Counseling Theory Comparison

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Comparison of Counseling Theories


Introduction to Counseling

February 27, 2007

The purpose of this paper is to provide further insight on several different counseling theories. The theories outlined are client-centered therapy developed by Carl Rodgers, existential therapy developed by Rollo May and Victor Frankl and the Gestalt counseling theory derived from Gestalt psychology. Each theory is still used today with many studies and attempts to study each theory further to align with the changing needs of society.

Client-Centered Therapy Approach

The client-centered therapy approach was first developed by Carl Rodgers in the 1940’s in the form of nondirective psychotherapy. The client-centered approach, often called person-centered therapy is focused on the individual receiving therapy and allows them to maintain dignity and realize their worth a human beings. This humanistic personality approach is based on Rodgers’ assumption that people are inherently good. Rodgers’ theory also emphasized the self-actualization tendency that all living things possess. Self-actualization is commonly described as the attainment of one's full potential through creativity, independence, and a having a firm grasp on reality. Associated with self-actualization are secondary needs of the human being such as the desire and need for positive regard from others in addition to the need to have positive regard for themselves. Attaining these positive attitudes towards themselves and receiving them from others leads to more favorable life behaviors. Once the client realizes that life is a process and not a just a state of being, they begin to formulate positive behaviors that lead to the enhancement of their lives. The client-centered therapy approach leaves it up to the counselor to decide which behaviors their clients should modify and how. Client-centered therapy does not limit the counselor in how they can respond in treatment of the client. It also allows the counselor to be more creative while maintaining their original theories of therapy. In this process of attitudinal conditioning the counselor focuses on the client and not their actual problems. The counselor/client relationship is an unequal one but the non-direct attitude of the counselor gives the client a sense of control of their own self-improvement. The counselor uses empathetic speech and response techniques to convey their understanding to the client which leads to the growth of the clients’ self-confidence. The client is also more apt to respond to client-centered therapy because the approach does not make them feel evaluated or feel like they are “damaged goods”. Existential Counseling Theory

The theory of existential counseling was developed by Rollo May and Victor Frankl. When Frankl was young he studied with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung before being imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps. “Frankl stated that in the camps he would, at times, pretend to himself that he was actually in the future” ( This approach to giving life a significant meaning, he says, is what kept him alive. Frankl’s disclosure is a good example of how the existential couseling theory works. The central theme of existential counseling is that a human being’s existence comes first and is more elemental than any meaning attributed to human life. In essence, man determines his reality. The view of this theory is that we are not determined by our past but by our present actions and actuality. The client must be willing to take responsibility for their own lives and counselors who practice existential counseling work to teach the client how to achieve this goal. Methods of existential counseling are akin to forming an intimate personal relationship. All counselors are not equipped to apply existential techniques due to their inability to tolerate the emotional closeness with a client. Existential therapy requires a willingness...
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