Monday, May 27, 2013

Proper Therapy for All Populations

     A reoccurring theme in counselor education is the subject of abstaining from giving treatment based on a client's past behavior.  This includes religious affiliation, race, sexual orientation, or even crime.  I'm not sure that a counselor who discriminates due to these has any right to call himself or herself a counselor.  I think that it shows the counselor's hand fully to make a distinction thusly in clients and shows a counselor who must deal with his or her own issues before engaging clients of any kind.  As counselors, we are there to model correct behavior to not only clients who we directly serve, but also the general public.  If we show discrimination, does this not put a bad face on counseling as a whole?  We should be there for anyone, not just those who society (or even we as counselors) think is worthy of our time and efforts.
     I can see two immediate holes in this argument.  Counselors should not enter into contact with anyone who we do not know how to serve.  This is obvious as "do not harm" meets "best practices".  That being said, I think, to a point, that common factors can control for clients who are "outside the norm," whether that be religion or any other demographic.  Unless the client is entering counseling specifically for religious guidance (he or she should most likely not be in therapy, then), the client should be accepted and therapy should take place.  The other hole has to do with counselor safety.  If the counselor doesn't feel safe with a specific client for whatever reason, therapy itself would be a stunted mutation of itself, and would do neither body any good.
     This entire entry comes from the thought that counselors, to a degree, are, or must have the ability to be, blank slates, only giving an opinion or interjecting their own beliefs when it is deemed 100% appropriate and beneficial to the client.  While I do not specifically enjoy the image of a true Freudian psychoanalyst sitting as a true blank screen on which a client is supposed to transfer his or her own feelings or thoughts, I think that the feeling behind the idea gives it credence.
     I'm not sure how I feel about "compartmentalizing" either . . .  This practice seems hazardous at best and almost distracting and detracting from the counselor's attention on the client.  Having to bind off a section of the psyche in order to function seems oxymoronic to me and leads me to believe that the counselor just needs some counseling himself or herself.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Domains in Life

     I am trying to figure out what the main domains for my life are.  What do I look forward to?  Where do I spend my time?  What's important to me?  I've boiled it down to four things:  Self, Others, Future, Reality.  It seems that most of my thought processes run through these areas.  I'll discuss these themes and how I got to each of them.
     I tried listing in my head the main things that I think about during the day.  I t went a little something like this:  Exercise, Relationships, Study, and Work.  I tried to make them a little more general so that they might be applied to other situations.  Exercise = Self, Relationships = Others, Study = Future, Work = Reality.
     The first domain is all about the self.  What makes us feel better?  How do we seek to improve ourselves?  For me, I think that food and exercise are chief factors in the self.  These make me feel good and help me strive for self-betterment.  Self is about the body and of the mind, but only insofar as personal understanding in improvement are concerned.
     The second is Others.  Others includes interactions, thoughts, and feelings with, about, and toward any other person.  These relationships could be romantic or plutonic.  Main questions here are:  Who do I want to talk to?  To whom do I look up?  Whose opinion or advice do I value?
     Future is a very large factor in this thought process.  My original thought was study.  I don't really mean planning for the future in this way, but rather more like, "What do I leave the future for having been here?"  I guess Future, in this sense, is more allied to people rather than events.  For me, my course of study is something that I would like to become somewhat of an expert in so that I can eventually  make a small, yet important, contribution.  How do I leave my mark?  How will people know I existed?
     The last factor is Reality.  I had to add work in some way into this mix, but I didn't originally know how.  I think that Reality could be re-named Society or some such.  While the other three factors are mostly intrinsic, Reality is very extrinsic.  I think that Reality has more to do with future planning, possibly, as well as money-making, politics, etc.
     I understand that spirituality is nowhere in this "model."  I did that on purpose to an extent because this has no place among my four.  Perhaps I could see this model almost as a foundation or definition for spirituality, but I will not include it inside.  
     Perhaps a therapist could use this to go into deeper insight into a client.  I think that all clients, to some degree or another, can express their own understandings of life so far through a pattern of thought like this. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Different Theories of Learning Therapy

     I frequently think about how a counselor education programs teaches students about theoretical orientations.  Where I am learning, they tell us that it is popular and ethical to have one that we specialize in.  We should learn the ins and outs of this practice, understanding all its subtleties.
     There are a couple other ways to understand the education of counselors that don't involve a "major" in a certain theory.  These include technical eclecticism, common factors, and theoretical integration.  Before I talk about these, I think that it's important to discuss assimilative integration.
     Assimilative integration is the theory that drives the behavior of counselors to learn the entirety of a theory and add in practices and techniques from other schools when a deficit is found in the "home theory."  An example of this is talking to a lower cognitive client when a therapist's main understanding is existential psychotherapy. While this may be a good starting point for a beginning counselor, I am hesitant to recommend it to a more experienced one because it disallows, to a certain extent, the total learning of a second (or third/fourth/fifth, etc.) theory.  Instead, it values throwing many theories together without sufficient understanding behind any but one.  This seems irresponsible to me.
     Common factors is an approach to psychotherapy that promotes finding the core beneficial elements of all/any therapies and using that as the main point in therapy.  I think it appropriate to cite Rogers' elements in successful therapy.  He mentions the therapeutic alliance, genuineness, empathy, and unconditional positive regard (among others).  These foundational points in therapy, according to Rogers, can benefit any therapist/client relationship.  From here, a counselor would, like assimilative integration, add techniques in from other theories.  Again, I don't agree with that point of view.
     Technical eclecticism pushes a more evidence-based approach to selection in therapies.  This understanding merits selection based on what has worked the most for others, researching studies on specific illnesses and their positive treatments.  This isn't the worst idea ever as it is a more problem-oriented approach (I mean this in a very different sense than strengths-based approach).
     Theoretical integration is the idea of adding different theories together in order to be able to react to any and all problems.  This is more my own understanding, but I think that it could be take a step further.
     Teaching the philosophy of theories for psychotherapy is like selecting proper camping knives.  A camper can choose any number of knives for survival.  In my opinion, an assimilative integrationist would choose a cheap multitool and a really nice machete.  Someone who studies theoretical integration would choose a nice Leatherman and a Kaybar.
     An assimilative integrationist, as mentioned, chooses one theory as a home theory or backdrop theory and include others (specifically their techniques) when it fails.  The machete symbolizes the home theory.  It's good at what it does, but it has certain limitations.  It can stab and cut, but can it saw or sew?  That's what the cheap multitool is for.  Unfortunately, it is sub-par.  It frequently fails or breaks.  Such is the limitations of not truly understanding another theory.
     A theoretical integrationist would understand theories much more completely; he would be able to utilize them efficiently and without thought for failure.  The Leatherman and Kaybar would both do their duties as they were manufactured to do.
     My own ideas on teaching theories is somewhat more radical than the others.  I believe that every competent theorist should strive to learn as many theories to their limit as possible.  This can give counselors multiple perspectives, techniques, and opinions to open their minds.  To go back to the metaphor, it would be like taking a kit or roller of tools to ensure that every possible eventuality could be controlled for.  Obviously this is an unwieldy metaphor . . . taking so many tools is uncalled for.  Understanding all theories is impossible as well.
     In the end, a counselor should really try to make his own theory.  This theory should be singular to the counselor.  Freud's theory is an extension of hi sown psychosexual infantile needs and drives.  Rogers' theory is based on his own attitude toward others.  We can only do our best to take on all the information that we can and make our own small changes to increase their results.
     It almost seems like the other theories of learning are equipped to stop the further complete learning of theories.  This seems irresponsible to me.