How Counseling Works

The concept of counseling in British English it is spelled counselling has actually been around for ages, and it reflects the need for one person to seek help or advice from another person. Counseling as a profession, therefore, places emphasis on social settings and does not derive from the clinic. It focuses on helping persons resolve their problems or role issues related to work, school, or in the family. In this setting, the counselor is a “problem solver,” who through direct advice or nondirective guidance, helps his/her “client” (the person seeking help) make rational decisions. Counseling psychology is a subdiscipline of psychology that facilitates personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span with a focus on emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns. Traditionally, counseling psychology has focused more on normal developmental issues and everyday stress rather than psychopathology, but this distinction has softened over time.

Psychology as a profession was practiced for a long time before the science of psychology was developed. Even before the term “psychologist” was used, people were seeking as well as providing help for psychological issues. Commonly, practitioners counseled people about their anxieties, marriages, careers, raising children, as well as advised people how to run their companies, how to boost the morale of their workers, etc. In addition, spiritual gurus sought to make people aware about the meaning of life, goals of an actualized person, and showed the path and practice to achieve spiritual goals.

The changes that are happening around us are so rapid that past ”truths” often mislead us instead of providing help. No longer is it easy to apply past truths to the problems of the present and the future. Today’s world ”calls for new approaches to experience, both in acquiring it and in using what we already have” (Stevens, 1963, p. 56). Modern society is characterized by rapid change and technological advancement. Perhaps never in the history of humankind have so many changes occurred simultaneously and with such acceleration over so broad a spectrum of diverse areas that impact human life. Changes witnessed during the recent past took place at a greater speed compared to those of previous decades (Raina, 1989, p.43).

Mitchell (1993) explains the major global changes that have continued into the 21st century. He describes the “accelerating rate of change on a global scale,” pointing to the rate of change of human invention, the speed of generation of new knowledge, human population growth, and the evolution and speed of human transportation. He argues that the explosion of information is taking place at an unimaginable speed that most of the things that the young children are currently learning will be obsolete by the time they grow up. We have never been in this situation before.

While a very strong case is being made in the scientific community about the past being obsolete, an equally strong, perhaps even stronger argument is being placed about the importance of not breaking the string, which links us to our past. This string provides us with the sanity associated with continuity and peace related to history.

What is counseling?

Life is fraught with stress, anxiety, and challenges. When one feels uncomfortable or overwhelmed with these challenges, he/she can talk to a professional in a completely confidential setting. This process is called counseling. The results of counseling are more favorable when clients understand what to expect from the process. This book provides information to assist students of counseling and in helping their clients understand the broad field of counseling and the intricate process of counseling.

Living is a process of continuously adjusting ourselves to the environment as well as making necessary and possible modifications in our lifestyle so as to suit our needs and requirements. These processes consume our physical and mental energies to a significant extent. As the civilization becomes more and more complex, the process of living becomes more knotty. Though scientific and technological advances make our lives more comfortable, they also make it more complicated. Conflicts have multiplied and as a result, decision-making needs have risen exponentially.

Many of our problems stem from what we want and what we think we should want-a tug of war between the priorities of the head and the heart. The task then would be to get our priorities right and synchronized-to want what is right. Maintaining this consistently throughout our lives is most difficult. Thus all of our problems originate in our mind. Yet, this is the glory of the human mind: its unique capacity to inquire into the nature and meaning of things, to reason out, to analyze, to appreciate subtleties, to imagine, to conceptualize, to come to conclusions, and to make choices.

Ironically we yearn for the simple living of the yesteryears, while holding on to the comforts of the present world. All around, we see people struggling to make progress. Paradoxically, we tend to glorify the uncomplicated existence of our forefathers. Innumerable debates center on this issue. In such a conflicting situation, the need for counseling is now felt like never before.

Counseling describes how a person functions effectively or ineffectively in one or more of the following dimensions of life: need satisfaction, stress and the coping processes, developmental task attainment, social contact and interpersonal relationship skills, and other personal or characteristic at­tributes. It then discusses the major problems that can impede the effective func­tioning of individuals. Counseling also illustrates at length that individuals who are functioning effectively usually (1) satisfy their needs in appropriate ways, (2) deal with pressure efficiently, (3) handle their emotions as well as emotional reactions effectively, (4) learn tasks that are appropriate to their developmental stage, (5) have meaningful social interactions and interpersonal relationships, and (6) display other positive attributes.

