The Importance of Counseling Theory and Models

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Theoretical models provide an important framework for counseling and therapy. Learn to question theoretical models, explore how to choose a counseling approach, review why so many approaches exist, and discover the merits of an evidence-based practice. Updated: 10/06/2021

Questioning Theoretical Models

Imagine going to an amusement park as a kid for the very first time. Should you run to the biggest rollercoaster, head for the Ferris wheel, or start with the bumper cars? Are you going to try something from each food booth? Are the boardwalk games really worth your time? All of the different options might make you feel overwhelmed.

Sorting through all of the different theoretical models as you begin a counseling practice can be just as overwhelming. Theoretical models in counseling are concepts that provide a framework used to describe and understand our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

As you study to be a counselor, you learn many different theoretical approaches. Each of these theoretical models will have their own tools and techniques. Some simply focus on behavior modification, some focus on resolving past conflicts, others focus on what a person is experiencing in the here and now. Why are there so many different approaches? Does it all apply to each client?

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  • 0:01 Questioning Theoretical Models
  • 1:07 Choosing an Approach
  • 2:31 Why so Many Approaches?
  • 4:05 Evidence Based Practice
  • 4:58 Lesson Summary
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Choosing an Approach

Let's start by considering whether or not you have to apply all of the different theoretical approaches in your counseling practice. The short answer to this is no. You can choose which theory or theories you are most comfortable with using.

There are two main approaches to this choice: purity and eclecticism. If you choose theoretical eclecticism, you are utilizing techniques from different theoretical models in a counseling practice.

If you pick this option for your counseling practice, you can choose the tools that you work best with and those that will work best for each individual client. Theoretical eclecticism allows for more flexibility and treatment options. Most counselors today choose this option.

If you choose theoretical purity, you are utilizing only one theoretical model in a counseling practice. When choosing to focus on only one theoretical model, it is important to recognize when it may not be the best fit for a potential or existing client.

Imagine how therapy might work if you have a counselor whose techniques are based on rational decision-making trying to treat a client whose mental illness prevents them from making rational connections. If this type of situation occurs, the client would need to be referred to a different counselor who is more likely to fit their needs.

Why So Many Approaches?

Why are there are so many different theories for a counselor to choose from? The first reason is that one theory may work better than another for a specific client. This could be because of the client's personal preferences, cultural beliefs, or because a particular theoretical model has been proven more effective in treating a specific disorder.

Having many different theories also allows a counselor to find the technique they are most comfortable with. For a counselor to be successful, they have to be effective at the approach they take. This means that their approach has to fit their personality, cultural beliefs, and abilities.

Another reason that there are many different theories is that new research is continually being done. This research leads to the development of new approaches and ideas. New techniques do not replace existing theories or take away from their validity; they simply add another tool that counselors can utilize.

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