be themselves.
 It’s important that the listener is not seen to be more superior to the speaker as the speaker is than less likely to change. It is also important that the speaker feels you are non-judgemental as it will help them explore negative feelings honestly. This will enable self-acceptance.
Empathic understanding is important as it shows understanding in the eyes of the speaker. It also shows you are attentive and caring which underpins most of the counselling skills. This helps the speaker to value themselves.
Key Elements in Counselling. The great thing about all the theories available to a listener is it makes the listener much more effective. This is due to the fact it provides a framework for them to work too in a helping relationship ie. knowing when to be silent plus how to ask a question and when the best time to ask it is. A listener would not be able to work effectively without the frameworks and theories they have a hand.
So we now know counselling skills and theories go hand in hand and we have also learnt when to apply these theories.
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