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Today’s world has turned many unimaginable things into reality through technology and science. Yet, with all these advancements, there are still difficulties that come hand-in-hand with modern living. The typical person has to balance family, work, education, and friends, among other responsibilities. More often than not, these demands make one feel like they are being pulled in different directions. This feeling is what leads to stress, anxiety, and even depression. 

When people have these feelings, they seek the help of health counselors. These are individuals who assist patients in navigating the stressors of life by guiding them through their emotions to find solutions. The following are some of the different methods and theories that counselors may apply to assist patients in finding lasting solutions. 

Psychoanalytical theory

The psychoanalytical or psychodynamic theory can trace its roots back to Sigmund Freud who believed that unconscious forces drive behavior. The techniques he developed include free association, dream analysis, and emotional transference. 

His theory suggests that trauma experienced at a young age shapes an individual’s behavior later in life. Many modifications have been made to Freud’s theory since its inception. Today, the techniques of his theory involve a close partnership between the counselor and the patient where the counselor analyzes past experiences in relation to the patient’s current life. 

Cognitive theory

This psychology theory focuses on thought processes and patterns and how they affect the perception and expression of emotion. Counselors who use this theory understand that negative feelings result from negative thought processes. They propose that negative feelings will change equally when the thought processes are altered. 

Counseling based on this theory is brief and more focused on problem-solving. When patients visit a counselor, the focus is on the patient’s current situation and thinking rather than their past. Typically, counselors combine cognitive and behavioral therapies as one theory of practice. This combination is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and research has found it helpful in treating several mental illnesses such as anxiety and substance abuse disorders. 

Attribution theory is one of the prominent cognitive theories. This theory examines how cognitive processes underlie the attribution process. When certain events are encountered, one inherently engages in casual attributions to make sense of them. These attributions can significantly influence behavior and emotions; counselors who use cognitive approaches understand this and will help in dealing with these emotions. 

Behavioral theory

Behavioral theory is pegged on the idea that the environment plays a significant part in influencing a person’s behavior. The theory implies that a behavior continues as long as it is reinforced. If the environment allows a problem to persist, then the problem will continue because this environment will act as a form of reinforcement. 

Ivan Pavlov was one of the earliest behavioral theorists. He researched dogs, focusing on the effects of learned responses (reaction of a dog to the sound of a bell) through a stimulus (pairing the sound with food). 

Comparatively, behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner developed operant conditioning. He found that rewards increase the likelihood of a requested behavior (one requested by the human observer), whereas punishments are likely to decrease these occurrences. Today, a behavioral counselor will work on altering unwanted behavior and emotions through modification techniques such as negative and positive reinforcement. 

How to practice counseling theories

For practicing counselors wishing to pursue an online masters degree in mental health counseling in order to learn and train using these counseling theories, a postgraduate degree from American International College (AIC) is an excellent place to start. At AIC, students can understand the importance of bringing past issues to the surface so that treatment and healing of a patient can happen. These counseling theories are renowned for being some of the most effective healing methods in human history, especially because the theories involve changing deeply ingrained behaviors and allows patients to understand themselves.

Humanistic counseling

The humanistic theory states that every individual has the ability within themselves to live happily. Counselors who use this approach focus on helping their patients clients achieve their highest potential. Instead of looking at past occurrences or negative behaviors, a humanist will encourage personal growth and self-actualization. 

The following are some counseling therapies of the humanistic theory:

Patient-centered counseling

This modality is also referred to as personal-centered humanistic counseling. Developed in the 1940s by Carl Rogers, the idea is for people to achieve self-actualization. The premise of this counseling method is that everyone has the capacity and desire for personal development. A counselor who uses this approach will act as a facilitator who understands their patient and will have that patient take an active role during sessions which helps in discovering solutions. This approach is usually used to treat teenagers since they are still finding themselves. 

Gestalt counseling therapy

The Gestalt method is an approach that looks at present-day unresolved issues and examines how they impact the well-being of a person. These issues might include relationships or family conflicts and the counseling techniques can involve visualizing and role-playing scenarios. This approach is an excellent format for family counseling, especially in cases where those involved might not be aware of interpersonal dynamics. 

Existential counseling 

Existential counseling is a philosophical outlook as well as a treatment approach. This modality recognizes people’s freedom to make choices and the responsibility of people for these choices. It is considered a narrative form of counseling where a patient will talk about what certain life aspects mean to them and how to uncover greater meaning. 

The three therapies above are all humanistic counseling methods but they employ slightly different approaches. However, they can all be used in addressing trauma, depression, relationship issues, substance abuse disorders, and challenges coping with feelings of unworthiness and depression. 

Holistic method

As the name suggests, this theory uses an integrative approach to provide counseling. The theory incorporates nontraditional counseling techniques, such as guided imagery and hypnotherapy, and traditional talk therapies. The aim is to use tools and techniques best suited for a particular problem or patient. 

Better mental health through counseling theories

It is without a doubt that people are increasingly suffering from mental health issues. Fortunately, counselors have the proper knowledge to assist people who suffer from these issues. In the dynamic of counseling, theories are the compass that guides counselors toward informed, effective, and empathetic practice. While it is improbable for counselors to become experts in all theories, they are able to employ the core tenets of the best theories and offer patients a roadmap to personal growth and positive change.  

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