Some general characteristics of counseling are as follows:

It is concerned with “normal” problems rather than mental health problems.

It is concerned with role function of an individual in different settings in which choices are to be made and actions are to be taken.

It is more concerned with present events than with those of the past.

It is more concerned with conscious, rational thinking than with unconscious functioning.

Counselors also assist their clients in areas of academic achievement, emotional/psychological and physical health, career involvement, and responsible decision making. The process of counseling empowers the clients to meet these needs. The clients must understand that seeking counseling is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, an individual needs courage to explore sensitive feelings and painful experiences. Those who take the first step in resolving problems by seeking counseling display their insight and inner strength. Counseling is more productive if the clients are very clear about the process of counseling. It should be understood that counseling is not a quick fix, and the counselor will not tell you what you should do. Rather, he/she will let the client have the opportunity to explore feelings, values, thoughts, concerns, and develop goals and steps leading to those goals. The client then makes choices and decisions. The counselor just helps free the intellectual functioning of the individual, which is hidden behind his/her emotional distress. Counseling is an opportunity for an individual to talk over with a trained and objective person from whom a new perspective on the situation can be gained. It also helps the individual learn new skills to help resolve current concern and become more capable of solving new problems on their own in the future.

In short, counseling promotes growth and helps to

express feelings in a safe, supportive and nonjudgmental atmosphere,

identify and sort out problems,

identify longstanding patterns of behavior that keep one from solving problems and developing new ways to look at them,

improve coping skills,

identify and achieve goals, and

help recognize internal worth and examine the way one sees oneself.


The word “counseling” derives from the Middle English counseil, Old French conseil, meaning to take counsel, consult. Counseling can be defined as a relatively short-term, interpersonal, theory-based process of helping persons who are fundamentally psychologically healthy to help resolve their developmental and situational issues.

There are probably as many definitions of counseling as there are practitioners to describe it. The term was originally used by Frank Parsons in 1908. It was adopted by Carl Rogers in response to widespread prejudice in the United States against lay therapists and also because he was not then permitted by the psychiatry professionals to call himself a psychotherapist.

Counseling is an interactive process of bringing together the counselee who needs assistance and the counselor who is trained and educated to provide assistance to the couselee (Perez, 1965). The counselor can initiate, facilitate, and maintain the interactive process if he or she communicates feelings of spontaneity and warmth, tolerance, respect, and sincerity.

Smith (1955) defines counseling as “a process in which the counselor assists the counselee to make interpretations of facts relating to a choice, plan or adjustments which he needs to make.”

Blocher (1966) explains it as “helping an individual become aware of himself and the ways in which he is reacting to the influence of his environment. It further helps him to establish some personal meaning for his behavior; and to develop and clarify a set of goals and value for future behavior.”

Rogers (1952) describes counseling as the process by which “the structure of the self is relaxed in the safety of the client’s relationship with the therapist, and previously denied experiences are perceived and then integrated into an altered self.”

There are many more definitions and their explanations are almost the same. Counseling helps people to examine and deal effectively with life issues. Some situations faced by people require the need to seek assistance from a mental health professional. It is an excellent way to examine and solve problems and a healthy way to deal with the often stressful and discouraging issues that accompany a chronic illness. Seeking counseling is also a responsible way to take care of oneself, especially if the issues are beyond the normal problems encountered in daily life.

A self-conscious and self-aware person is appreciative of something that is lacking in himself/herself. His mind, being an instrument of reason, searches for means to overcome this deficiency and the person has a constant tendency to desire and, according to his knowledge and values, tries to achieve it. Being acutely aware of his/her anxieties and lack of peace within, he/she tries to overcome it through the resources available to him/her. This awareness has three dimensions:

Awareness of the intensity of the problem depending on how unpleasant it makes one feel.

Awareness of the consequences of the problem: how bad they are.

Awareness of the depth of the urge to come out of the problem.

When one recognizes his helplessness, uncertainty, and incapacity to accomplish what he/she wants; that there is uncertainty with reference to the fulfillment of wishes and desires; that there are limitations of strength in terms of will and the capacity to make the necessary effort; that there are also limitations in terms knowledge and resources; that there is an absence of freedom mentally, there is the acknowledgment of one’s helplessness.

