Counseling Theory Julie Meyers Liberty University Abstract This theory focuses on the integration of Biblical principles by combining several aspects of major theories to provide the best treatment for clients. This theory also discusses the nature and need of man as well as the most important factors in determining the health and/or dysfunction of man. This theory provides a detailed process of intervention based on several major theories, while using Scripture as a basis for each method.
Overall, this theory focuses on the importance of the client’s role in therapy.
Ultimately, through the combined theories and integration of Scripture, it is up to the client to apply these methods. As a result of that application, with guidance from the therapist, and a desire for a God’s wisdom, change and health can be achieved for the client. Keywords: counseling, theory, integration, religion, spirituality, behavior, rational, emotive, cognitive, existential, Bible, Scripture, God Philosophical Assumptions and Key Concepts
In an article discussing the importance of integrating religion in counseling it was stated that, “Richards and Bergin (1997) also noted a recent growth in interest in spiritual and religious issues in the United States, as evidenced by increased coverage of these topics in leading newspapers, magazines, books, and television specials.
Likewise, in the fields of counseling and psychology, there has been a growing awareness about the importance of incorporating spirituality and religion into psychotherapy.
For example, in the code of ethics, the American Psychological Association (APA, 1992) recognized religion as a component of human diversity” (Wolf, 2001). Therefore, as the importance of this integration grows, it is increasingly necessary for a therapist, especially one claiming to be a Christian, to develop their own theory of counseling. Therefore, this theory focuses highly on rationality, the ability to control ones thoughts, and the importance of dealing with the underlying, deeper issues one faces.
Thus, it combines many ideas from Rational Emotive Behavior Theory, Behavior Theory, Cognitive Theory, and Existential Theory. This theory emphasizes the importance of perceptions and keeping perceptions rational. “Rational Emotive Behavior Theory can be summarized in one sentence by Ellis’s paraphrase of Epictetus, the stoic philosopher; ‘It’s never the events that happen that make us disturbed, but our view of them’” (Murdock, 2009). The way that one views events, and even themselves, has a great impact on how well they will interact with others.
In addition, the ability to control ones thoughts plays a large role in how situations are viewed. According to the Bible, controlling ones thoughts is also possible through Christ as seen clearly in 2 Corinthians 10:5 “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (New American Standard Bible). Also, in line with Behavior Theory, “what needs to be changed, then, is the underlying cause, not the symptom.
If you don’t treat the cause, you get more symptoms, perhaps different ones, but symptoms just the same; this process is called symptom substitution” (Murdock, 2009). Therefore, a process must occur in order for true healing to be attained. While Cognitive theory does mostly base its processes off of the theory of evolution, it makes an extremely valid point in stating that “…it recognizes that a critical aspect of human existence is the creation of meaning from experiences” (Murdock, 2009).
Therefore, it is essential that one be able to develop meaning from their experiences based on a much deeper level of knowledge about life itself. This is where Existential Theory plays a large role. In Existential Theory, “For Frankl, meaning is inherent in each individual-each individual has an ultimate, true calling-and it is the task of the individual to discover it” (Murdock, 2009). While Existential Theory does not clearly indicate that there is a God, a greater purpose is implied.
In Jeremiah 29:11 it is clear that God has calling for the individual that follows Him, “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (New American Standard Bible). Therefore, in life, man is searching for his purpose and in that search he must be able to control his thoughts so that he can rationally view events. Thus, allowing him to ultimately reach his goal of fulfilling his purpose. Model of Personality
In determining a view of who man is and how he develops, it is important to look at the past, present, and future goals to determine how to best help the individual. In Behavioral Theory, a great emphasis is placed on “…understanding reinforcement contingencies operative in an individual’s past”, which then “makes it possible to implement different contingencies in the present and, thus, to change behavior” (Murdock, 2009). This can be very important because many times certain behaviors are learned from a very early age and it will be important of the individual to understand where that behavior stems from in order to make a change.
Rational Emotive Behavior Theory “…postulates that humans are a product of both inherited influences and environmental teaching” (Murdock, 2009). This does place some of the human experience on being born a certain way and those things being harder to change. However, it does provide the balance that another portion of the experience relies on things that are learned. In relation to this, Cognitive Theory teaches that, “based on the amounts of positive and negative experiences we have, we develop corresponding views of ourselves and the world” (Murdock, 2009).
