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What is Individual Counseling? - Definition & Purpose

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  • 0:07 Definition
  • 1:28 Purpose & Nature
  • 3:05 Structure
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

This lesson explores the basics of what individual counseling is from the counselor's perspective. Included is how individual counseling differs from group and family counseling as well as an explanation of the basic counseling process.

Counseling: Definition and Types

Let's look back 500 years to a time when you would get up and go work the turnip fields. Your parents farmed turnips, and your parents' parents farmed turnips. You will marry a girl or boy from the village, and they will live with you as you farm turnips. You will farm turnips until your kids farm turnips, and you die at 30. It was a simpler time, and one that is very different from now.

In today's world, you don't have one option set out before you, and you will leave your home and someday come into contact with thousands of people across a lifetime. But the thing is, sometimes the hyper-complex, hyper-connected world is confusing and overwhelming. Sometimes some help is needed.

Counseling is defined as a type of psychology and therapy focused on typical and normal developmental issues as it applies to the human experience. Many people assume that psychology, therapy, and counseling are all the same, and they all have to do with crazy people. That is one of the assumptions I hope to challenge.

Counseling focuses on normal issues that come with development - issues where a simple hand or leg up would resolve the issue before it became a problem. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Career counseling
  • Family counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Organizational counseling
  • Grief counseling

Purpose and Nature

Counseling's purpose is to provide help to those who need it. It embraces the adage that 'an ounce of prevention is equal to a pound of cure.' Counseling seeks to help people before the problem becomes heightened to a pathological level.

Counseling comes in multiple ways depending on the nature of the problem it is concerned with. Individual counseling is counseling focused on the individual's immediate or near future concerns. Individual counseling may encompass career counseling and planning, grief after a loved one dies or dealing with problems at a job before they become big. Individual counseling is a one-on-one discussion between the counselor and the client, who is the person seeking treatment. The two form an alliance, relationship or bond that enables trust and personal growth.

Group counseling is counseling with multiple individuals facing a similar concern. The strength in group counseling is that if you have 3, 5 or 10 people together all facing the same issue or similar issues, then they can work together. For example, group counseling is common for those in the midst of a divorce. The individuals in the group act as a source of insight and support while reinforcing the idea that each individual is not the only one experiencing these problems.

Family counseling is counseling focused on family dynamics, immediate concerns, and the near future. Family counseling, which brings together the members of a family as a group, is similar to group counseling. An issue that affects a family, like disease, death or simply people not getting along, may all warrant family counseling.

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