This helplessness takes on the following thought patterns:

“I can’t do it alone!”

“I feel trapped and there’s nowhere to turn!”

“There is no solution in sight”!

“I’ve tried to change, but things aren’t getting better”

“My feelings are affecting your sleep, eating, job and relationships!”

“I am always worried and I don’t like myself!”

“Even small issues daunt me!”

In these circumstances when one is overwhelmed by helplessness, he/she seeks the help of a counselor.

A counselor or therapist is someone who can remain objective about the clients’ situation. This means that outside of counseling, he or she is not part of their daily life and can therefore view things from a different, often clearer, perspective than a family member or close friend who is very emotionally involved with them. Additionally, one can talk to the counselor openly without feeling judged.

Counseling psychology as a psychological specialty facilitates personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span with a focus on emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns. Through the integration of theory, research, and practice, and with sensitivity to multicultural issues, this study discipline encompasses a broad range of practices that help people improve their well-being, alleviate distress and maladjustment, resolve crises, and increase their ability to live more highly functioning lives.

Though closely related to clinical psychology, counseling psychology differs in several subtle ways. First, counseling psychologists typically focus on less severe psychopathology (e.g., depression and anxiety), while clinical psychologists deal with more seriously disturbed individuals (e.g., those with schizophrenia or personality disorders). In the United Kingdom, however, there is less distinction between the types of illnesses that clinical and counseling psychologists work with. The difference is emphasized more in how they work with an individual. Second, counseling psychologists are more likely than clinical psychologists to assume a client-centered or humanistic theoretical approach. Finally, counseling psychology is unique in its attention both to normal developmental issues as well as the problems associated with physical, emotional, and mental disorders. Despite these differences, counseling and clinical psychology are becoming increasingly indistinguishable, leading some to suggest that these fields be combined.

It is helpful to understand the titles and functions of the different professionals. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating persons with mental disorders or those experiencing difficulties in their lives. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications; however, it is important to remember that one can seek help from a psychiatrist without having a mental disorder or needing medication. There are many psychiatrists who are excellent therapists in addition to their knowledge of medication. A psychologist is a professional trained to provide counseling and therapy. Many psychologists are qualified to administer psychological testing. There is often confusion about psychiatrists and psychologists. Unlike a psychiatrist, a psychologist is not a medical doctor and cannot write prescriptions for medication. A social worker is a professional who is trained to provide counseling and therapy. Additionally, social workers often provide community resource and advocacy services.

Counseling is distinguished from other mental health disciplines by both history and emphasis. Other helping professions such as psychiatry and clinical psychology concentrate primarily on the treatment of severe emotional disorders. Social work deals basically with the social and legal aspects of assisting others in need. In contrast, counseling focuses on development and the prevention of serious mental health problems through education and short-term treatment. It emphasizes on growth as well as remediation. Counselors work with persons, groups, families, and systems that are experiencing situational and long-term problems. The focus of counseling on development, prevention, and treatment make it attractive to those seeking healthy life-stage transitions and productive lives (Cole & Sarnoff, 1980; Romano, 1992).

What are the kinds of problems that lead people to seek counseling?

Anxiety and depression

Family and relationship issues

Substance abuse and other addictions

Sexual abuse, rape, and domestic violence

Eating disorders

Career changes and job stress

Social and emotional issues related to illness and disability

Adaptation to life changes

Grief and bereavement

Problems with shame

Problems dealing with anger

Self-injurious behavior

What do counseling psychologists do?

Counseling psychologists perform a variety of functions that it is hard to give a synopsis of their role. Generally speaking, a counseling psychologist can consult with a variety of agencies (e.g., schools, government, private organizations), teach at the college level (undergraduate and graduate levels), do research, administer therapy (e.g., group, individual, family), hold academic administrative positions (e.g., dean of a college), among others.

Counseling psychologists study and work in a variety of settings. Some areas that counseling psychologists work in and study are as follows:

Vocational psychology

Child development

Adolescent development

Adult development/aging

Health psychology (e.g., including long-term care, AIDS, cancer, etc.)