This statement sums up the previous views very well in stating that whether biologically inherited, learned from an early age, or recently experienced, the individual’s positive and negative experiences over time combine to shape that individual’s worldview. While these views do a great job of explaining where how man develops and becomes an individual, Existential Theory ultimately makes the most important statement yet. “They would contend that each individual has the choice, on a moment-to-moment basis, to determine who they are” (Murdock, 2009).
This is what the Bible is referring to in James 1:2-5 when it says “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (New American Standard Bible). Therefore, as a Christian, it is imperative that we maintain a relationship with Christ and constantly seek God’s wisdom.
It is the moment-to-moment choices that most affect who the individual is and if God is a part of those choices then we will be more like Him with every choice made. Man is ultimately made up of biological inheritance, environmental conditions, reinforced behaviors, positive and negative experiences, and moment-to-moment choices. These many factors are what make each human insurmountably unique. Model of Health In regards to a model of health, this theory once again takes signs of health from various theories and combines it with scripture to emphasize the ideas of health.
In Existential Theory a healthy person is an authentic person. Healthy means that the person is honest with themselves about themselves and they have as little anxiety in their life as possible. This is spoken about almost directly in Philippians 4:5 where the Bible says “let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (New American Standard Bible).
In Behavioral Theory the importance of being able to adapt and make adjustments is stressed. The emphasis is placed on learning behaviors that help the individual survive. The Bible speaks about this in a slightly different way by not only learning individually, but also seeking guidance in learning the best behaviors. This is seen in Proverbs 1:3-5, “to receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel” (New American Standard Bible).
Rational Emotive Behavior Theory focuses on rationality. Therefore, a healthy person is considered one who relies mostly on mostly on rational beliefs. A person who practices unconditional self-acceptance is also considered a healthy individual. However, it is important for the healthy person to take responsibility for oneself whatever that may entail. “Decision is the authentic act of existence. The subject is free and responsible. Decision is something only subjects may perform, and therefore something for which they must assume complete responsibility.
The intention here is to secure the independence of subjects from forces and contexts external to themselves in order to maintain agency for their own existence” (Johanson, 2010). This thought process is seen in Scripture as well. Philippians 4:8 says, “finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (New American Standard Bible).
By focusing on these rational things, God will be with the individual granting them peace. Cognitive Theory takes a slightly different approach which is important to bring to light. In Cognitive theory, a healthy person is able to meet goals and moderate schematic processing. Basically, the healthy individual will not much distorted thinking. The Bible actually warns against distorted thinking in 2 Peter 3:16-18, “…in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… ” (New American Standard Bible). In viewing the healthy individual, it is important that a balance of all of these theories be maintained. Model of Abnormality In this theory, dysfunction can be summarized as the opposite of a healthy person or an unhealthy individual.
However, to be clearer, the theory will be broken down based on each existing theory it draws from. In Existential Theory, dysfunction is based in anxiety. Anxiety can occur for many reasons, but one way that can happen is if the individual is focusing on an idea like death. This can cause major anxiety for something which the individual has little to no control over. Also, another cause of dysfunction is when the individual concerns themselves with self success and has no concept of a greater purpose or meaning to their life.
This can lead to a self-centered, unhealthy person. In the Bible, Philippians 2:2-4 talks about this exact idea when it says, “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (New American Standard Bible).
In Behavior Theory, anxiety is also the main point of dysfunction. However, it is arrived at in a slightly different method. In this case it is basically due to learning bad habits that focus on or cause anxiety. In short, dysfunction is “…a result of faulty conditioning” (Murdock, 2009). The Bible actually teaches against this very thing in Proverbs 22:24-25 it states, “do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself” (New American Standard Bible).
It is difficult if not impossible for someone to choose their upbringing as a child. However, it is important that once old enough to make decisions, that the individual chooses who they will spend time with and who they will choose to learn from. In Rational Emotive Behavior Theory, dysfunction is seen as “operating in a world on the basis of irrational beliefs or, more globally, on the basis of an irrational philosophical system” (Murdock, 2009).
