Integrative Counseling

by bhthanks

My integrative approach to counseling based on multicultural counseling theories of psychotherapy

A Personal Integrative Theory Journal written as a Final Paper for a College Course in Individual and Group Counseling

Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy

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Psychoanalysm and Psychoanalytic therapy

When studying Psychoanalysm and Psychoanalytic therapy, I found that there are some ideas which I vehemently disagree with, and there are some ideas which I would like to incorporate into my counseling career. Of course, it all depends on the situation. I think it is a good idea at times to try to make the unconscious conscious, and to analyze and try to interpret resistance, transference, and counter transference, helping the client explore similarities in his past and present issues and gain new understanding that can help him restructure his personality. However, to me this is not necessarily the main and only goal, but rather might be a step while also helping to solve immediate problems of the client.  It is definitely a good idea to help the client gain insight into any repressed material he might have. With some clients, it may be necessary to use free association, while other clients might need to discuss certain specific issues exclusively. People certainly have defense mechanisms at times, and it is important to understand how to identify them and work with them. I do not believe in a lot of Freud's theories about sexuality, about sexual and aggressive impulses, I especially disagree with those of his theories of sexual impulses between young children and parents, and about dreams.

Person-centered therapy and Congruence

I believe in the concepts of Person-centered therapy, that clients are the primary agents of change, that they can understand their problems and they have the ability to solve it with the supportive structure of therapy. I feel that congruence is very important. Congruence is always being true to oneself and doing what is true to one's values. There are many instances when the therapist needs to be genuine and accepting and empathetic and does not need to use any major techniques to help the client.

Behavior Therapy

On the other hand, there are many times when Behavior Therapy and Behavior Modification can truly be helpful. Problematic behaviors are identified, discussed; solutions are brought up and followed up on. Therapeutic procedures bring about change in behavior. Conditioning and Cognitive Behavior Therapy bring out concepts which are useful in many situations. Self Management is a wonderful tool where the client has a collection of coping skills to use in anxiety provoking and painful situations. Positive and Negative reinforcement can really make and break a person's personality, tendencies and habits. Relaxation training procedures can truly help a person that is suffering from all sorts of stress. Exposure therapy can help for phobias. The list goes on and on, Behavior Therapy truly has many techniques which can be very helpful for all kinds of clients and situations that arise.

            Cognitive Behavior Therapy is also very important. Besides for helping the external actions of the client, focus must be on changing the internal processes as well. Disputing Irrational Beliefs, challenging self destructive thoughts and changing one's language can truly change a person's whole attitude and lead to change in actions.

            My views have changed in various ways. I have learnt a lot over this semester. I have gained a much deeper and broader understanding of counseling in general and numerous different theories. I now have much more techniques and can integrate much more into my future career as a counselor.

Existential Therapy

I like a lot of the ideas in Existential Therapy, used to help people who are suffering, either from physical illnesses or that had traumatic life experiences.

As part of the course, I watched a video about Tuesdays with Morrie which really touched me. He was going through tremendous suffering and knew that his life was ending, yet he had a tremendous happiness and acceptance.


Counseling can be described in many ways. I like to take an integrated approach, and use different techniques depending on what the situation requires. Counseling could be a means of understanding oneself, sorting though one's emotions, thoughts and feelings, exploring one's identity, exploring one's goals, having an objective, and a listening ear of a person who wishes to help and be there for you. It is a confidential process.

Appropriate Goals of a Counselor in Counseling

Some examples of appropriate goals of a counselor in counseling is to help the client better understand themselves, better cope with their life and the people around them. It is to be a good listener, to analyze and help the client understand what they are saying, thinking and doing. It is to help the client prioritize and manage their goals and lives, so that they can be more emotionally healthy and happy and manage on their own. It is important to always keep in mind the benefits of the client.

            Inappropriate goals would be to make the client dependant on the counselor, to fix all of the client's problems, to make the client happy, to become too close emotionally, or to benefit the counselor.

Important Functions and Characteristics of a Therapist

One of the most important functions of a counselor is to be a helper, a listener, an objective analyst, and to benefit the client as much as possible within one's role.