Mental illness (e.g., anxiety disorders)

Forensic psychology

Sport psychology


Aggression/anger control

Anxiety disorders

Interpersonal relationships



Community psychology

Counseling process/outcome

Group processes

Crisis intervention

Developmental disabilities

Eating disorders

Substance abuse

Suicidal and homicidal tendencies



Emergence of counseling as a profession
The quest for the objective truth has always weighed the intelligent man down. The many religions and philosophical orientations hold testimony for this quest. Psychology, which emerged from both religion and philosophy, has been evolving along a similar path. It is only recently that psychologists have shelved the idea of “new theory” and concentrated on “new techniques” using the knowledge uncovered by others before them. This practice has led techniques to become gimmicks! Psychologists claim to have developed techniques through experiencing, observing, and reasoning. Though it is commendable that many “objective truths” have been uncovered, the credibility of the field suffers from various differences of opinions, foolhardy steadfastness, and unhealthy critiques.

Professional psychotherapy had its beginning with the work of Dr. Sigmund Freud at the turn of the twentieth century. Psychoanalysis made fascinating inroads into the science of human behavior. A number of eager disciples were attracted to it, but Freud was unable to hold them. Noting discrepancies and exaggerations in the system, they branched off and proceeded to launch their own schools of psychotherapy. After the founding of Freudian psychoanalysis, and the various subsequent neo-Freudian spin-offs, the field witnessed a proliferation of theoretical approaches to psychotherapy.

The branching off of various ideological adherents in so dogmatic a manner exhibited a total failure to acknowledge that human being is a total entity. Each new system of therapy faulted, to some degree, all of its predecessors and claimed a status superior to them on one ground or another. Like the story of the nine blind men sizing up the elephant, each segment claimed superiority over the others to the extent that some of them even refused to acknowledge the contribution of others. Thus after chancing upon one “truth,” they disqualified themselves from the arena of integrity in their profession, objectivity in their mission, and humility in their attitude, which determine success in their quest.

In this rat race for attention and superiority, psychologists have denied the “whole” character of man, and focused instead on what they considered to be predominant features in his making and breaking. They made pieces out of his personality, spread them out, and concentrated deeply on each of the personality traits so much that they have lost the total picture altogether. They claimed that “the theory was bigger than any one individual, and exceptions proved the rule!”.Empathy lost out to statistics; respect lost out to labels; compassion lost out to arrogance; and integrity lost out to zeal.

Thus by and large, the divisions in psychology have failed humankind. It is very healthy to have a different point of view, to do an in depth analysis on it, and to bring out its merits. But holding on steadfastly to them, without also pointing out to where that point is less than complete, without recognizing the pluses of the efforts of others, is sad and, more importantly, not objective. Objectivity only lends any stream of study its credibility. Only then it can boast of a wholesome view as well as giving credit to other possibilities. Recognizing the strength of the self is alright, but this should not distance one from recognizing the contribution of others.

Every theoretical orientation has merits and demerits; adhering steadfastly to one particular theory is not the preserve of an intelligent and wise psychologist. It is unprofitable to say the least, and at the most, that it is dangerous. No theory has proven to be the best in terms of its application in therapy. The various schools of psychotherapy have basic commonalities, which transcend the disparate teaching and treatment approaches. The only way to rise above professional dogmatism and bigotry is to realize this fact and steadfastly apply the principles of humanity in the helping profession.

Counseling has not always been such an encompassing and respected profession. It has evolved over the years. Nevertheless, many people, unaware of its evolution, associate all counseling with schools or equate the word guidance with counseling. As a consequence, old ideas are mistaken for innovations. C.H. Patterson, a pioneer in counseling, once observed that some writers in counseling journals seem “ignorant of the history of the counseling profession…[and thus] go over the same ground covered in the publications of the 1950s and 1960s” (Goodyear & Watkins, 1983, p. 594). A similar criticism could be made of the general public. Therefore, it is important to examine the history of counseling because a counselor who is informed about the evolution of the profession is more likely to make real contributions to the field.

The emergence of counseling as a profession occurred in two stages over the course of the 20th century, with roughly the first 50 years being a role development stage and the last 50 years a profession development stage. History traces the roots of the profession to educational and vocational guidance, mental health movement, and the emergence of psychotherapy. Counseling has originated from many sources. It can be seen to have evolved from psychotherapy; it can be seen as being born out of the mental health movement; and it can owe its roots to the vocational guidance movement.