The means by which one gets to dysfunction is based on two factors, environment and choices. “Ellis wrote, I have stubbornly insisted that human disturbance is contributed to by environmental pressure, including our childhood upbringing, but that its most important and vital source originates in our innate tendency to indulge in crooked thinking” (Murdock, 2009). Therefore, one cannot control how they were raised and what they were taught to believe. However, one can choose a different method of thinking.
Basically, “according to Armstrong, who adopted Ramsey’s view of beliefs, irrational beliefs create a wild fanciful map that does not correspond to social reality: When we try to steer by it, we encounter all kinds of life problems. Rational beliefs create a map that more closely corresponds to social reality, and more important, when one steers by that map one encounters fewer problems” (Johnson, 2006). In Cognitive Theory, dysfunction lies within a false sense of reality. Meaning the individual develops a reality for themselves that does not line up with truth or reason.
The cause of dysfunction stems from several factors. Cognitive Theory states that “…psychological distress is ultimately caused by many innate, biological, developmental and environmental factors interacting with one another, and so there is no single ‘cause’ of psychopathology” (Murdock, 2009). So, when all of these factors together can guide an individual to a false sense of reality and ultimately, dysfunction. When these theories combine they provide a great, balanced model of abnormality. Model of Psychotherapy Once again, the combining of theories makes the most effective approach to psychotherapy.
In viewing each aspect of psychotherapy, it is important to note that some of these methods are best when combined with others, while others are better used alone based on what the client is facing. Combining Behavioral Theory where behaviors are assessed, with Rational Emotive Behavior Theory where detection of irrational beliefs are made, with Cognitive Theory where detection of problems is key, and finally tying it all together with Existential Theory where helping the client attain a more authentic life is the goal results in a most healthy client.
Choosing between one of these methods leaves the client somewhat undiscovered and in need of further assistance (Jones & Butman, 1991). In combining these theories a process can develop. The first step in the process is to identify the client’s problems. Then it is important to understand the client’s behaviors that led to the problem. Only then can the client’s irrational beliefs be explored. Once those are explored the client can begin to move toward a more authentic life. Essential methods are to help the client realize they are free to make their own choices.
Then help them question their own irrational beliefs. Recognizing irrational beliefs will in return will help the client modify their own behaviors. It is also important for the client to document this process to be able to understand what is and is not effective for each individual (Jones & Butman, 1991). It is also important to combine each of these theories’ views on the client/therapist relationship. In this theory the client/therapist relationship may need to change and adjust based on what stage of the process the client is in.
Overall, the relationship should be viewed as a, “deep human encounter” and a “collaborative relationship” (Jones & Butman). That is, both client and therapist should have a respect for each other and a willingness to learn from each other. However, in some cases, especially in dealing with irrational thoughts, there may need to be more of a shift towards a teacher-student relationship so that the therapist can help the client understand a more rational way of thinking.
Also, in other stages, a position by the therapist may need to be taken as the doctor. This places the client in the role of the patient. This can be essential when there are major problems that need to be overcome and the client feelings helpless against their problems. Discussion and Conclusions In an article describing how to integrate prayer and scripture into Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, several important thoughts were emphasized that do a great job of summing up what this theory represents.
These thoughts were, to understand “the primacy of agape love…” To “deal more adequately with the past, especially unresolved developmental issues…” To “pay special attention to the meaning of spiritual, experiential, and even mystical aspects of life and faith…” To “focus on how problems in thought and behavior may often…underlie problem feelings…” To “emphasize the Holy Spirit’s ministry in bringing about inner healing as well as cognitive, behavioral, and emotional change…” To pay more attention to larger contextual factors such as familial, societal, religious, and cultural influences.. To use only those techniques that are consistent with biblical truth…”, and to “utilize rigorous outcome research methodology before making definitive statements…” (Sing-Yang, 2007). In combining all of these things, along with the major principles of Existential Theory, Behavior Theory, Cognitive Theory, and Rational Emotive Behavioral Theory a great balance can be achieved which will prove most beneficial to the client. Ultimately, it is important for the therapist to know and understand what they personally believe and also to know and understand what their client believes.