            There certainly are essential characteristics of an effective relationship between the client and the therapist. This relationship is an important factor for change. It is important to be consistent, stable, objective. It is important not to burden the client with the therapist's problems. It is important to work through one's feelings toward the client separately or with the client, depending on the nature of the counter-transference, whether it is of importance to the client or to one's own unresolved issues. It is important to show consistency and try to remain neutral to the client, while helping the client at the same time.

            An outstanding therapist would help the client to sort through his/her own thoughts, feelings, and actions so that the client helps themselves to become a better, happier, emotionally healthier person with healthy relationships and goals in life. It is important to understand the client's world and help the client to accomplish what he considers best for himself in his society and framework, and not what the therapist thinks is best in his world.

Theoretical Orientation

I do not have one theoretical orientation but rather I am eclectic. I am familiar with the basics of a number of different techniques, and hope to integrate all of them, using the appropriate ones when necessary. Psychoanalytic thought is the basis to all methods of counseling, and there is a lot which I learnt and plan to use within it and there are also ideas which I do not agree with. Behavior Modification Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Behaviorism in general are very useful therapeutic techniques which I will probably make use of often. However, I am not limiting myself to those. I feel that I have learnt from each technique, and in each technique I will take some points and discard some points to make my own custom counseling methods.

Goals of psychotherapy

My view of the goals of psychotherapy is that there are many different goals depending on the client and situation. In general, it is to help the client with the issues that they are grappling with, by being a listener, coach, and suggesting methods of coping. It is always the client's decision as to how they wish to proceed, and the most important thing is to do what's best for the client. The therapist is there to foster the client's independence, growth, maturity, stability, and emotional wellness and to promote only good. My role and function as a therapist is as stated above.

Crucial aspects of the client-therapist relationship

Some crucial aspects of the client-therapist relationship are trust, understanding, confidentiality, unconditional positive regard, and empathy.

            When an agency serves clients from diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds,  some approaches that would be helpful for effectively working in this setting is unconditional positive regard, and trying to research and really understand the client's world:, to ask questions and show full acceptance and understanding for the clients culture and beliefs.

Key Ideas

There are many key ideas to remember when counseling. Confidentiality is very important. The clients' needs must be put before the therapists needs. Counseling generally has to deal with the social and cultural factors of an individual's problems. Dual and multiple relationships should be avoided. If it happens, the question to address is, whose needs are being met, the clients or the therapist. Also, the therapist must take appropriate cautions so as not to get burnt out. It is a good idea for the therapist to see another therapist, to work through any unresolved issues in their life, as well as those that may come up in therapy. It is important not to get too open or close to the client. It is important to understand who you are as a person and counselor and develop your own style and figure out and utilize the different theories that work for you in your practice.

A person grows and changes based on how one utilizes the opportunities that arise. It is important to have supervision, as well as a support system with peers to help oneself be objective and keep professional boundaries.

            The therapist's job is to assist the client in finding answers which are congruent with his own set of values. Be authentic, know who you are, and be willing to change.

            I definitely agree with the existential approach, that clients can exercise freedom to choose their future. I also hope to make use of Role playing and various other techniques.

At beginning of therapy, one must explain to the client what therapy is about, the limits of confidentiality, and get informed consent.

            Therapists should not give advice, but rather help clients discover what they want to do and choose to do, make choices and accept the consequences of his choices.

            Religion and a person's culture is very important. It is important for the counselor to try to understand the client's religion and culture, to help them in the context of their own world, and to encourage them to do what is proper in their own society, and as they (the client) themselves value.

            My attitudes and views have strengthened and changed over the whole semester, leaving me with my own unique philosophy on counseling.

Dr. Abraham J Twerski

The 12-step program is good for drug and alcohol addicts. For addicts, it is reinforcing their powerlessness, which could lead to empowerment. Some people feel very powerless, so it's not for everybody.