Evolution from the guidance movement
In the United States, counseling emerged from the school counseling profession, which began as a vocational guidance movement at the beginning of the 20th century. The conception of the educational guidance movement is usually attributed to Jesse B. Davis (Father of School Counseling), a principal in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, school system, who instituted weekly guidance lessons in English classes with the goal of building character and preventing problems. He is considered the first to provide a systematic school guidance program. In 1907, he encouraged the school English teachers to use compositions and lessons to relate career interests, develop character, and avoid behavioral problems. In 1908, Frank Parsons (Father of l Guidance) established the Bureau of Vocational Guidance in Boston to assist young people in making the transition from school to work. Parson’s framework for vocational guidance could be explained as follows:

Clear understanding of self, aptitudes, abilities, interests, resources, limitations, etc.

Knowledge of requirements and conditions for success: pros and cons; compensations, opportunities, prospects in a given line of work

Apply “true reasoning” to realistically assess likelihood of successful match.

From the 1920s to the 1930s, school counseling and guidance grew because of the rise of progressive education in schools. This movement emphasized personal, social, moral development. Many schools reacted to this movement saying the movement is antieducational and that schools should only teach the fundamentals of education. This, combined with the economic hardship of the Great Depression, led to a decline in school counseling and guidance. In the 1940s, the United States used psychologists and counselors to select, recruit, and train military personnel. This propelled the counseling movement in schools by providing ways to test students and meet their needs. Schools accepted these military tests openly. Also, Carl Rogers’ emphasis on the helping relationships during this time influenced the profession of school counseling. In the 1950s, the government established the Guidance and Personnel Services Section in the Division of State and Local School Systems. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I. The American government was nervous that the Russians were claiming superiority over the United States in the space race, which had military implications. The American government, which became concerned that there were not enough scientists and mathematicians, established the National Education Act, which spurred a huge growth in vocational guidance through large amounts of funding. Since the 1960s, the profession of school counseling has continued to grow as new legislation and new professional developments were established to refine and further the profession and improve education (Schmidt, 2003).

Evolution from the mental health movement
The mental health movement started by Clifford W. Beers had a favorable effect on guidance and counseling. Beers has often been called the founder of the modern mental health movement. As a man who had a mental disorder himself and received deplorable treatment, Beers devoted his life to becoming an advocate of adults and children with mental illness in the United States and throughout the world. By narrating his experience and subsequently creating the National Mental Health Association, he revolutionized attitudes about and care for people with mental disorders.

He founded the National Mental Health Association in 1909 to improve mental health care and fight discrimination against people with mental illness. To instigate this reform, Beers courageously shared his own experience with mental illness in his autobiography, A Mind That Found Itself. This renowned book opened the nation’s eyes to the mistreatment of people with mental illness and led to the creation of the modern mental health movement.

A pen rather than a lance has been my weapon of offence and defence; with its point I should prick the civic conscience and bring into a neglected field men and women who should act as champions for those afflicted thousands least able to fight for themselves.

Clifford W. Beers

The famed philosopher Dr. William James, who had been moved by early drafts of the book, wrote the preface. Published in 1908, the book awoke the public to the struggle of people with mental illness and the shameful state of mental health care in America. It had an immediate impact. and helped spread Beers’ vision of a massive mental health reform movement. It was later translated into several foreign languages and was well received across the globe.

In same year of his autobiography release, Beers set about creating organizations that would realize his vision for reform. On May 6, 1908, Beers and 13 others met in New Haven, Connecticut, to launch the Connecticut Society for Mental Hygiene, the first of several state societies that would work to improve mental health care and reduce stigma.

A year later, recognizing the need for a national approach, Beers sought to create an organization through which “the best ideas in the world may be crystallized and passed along.” In 1909, Beers and others created the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, the precursor to today’s National Mental Health Association. The committee’s goals were the preservation of mental health, prevention of psychiatric disorders, and improvement of care, among others. The organization set forth the following goals:

To improve attitudes toward mental illness and the mentally ill

To improve services for the mentally ill

To work for the prevention of mental illness and promote mental health.

The National Committee began fulfilling its mission of change immediately, initiating successful reforms in several states. In 1920, the Committee produced a set of model commitment laws, which were subsequently incorporated into the statutes of several states. The Committee also conducted influential studies on mental health, mental illness, and treatment, prompting real changes in the mental health care system.