It is necessary to include all aspects of those beliefs in the therapy and to combine ideas where needed. In an article discussing how to integrate spirituality with counseling, this very essential point is clearly made. “Finally, we agree with Hinterkopf (1994) that “counselors who ignore or avoid this essential dimension of human experience can miss opportunities for supporting and fostering psychological growth” (p. 165). Becoming familiar with clients’ religious and spiritual beliefs should be considered as important, and in conjunction with, learning about their cultural norms and values” (Curtis and Davis, 1999).
When all is said and done, the theory must allow for the spiritual side of the individual because it is a valid and very prevalent part of the human. Appendix Sarah Bathe, I really enjoyed your paper. You did a great job of precisely explaining the ideas of your theory. I also liked how you gathered information from several theories to develop your own. This statement really helped sum up your theory: “According to SDT theory, man is a product of innate personality traits, the feeling of insecurity, the desire to succeed or be significant and the insatiable curiosity about a creator.
The different innate characteristics are then affected by the family environment (positive or negative, encouraging or degrading, valued or devalued) and the social environment (cultural expectations)” (Bathe, 2011). Although, my theory pulled from all different theories than you used, I do agree with your point of view. I think you make a very great point about the things that determine a healthy individual as someone who is able to cope and preform well in society. I love that building trust is one of the stages in this theory.
I believe that is a vital stage to effectiveness of a counselor’s work. I also think you do a very balanced job of tying your theory into Christianity without going to the extreme where it may not be effective. I also agree with your emphasis on the importance of questioning. That can also tie into the building relationships aspect. Overall, you had a wonderful paper and an excellent theory and you have given me a lot to think about in regards to my own theory. I look forward to seeing more work from you in the future. Melanie Butler, the title of your paper alone intrigued me!
I really enjoyed reading your paper. While environmental effects have been discussed on several different levels, your perspective was one that I had not seen before. The idea that family has such a great impact is interesting and scary at the same time. I do agree with your perspective and you have caused me to think about this much further. I love how you included not only biological family, but also the aspect of the family of God. As someone currently in the process of adoption, I would have like to have seen a mention of family other than biological as well.
I do think you are correct in stating the importance of learning from others within the family. I think that can also be extended to others outside the family as well. While I do find this theory intriguing, I do personally have a few issues with it. The main concern I have is the emphasis on others for healing with the one. While I do think it is important to do this when possible, it is not always the case. As an example, my son, that I am in the process of adopting, was left tied to a post when he was six months of age.
As a result, he has been in an orphanage with about four nannies and forty-eight other children ever since. He may never know his biological family, we can teach him about his culture, but not really his family. I firmly believe he will be able to find healing without that. I did enjoy your paper and I think it had great insights. I do think it may just be somewhat limited to the type of clients it would be most effective with. References Curtis, R. , & Davis, K. M. (1999). Spirituality and Multimodal Therapy: A Practical Approach to Incorporating Spirituality in Counseling.
Counseling & Values, 43(3), 199. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Johanson, G. J. (2010). Response to: “Existential Theory and our Search for Spirituality” by Eliason, Samide, Williams and Lepore. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 12(2), 112-117. doi:10. 1080/19349631003730100 Johnson, S. (2006). THE CONGRUENCE OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF RATIONAL EMOTIVE BEHAVIOR THERAPY WITHIN THE PHILOSOPHY OF MAINSTREAM CHRISTIANITY. Journal of Cognitive & Behavioral Psychotherapies, 6(1), 45-56. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Jones, S. L. & Butman, R.
E. (1991). Modern Psychotherapies. InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL 60515 Murdock, N. L. (2009). Theories of counseling and psychotherapy. Pearson Education Inc: Upper Saddle River, NJ. Siang-Yang, T. (2007). Use of Prayer and Scripture in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Journal of Psychology & Christianity, 26(2), 101-111. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Wolf, C. T. , & Stevens, P. (2001). Integrating Religion and Spirituality in Marriage and Family Counseling. Counseling & Values, 46(1), 66. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Cite this Counseling Theory Paper
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