            I enjoy reading books by Dr. Abraham J Twerski. He is very logical and deep. I like his methods and agree with many of his theories of understanding and dealing with human nature. It is important for every person to believe in a Higher Power, either through religion, or if not, then other powers such as the electricity in a light bulb. It is important for people to have goals that are beyond physical animalistic natures. Every person experiences spirituality differently, and needs to have a purpose and belief. Every person can make free moral choice for an ultimate purpose which overcomes their present physical comfort and other animalistic/biological tendencies. It is important to analyze one's tendencies and attempt to grow and develop character, to learn from one's experiences as well as others experiences. It is important to question and analyze one's purpose and existence, to respect others, to be spiritual in all one does,  be truthful, control one's emotions, be just, do acts of loving kindness, these are all acts of spirituality and only man can do this. One does not need to understand G-d in order to believe in a Higher Power. When bad things seem to happen, we cannot understand it, and after it is over we turn to G-d for support and protection like a child clings to his mother even after getting an immunization which hurts him and he doesn't understand.

Cultural variables in the Counseling process

I hold numerous values based on my religion as well as a result of my own life experiences. These will surely influence my work as a counselor, hopefully in a good way. We are taught to help others and that is what I hope to do.

            Cultural variables certainly influence the counseling process. The values of my culture will certainly help influence my work as a counselor.

In my religion, we do not believe in "converting" people from other religions, and therefore I am comfortable with us each having our own separate identity and would like to encourage my client to pursue his/her own beliefs or culture as they wish.          

            My religion gives me a sense of meaning and purpose in life. There are many aspects to this. My religious observance, including the way that I eat, pray, observe holidays, as well as the presence and interactions with my family, my friends, my goals, my career, my schooling, and helping others all give me a sense of meaning and purpose in life. These are all intertwined into one another to give me a sense of fulfillment in life. My life's meaning is definitely related to my need to help others. That is one of the purposes in life.

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I always wanted to work in one of the helping professions. By being a helper, various needs of mine are being met, such as my desire to help other people as much as possible, to have a positive impact on people's lives and on the world, to know that I am helping others and to monitor their progress. This gives me a personal feeling of satisfaction.

            In my life, I struggle like everyone else does. I have battles which I try to overcome. I have positive attributes, which I try to bring out, and negative characteristics, which I try to work on overcoming. I have goals and I have relationships which I try to understand. I have many experiences which bring out varying thoughts and feelings which I try to sort through and make into sense. I know that I am not perfect; I try to admit my faults and work on them. I know that this is a lifelong process, and this is part of my religion and my life. I know that I will constantly change, and I strive to constantly improve and learn from my experiences.

            I like reading books written by professionals, about the theories that interest me. I like the idea of an integrated approach, with tendencies towards what I believe in. I would try to join groups where I can constantly talk to other professionals, attend seminars etc, to learn about the latest theories and hear others opinions. I would try to learn as much as I can and decide what I wish to incorporate and what I do not wish to incorporate into my methods of counseling.

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Ethical Concerns

An ethical concern that I might have about the practice of counseling, is not to misdirect someone. I would not want to help a person do something which I felt was morally bad. I also would not want to guide a person in the wrong direction, based on what I want rather than what they want. I would try to find a peer support group where I can anonymously discuss clients that have issues which may be ethically challenging to me. I would also have a spiritual counselor to ask questions that may arise.

            I am sure that every person has limitations in his life experience that might hinder his ability to understand and relate to certain clients. This applies to me as well. Any bad experiences that I have had, certainly affect me, and need to be worked through. One way of overcoming some of these personal limitations so that I could counsel a wider range of clients more effectively, would be to read literature by and about these cultures, and to try to strike up friendships with people from those cultures.

My view of human nature is very complex. One important factor is that people have free will. My religious views strongly define me and my views of human nature and life. Although changing one's behavior is hard, if a person tries hard enough, they can do it. It is important to help people according to the path that they choose in life, to help them grow. There are many factors that account for changes in behavior. It has to be the person who chooses to change. Once the person is committed to changing, paths open up for him. A counselor can help him to sort through his thoughts and accomplish his goals. G-d will definitely help him in the path that he chooses.

Updated: 01/01/2012, bhthanks
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