The year 1921 marked the beginning of the “child guidance” movement. Its goal was to prevent juvenile delinquency through involvement of the Child Guidance Clinics in the lives of the youth. These clinics, rooted in society, cooperated with juvenile judges, schools, and the like. This can be considered as medicalization or a “medical view of crime,” namely that people exhibiting asocial or antisocial behavior should be considered as psychiatric patients. This implies that they are not evil, but ill, and should be treated accordingly without punishment.

With these successes, Beers sought to expand the movement worldwide. In 1930, he organized the First International Congress for Mental Hygiene. The Congress convened more than 3,000 individuals from 41 countries for constructive dialogue about fulfilling the mission of the mental health movement. This gathering prompted Beers to establish the International Committee for Mental Hygiene the following year, which is now known as the World Federation for Mental Health. Thus Beers changed mental health care forever to the benefit of past, current, and future generations of people in the United States and throughout the world.

In 1946 William C. Menninger founded the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry. This group promoted the idea that psychiatry should not be concerned only with patients and their treatment, but first and foremost with normal people and social action. Thus mental health gradually began to form a problem for the entire nation and society.

In 1947, the WHO defined health as follows: “A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.”

The mental hygiene movement, which after 1947 became the mental health movement, has always promoted the idea that mental health is a government responsibility.

Directly out of the mental health movement grew community psychiatry. The Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs), intended as centers for psychiatric assistance, consultation, and prevention, were supposed to provide services to as many people as possible from all walks of life. They were not only, and as it turned out later, primarily meant for treating patients but carried the larger objective of changing society on the whole and solving various social problems.

The work of a number of clinics led to the recognition of the importance of emotional needs in the process of growth as well as of learning and adjustment. The advent of psychoanalysis had a tremendous impact on psychotherapy. About this time, sociologists were studying different societies and cultures, and had begun to realize the need for understanding the social milieu in explaining human behavior. Thus from the middle of the 19th century to the present, counseling has evolved through various viewpoints and theories and their respective therapies. At present, we are at a point where the ancient and the recent methodologies are being combined to give a holistic approach to counseling.

Evolution from psychotherapy
Modern psychotherapy traces its history back to the work of Sigmund Freud in Vienna in the 1880s. Trained as a neurologist, Freud entered private practice in 1886 and by 1896 had developed a method of working with hysterical patients, which he called “psychoanalysis.: Others such as Adler, Snador Ferenczi, Karl Abraham, and Otto Rank were also analyzed by Freud and had brief apprentice-type training from him before becoming psychoanalysts in their own right. In the early 1900s, Ernest Jones and A.A. Bril, from the United Kingdom and United States, respectively, visited Freud in Vienna and returned to their own countries to promote his method. Freud himself began his own lecture tour of North America in 1909. Gradually many others began to develop their own theories and approaches, which differed markedly from Freud. Jung, who was actually groomed as Freud’s intellectual successor, eventually split from him and pursued his own school of analytical psychology drawing heavily on both Freud and Adler’s ideas.

A separate strand of psychological therapy developed under the influence of psychology and learning theory and leading thinkers such as B.F. skinner. Rejecting the notion of hidden aspects of the psyche, which cannot be examined empirically (such as the unconscious of Freud), practioners in the behavioral tradition began to focus on what could actually be observed in the outside world.

Finally, under the influence of Adler and Rank, a “third way” was pioneered by Carl Rogers. The extension of counseling beyond the arenas of vocation and psychotherapy into other aspects of human development was given a major boost with the publication of Counseling and Psychotherapy by Rogers in 1942. For the first time, the conditions for both remediating personal problems and facilitating personal development were combined under one rubric. Rogers formally recognized that problems of adjustment in one aspect of living had a profound effect on other aspects a well. He also set forth some core conditions for remediation and promoting development, thereby challenging the long years and rigid standards of training required by psychoanalytic theory to become an agent for therapeutic change. Originally called client-centered, and later person-centered, Roger’s approach focused on the experience of the person, neither adopting elaborate and empirically untestable theoretical constructs nor neglecting the internal world of the client as the early behaviorists did. This theory and philosophy was very widely accepted and led to a major shift from guidance to counseling as the primary function of counselors.

Other approaches also developed under what came to be known as the humanistic branch of psychotherapy, including Gestalt therapy and the psychodrama of J.L. Moreno.

