Briefly Outline the Key Features of a Cognitive-Behavioural Approach to Counselling

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Briefly outline the key features of a cognitive-behavioural approach to counselling and discuss some of the ways in which this approach differs from one of the other main approaches to counselling. In part two reflect on and write about which of the two approaches discussed in your essay you prefer and why.

This essay will explain key aspects of a cognitive-behavioural approach to counselling. Revealing how this method of counselling differs from the psychodynamic approach, and demonstrating my preferred method.

The first of these approaches ‘Cognitive-behavioural’ is an umbrella term for a method of counselling comprising several approaches. It evolved from behavioural psychology founded by J.B Watson; an American psychology professor whose 1919 publication entitled Psychology from the standpoint of a Behaviourist largely influenced this approach. (McLeod (2008) p.132)

The first basic premise to cognitive-behavioural counselling involves client and counsellor collaborating, breaking problems down into individual parts, examining, modifying and changing them for a successful outcome. The second is the value of a scientific approach. Just as scientists employ hypotheses, experimentation and evaluation in their work; the cognitive-behavioural counsellor does the same. This is demonstrated in the counsellors’ constant observation and evaluation of change in clients. The third is closely monitoring the cognitive process through which people observe and control their behaviour. (McLeod 2008 p132) The aim of Cognitive-behavioural counselling is to empower clients to recognise irrational thoughts, modify feelings and behaviour by changing thought processes. The Client aims to focus on specific goals but thinks in an illogical fashion, producing detrimental emotions. The connection between thought and behaviour are the epicentre of this approach; the founder of Cognitive therapy; Beck, concluded; observing how patients viewed themselves was more important than traditional psychoanalytic tactics he’d previously practised. Beck explains “I was struck by the fact a patient’s cognitions had an enormous impact on his feelings and behaviour” (McLeod 2008 p143) Beck believes a client’s emotional and behavioural problems aren’t shaped by certain events, instead; personal interpretation of events are key to feelings and behaviour. Albert Ellis created RET- rational emotive therapy. Focusing on the resolution of emotional-behavioural difficulties not only affecting the client but also impinging upon others and empowering people to experience lives that are more positive. To illustrate; the A-B-C method used in RET states: A stands for the activating event leading the client to feel C, which represents the emotional or behavioural consequence of the event. Yet; Ellis believes A is not responsible for C instead, it is the individuals’ B or beliefs about the event that could include past or present or future internal or external events. The role of the cognitive-behavioural counsellor is akin to a coach encouraging clients to improve, stating confidence in clients’ abilities to succeed, motivating, praising alongside clients. There is homework, writing and role-play that must be adhered to in cognitive-behavioural therapy and failure to do so results in the counsellor assuming the client is unwilling to change their behaviour for the better. (Word count 440)

The psychodynamic approach to counselling has its roots in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical theories in which Freud’s analysis of clients link these premises: One-Emotional difficulties lie in a person’s childhood events. Two-We are not consciously aware of childhood experiences due to repressed memories that we cannot recognise as they live in the ‘unconscious’ part of our brain (Freud categorized the unconscious as a ‘part’ of the brain). Three-unconscious matter presents itself surreptitiously during therapy, in our fantasies and dreams and as an emotional response of...
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