Personal Approach to Counseling

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Personal Approach to Counseling
Todd J. Schmenk, M.Ed.
Rhode Island College

Author Note
Todd J, Schmenk, M.Ed., Department of Counseling, Educational Leadership, and School Psychology Department, Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, Rhode Island College. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Todd J. Schmenk, M.Ed., Department of Counseling, Educational Leadership, and School Psychology Department, Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI 02908 E-mail:

1. Key Concepts

In dealing with individuals and in my experience and studies over the years I have come to the conclusion that a person’s development and interactions with the world is a compilation of internal adaptations to external stimulus. As the philosopher Ken Wilber put it “ A person’s network-logic is a dialectic (an investingating or discussing the truth of opinions) of whole and part. As many details as possible are checked; then a tentative big picture is assembled; it is checked against further details, and the big picture readjusted. And so on indefinitely, with ever more details constantly altering the big picture—and vice versa.” (Wilber, 2000, Loc.213-15)

Drawing upon this broad but key ideology, any approach to counseling or psychotherapy, in my opinion, would have to be sure to address these internal processes and conclusions in order to help an individual deal with and achieve balance when an imbalance has occurred. In order to do so, this would mean incorporating upon several of the key components of made by astute individuals who have helped to define the various aspects of these processes.

Of great influence to my approach would be Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory of development which considers the impact of external factors from family, specifically the parents, to cultural and societal influences and their effects on an individual’s personality (ego) development from childhood to adulthood. According to Erikson’s theory, every person must pass through a series of eight interrelated stages over the entire life cycle. (Arlene F Harder, 2011) At each transition, there is the possibility that the individual may falter and develop less than optimal approaches for dealing with external stimuli.

Going a step further in identification and specificity of those external influences and their effects on an individuals ego development are the works of Dr. Clare Grave, Dr. Chris Cowen, and Dr. Donald Beck, who have compiled their observations in their theory which they refer to as “Spiral Dynamics”. Dr. Graves in the early 1950’s refered to this new emerging approach to human understanding as a biopsycho-social system. In his words he defined the term as: “Bio” for the neurology and chemical energy of life and the organismic part of us. The “Psycho” for the variables of personality and life expereinces, our temperments and sense of self and relationships to others, the “Social” for the collective energy in group dynamics and culture as the interpersonal domain influences human behavior in collective settings ranging from small groups and families to corporations and entire societies, and the “System” for the interdependence and action/reaction of these three upon one another in a coherent whole according to principles laid out in General Systems theory and other approaches to how things work and interact.” (Cowen, Todorovic, & Lee, 2001)

Or in more simple terms:

“Briefly, what I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process, marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change.” (Graves, 1959)

Where Erikson, Graves, Beck, Cowen and a good number of other therapists saw the quantifyable development of human...
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