Spotlight on need for indigenous models of counseling
Multicultural counseling

Multicultural counseling started gaining increasing importance in the past few decades in the United States. As psychologists started realizing that the population of the United States was becoming more and more diverse and all of the major theoretical approaches to counseling were developed by Europeans (Freud, Jung, Adler, and Pearls) or Americans of European descent (Rogers, Skinner, Ellis, etc.). The counseling profession seemed to be basically a product of the European American culture (Das, 1995). Thus understanding the complex social and cultural background of each client began to be regarded as vital to successful counseling.

Because of the dramatic increases of culturally diverse individuals in various parts of the world, indigenous perspectives of healing must be understood in the context of interdependent cultural practices.

In order to become competent in multicultural counseling, one must have a clear idea of what is culture, how it is affecting the client’s thoughts and behavior, and what is typical of his or her cultural group. The client’s behavior can then be evaluated as it compares to how others in his or her group would typically behave. An abnormal behavior in one culture may be adaptive in another. Culture includes language, customs, values, beliefs, spirituality, religion, roles of men and women in society, and sociopolitical history. It is important to counseling in many ways.

Since 1995, multicultural and diversity training has spread widely throughout industry and every level of the education system in the United States (Kiselica & Ramsey, 2001). In the mental health profession, a growing awareness that all counseling is, to some extent, multicultural contributed to the emergence and refinement of numerous models of cultural identity development, frameworks for multicultural counseling and training, and instruments to assess multicultural constructs (Kiselica & Ramsey, 2001). Although the counseling literature typically has a strong scholarly foundation and provides useful practical information for clinicians, it has failed historically to capture the profound human experiences that occur in counseling, particularly those associated with crossing cultural boundaries (Kiselica, 1999c). Derald Wing Sue (1992) noted that fully comprehending complex concepts such as racism requires an affective, as well as an intellectual, understanding on the part of counselors.

Competency in multicultural counseling refers to counselors’ attitudes/ beliefs, knowledge, and skills in working with individuals from various cultural groups (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992). One aspect of demonstrated multicultural counseling competence is the ability to identify and integrate cultural factors into conceptualizations of the etiology and treatment of clients’ presenting concerns (i.e., multicultural case conceptualization ability). Conceptualizing clients from a multicultural perspective indicates that counselor trainees are aware of and can integrate information about various cultural factors into clients’ presenting issues and, subsequently, identify an appropriate treatment plan for working with clients based on this information (Constantine & Ladany, 2000). Multicultural case conceptualization ability is comprised of two distinct, but interrelated, dimensions. The first factor or conceptualization is based on recognition of factors that may be contributing to the etiology of students’ problems by counselor trainees. The second conceptualization is based on their thoughts about what might be an effective treatment focus or plan for addressing clients’ difficulties. These conceptualizations may become increasingly complex as counselor trainees make associations between and among hypothesized etiologies of presenting concerns and, accordingly, integrate these data into treatment plans (Constantine & Gushue, in press). Counselor trainees’ ability to perceive and conceptualize cultural information in a complex and sophisticated manner would have important implications for their ability to work effectively with culturally diverse students. Hence, receiving multicultural supervision presumably would affect these trainees’ multicultural case conceptualization ability.

Three major dimensions in multicultural counseling are the counselor’s own culture, attitudes, and theoretical perspective; the client’s culture; and the multiplicity of variables comprising an individual’s identity (Pedersen, 1986).

The counselor’s culture (Bolton-Brownlee & Ann, 1987)
A major assumption for culturally effective counseling and psychotherapy is that we can acknowledge our own basic tendencies, the ways we comprehend other cultures, and the limits our culture places on our comprehension. It is essential to understand our own cultural heritage and world view before we set about understanding and assisting other people (Ibrahim, 1985; Lauver, 1986). This understanding includes an awareness of one’s own philosophies of life and capabilities, recognition of different structures of reasoning, and an understanding of their effects on one’s communication and helping style (Ibrahim, 1985). Lack of such understanding may hinder effective intervention (McKenzie, 1986).

Adherence to a specific counseling theory or method may also limit the success of counseling. Many cultural groups do not share the values implied by the methods and thus do not share the counselor’s expectations for the conduct or outcome of the counseling session. To counter these differences, effective counselors must investigate their clients’ cultural background and be open to flexible definitions of “appropriate” or “correct” behavior (LaFromboise, 1985).

