Counseling Theories


Counseling and psychotherapy are terms that are used interchangeably and they also have differences, they include,

Counseling as a therapy offers short term focuses upon human behavior whereas psychotherapy offers along term form of therapy which focuses on gaining insight into chronic physical and emotional problems. It focuses on patient’s therapist’s processes and away of being in the world rather than specific problems.

Counseling as a process requires less skills in the application because  it deals with people with social life problems which people experience on daily lives unlike psychotherapy which requires more skills than simple counseling because it deals with mental problems/illness which at some point requires more psychological interventions and even the use of  conventional medicines by medical practitioners.

Counseling on the other hand can be conducted by trained counselors, social workers and psychologists whereas psychotherapy can only be practiced by professionals like psychiatrists. This means that psychotherapy requires professionals with specialized skills and high level of education and experience and such fields like psychiatry.

Moreover, in counseling a, a counselor may or may not posses the necessary trainings skills to provide psychotherapy unlike in psychotherapy, where psychotherapist is qualified to provide services to clients..

Counseling practice is based on theoric that are formulated through research and testing. Application of theories also qualifies counseling to be a professions that widely practical by many practitioners all over the world.

Q3: there are various reasons why it is important to study counseling theories in the field of counseling psychology, these reasons are as follows:-

v  It is used to explain events. A theory  allows practitioners to explain events by specifying a single set of casual factors responsible for the event.


v  Theories are also used to predict. Theories are used to predict and therefore control future events by applying this casual framework to  design of machines and technology.


v  Uses for interpretation of events. Theories are also meant to interpret events with the aim of understanding them. A theoretical understanding involves a kind of theories as a set of research hypothesis. Theories can also stimulate research. Theories are based on a research for example cognitive behavioral therapy is based on research in how people think and how people and animals behave.


v  Provision of framework for therapists. Theories provide a framework to the  therapists and through them, they can also be able to predict hypothesis  during their practice of theory


The proponent of psychoanalytic approach is sign mind Fread. He was born in a Viennese family of three and five girls and his father was very authoritative. Fread’s family background is a father to consider in understanding the development of this theory.

Fread had many interests, but his career choices were restricted because of his Jewish heritage  only four year after earning his medical degree the university of Vienna  at the age of 26, he attained  a prestigious position  there as a lecturer.

Sigmund devoted most of the rest of his life formulating and extending his theory of psychoanalysis interestingly, the most creative phase of his life corresponded to a period when he had psychosomatic disorders, as well as exaggerated fears of dying and phobias during that time Fread involved himself in the difficulty task of self-analysis.

He explored    the meaning of his aim dreams and finally gained insights into the dynamics of personality development. Fread first examined his childhood memories and came to realize the intense hostility that he had felt for this father. He also recalled his childhood sexual feelings for his mother, who was very attractive, loving and protective. He then formulated history as he observed his patient works through their own problem in analysis

Fread had colleagues who diverged from his psychoanalytic doctrines and he had very little tolerance for them. He attempted to keep control over the movement by expelling those who dared to disagree. For example, Carl Rogers and Alfred idler worked closely with Fread, but each founded his own therapeutic school after repeated disagreement with him on theoretical and clinical issues.

As an originator of psychoanalysis, Fread distinguish himself as an intellectual giant who pioneered new techniques for understanding human behavior and his efforts resulted in the most comprehensive theory of personality and psychotherapy ever developed. Is views continued to influence contemporary practice and many of his basic concepts are still part of the formulation on which other theorist build and develop indeed most of the other theories of counseling and psychotherapy have been influenced by psychoanalytic  idea by Sigmund Fread.

In his theory of psychoanalytic, he identified some of the key concepts these included the following, his views of human nature which enabled him to view human nature as basically deterministic and also said that our behavior is determined by irrational forces, unconscious motivators, biological and instinctual drives, as these evolve through key psychosexual stages in the first, six years of life.

According to the psychoanalytic view on the structure of personality, the personality consists of three systems. He id which is the original system of personality; at birth a person is all id. The id is the primary source of psychic energy and the seat of the instincts, lacks organizations, and it is blind, ego is the executive that gains, controls and regulates the personality. Operates on reality principles and finally the superego that is the judicial branch of personality. It includes a person’s moral code the main concern being whether action is good or bad, right or wrong. It represents the idea, rather than the real, and strives no for pleasure but for perfection.

