July 26, 2010
Lynn Lunceford, Psy.D.
A counseling theory has certain qualities, such as clear operational definitions so that it can be tested further. To be most useful, a counseling theory should be parsimonious yet comprehensive enough to include known related empirical findings. It should stimulate new discoveries and predict events deductively within its purview and preview. A counseling theory also should serve an organizing and explaining function for observed events. One's theory should help them to simplify observations and to focus an observer's attention along specific dimensions.
A counseling theory, then, is a collection of assumptions, interpretations, and hypotheses which helps to explain what is happening in counseling and, which gives an observer a framework in which to make his or her future observations, evaluations, and predictions about client behavior. A counseling theory deals with goals and purposes ("ends" theory) as well as with counseling process and techniques ("means" to the theory); hence, philosophical concepts as well as psychological theories are involved.
A counseling therapist is faced with an additional, demanding task of incorporating relevant facts and theories of biology, sociology, and anthropology. Ideally, a counseling theory should generate research and be comprehensive enough to cover known facts about human growth, decision-making, and learning in the complexities of practice. It should also be flexible enough to incorporate new discoveries and mathematical models.
A considerable amount of thought is allowed to theorize while counseling points out that theory building in counseling involves more than observation, inference, and interpretation. This can include hypothesis formulation and prediction. Putting together data from events prior to counseling, a counselor builds a meaningful picture of the unique person before them.
Another function of theory is to...