Another counseling barrier is language. Language differences may be perhaps the most important stumbling block to effective multicultural counseling and assessment (Romero, 1985). Language barriers impede the counseling process when clients cannot express the complexity of their thoughts and feelings or resist discussing affectively charged issues. Counselors too may become frustrated by their lack of bilingual ability. At the worst, language barriers may lead to misdiagnosis and inappropriate placement (Romero, 1985).

The client’s culture (Bolton-Brownlee & Ann, 1987)
As counselors incorporate a greater awareness of their clients’ culture into their theory and practice, they must realize that, historically, cultural differences have been viewed as deficits (Romero, 1985). Multicultural counseling, however, seeks to rectify this imbalance by acknowledging cultural diversity, appreciating the value of the culture, and using it to aid the client. Although the variety of cultures is vast, the following examples

Individual differences (Bolton-Brownlee & Ann, 1987)
There is always the danger of stereotyping clients and of confusing other influences, especially race and socioeconomic status, with cultural influences. The most obvious danger in counseling is to oversimplify the client’s social system by emphasizing the most obvious aspects of their background (Pedersen, 1986). While universal categories are necessary to understand human experience, losing sight of specific individual factors would lead to ethical violations (Ibrahim, 1985). Individual clients are influenced by race, ethnicity, national origin, life stage, educational level, social class, and sex roles (Ibrahim, 1985). Counselors must view the identity and development of culturally diverse people in terms of multiple, interactive factors, rather than a strictly cultural framework (Romero, 1985). A pluralistic counselor considers all facets of the client’s personal history, family history, and social and cultural orientation (Arcinega & Newlou, 1981).

One of the most important differences for multicultural counseling is the difference between race and culture. Differences exist among racial groups as well as within each group.

Although it is impossible to change backgrounds, pluralistic counselors can avoid the problems of stereotyping and false expectations by examining their own values and norms, researching their clients’ backgrounds, and finding counseling methods to suit the clients’ needs. Counselors cannot adopt their clients’ ethnicity or cultural heritage, but they can become more sensitive to these things and to their own and their clients’ biases. Clinical sensitivity toward client expectation, attributions, values, roles, beliefs, and themes of coping and vulnerability is always necessary for effective outcomes (LaFromboise, 1985). Three questions that counselors might use in assessing their approach are as follows (Jereb, 1982): (1) within what framework or context can I understand this client (assessment)? (2) Within what context do client and counselor determine what change in functioning is desirable (goal)? (3) What techniques can be used to effect the desired change (intervention)? Examination of their own assumptions, acceptance of the multiplicity of variables that constitute an individual’s identity, and development of a client-centered, balanced counseling method will aid the multicultural counselor in providing effective help.

Counseling has become more relevant in today’s context than it was even a few years ago. People are experiencing more discomfort and anxiety. The ways and ethics of family, society, community, and work are changing drastically. Today’s adjustment needs to be redefined tomorrow. Such a situation has, to say the least, spread panic among people. People are scrambling to seek all sorts of help, from the age-old wisdom of the scriptures to modern day counseling.

Counseling catalyzes personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span. It deals with the whole gamut of emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns, encompassing a broad range of practices that help people improve their wellness, assuage distress and alleviate maladjustment, resolve crises, and augment one’s ability to live effectively functioning lives. Through the integration of theory, research, and practice, and with sensitivity to multicultural issues, counseling successfully helps one to understand and solve a life problem.

The evolution of counseling can be seen from three perspectives:

As descended from psychotherapy.

As descended from the guidance movement.

As descended from the mental health movement.

The discussion of counseling cannot be complete without alerting the students to the fact that cultural and social backgrounds of both the counselor and the counselee have a profound effect on the counseling process. The counselor must be sensitive to the individual differences as well as be aware of his or her own affiliations and attitudes. Thus in the multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic world, multicultural competency is a must for any counselor.

Essays, UK. (November 2013).

Kin Leung, Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT, Counseling Burlingame. I specialize in helping couples overcome struggles related to: infidelity, intimacy, miscommunication, mistrust, parenting and life transitions. I’m happy to say that it’s POSSIBLE to regenerate the spark that brought you together in the first place. Although I have a special interest in working with Asians, many non-Asian clients benefit from my service due to my bicultural background and I believe I can offer you a unique perspective to reach your goals.