Fread’s greatest contributions are his concepts of the unconscious and of the levels of conscious which are the keys to understand behavior and the problem of personality. The unconscious cannot be studied directly; it is inferred from behavior. Clinical evidence for postulating the unconscious include the following, dreams, ships of he tongue and forgetting , posthypnotic  suggestion, materials clinical from free association material derived from projective techniques and symbolic content of psychotic symptoms.

Also essential to the psychoanalytic approach is the concept of anxiety which means a state of tension   that motivates us to do something. Develops out of a conflict among the id ego, and superego over control of the available psychic energy. Its function is to warm of impending danger.

Finally, key concepts according to Fread is the ideas of ego defense mechanisms  which help the individual cope with anxiety and prevent the ego from being overwhelmed. These ego defenses, rather than being pathological, are normal behavior. They can have adaptive facing value if they do not become a style of life to avoid facing reality. Example of ego-defense mechanisms are repression, denial, reaction formation, projection, displacement, rationalization, sublimation, introjections, identification, compensation.

The id, ego and the superego form part of three basic processes systems according to psychoanalytic theory by Sigmund Fread. These three systems are as follow namely:-

v  The id comprises of the unorganized part of the personality structure that contains the basic drives. (Biological component or drive). The mind of a new born child is regarded as completely “id-ridden” in the sense that it is a mass of instinctive drives impulses, and needs immediate satisfaction. The id obey “ pleasure principle”, helping man to go for pleasure and to avoid pain

v  It is the dark, park of our personality which we call chaos, acaudronfull of seething excitations. It is illogical not believing in postponement of pleasure but only striving to bring about the satisfaction of the id impulses and basic drives. The id is thus responsible for our basic such as food, water, sex and basic impulses. It is a moral and selfishly without   a sense of time, completely illogical primarily sexual, infantile in its emotional development, aid is not able to take “No” for an answer.

v  This is the part of the personality structure that acts according to the “reality principle” seeking to please the id’s drives in realistic ways that will benefit in the long term rather than bring grief. The ego comprises that organized part of the personality structure that includes defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive and executive functions. The conscious awareness resides in the ego. The ego weighs the consequences of actions allowing before an individual to behave.

v  Superego aims for projections   for projection hence it obeys the moral principle. The superego is the product of social standards that have been inculcated in us the significance   others. It is the part of guilt for instances having extra-marital affairs, killings.

v  Superego works in contradictions to the id. It is the part that helps individuals to strive to act in socially appropriate manner, whereas the id just wants instant gratification. The superego controls our sense of right and wrong.

v  The superego’s demands oppose the id’s so the ego has a hard time in reconciling the two. Fread’s theory implies that the superego is a symbolic internalization of the father figure and cultural regulations.

According to Fread psychological healing is effected through the following:-

v  Free association: this is a technique whereby a client is put in a more relaxed position and allowed to speak what comes to his /her mind. Through this method, healing is achieved at some point.

v  Dream analysis involves analysis of client dream content to establish motivation.

v  Past history:- entails in-depth analysis of   past history of clients concerned in search of client origin problem.

v  Interpretation  of transference  which refers the  emotional  responses  directed by clients towards the  counseling which could be positive  a negative feelings. It always the client of someone from his/her past.

Counseling being a profession and a process that is continuous to some extend requires a therapist to perform some roles in the provision of the counseling services to clients. Here, the roles of the therapists    are as follows namely:-

v  The role of the therapists in the counseling process is rooted in their ways of being and attitudes, not in techniques to get the clients to do something rather than their knowledge, theories or techniques personality change in the client. Basically therapist uses themselves as on instrument of change.

v  The establishment of a therapeutic climate that helps in the client grow is another role of a therapist in the counseling process. Counseling process is meant to bring   growth to and individual or group s that they can be able to attend to their own issues as soon as pressing issues arise in their daily to today life.

v  Finally, therapist’s role also involves creation of helping relationship in which clients experience the necessary freedom to explore areas of their lives that are presently denied to awareness or simply distorted. Here, clients become less defensive and more open to possibilities within themselves and in the world.


  1. Corey, Ge. (2001) Theory and Practice Of Counseling And Psychotherapy Wadsouth; Book/Cole
  2. Jones, R.N. (2001) Theory And Practice For Counseling And Therapy,
  3. London: Sage Publication
  4. Shillings, E. L. (1984) Perspective On  Counseling Theories. New Jersy: F Pretice-Hallinc

Posted on March 11, 2012, in Categorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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