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Psychological Theoretical Orientation

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The theoretical orientation that best suites my personal style is a combination of both client-centered and brief therapy. In the first part of the paper, I try and describe the importance of developing a good client/therapist relationship using a client-centered approach. I like this approach the best because it helps the client to be more open and truthful with the therapist. There are several techniques that I find important in developing this bond such as: genuineness, unconditional positive regard, accurate empathy, and active listening. After building a relationship with the client, a therapist is now faced with identifying and solving a problem behavior. With this in mind, I found that the brief therapy method best fits my style. The great thing about this orientation is that it is a very directive and time efficient approach. This is because its theoretical constructs rely heavily on a cognitive-behavioral basis. In the last part of the paper I go into greater detail in describing what I like best about this therapy.

The first thing a therapist should concern themselves with is building a relationship with a client. A great way to start doing this is by demonstrating genuineness. A therapist displays genuineness by showing their true selves by not hiding behind their professional stature (Allen 1994). In essence, the therapist is saying to the client, “Hey, look I have nothing to hide from you, what you see is what you get.” In doing this, a client may become more comfortable with themselves and thus able to share sensitive information. In a way, the use of genuineness helps both the client and the therapist drop their preconceived roles. They are no longer interacting as a client and therapist, but are relating to each other as two human beings trying to connect. Once this occurs, a client is more likely to relax and be more open towards the therapist’s questioning. This can benefit the effectiveness of therapy greatly by getting to the root of the problem much earlier.

Other than genuineness, another powerful tool used by client centered therapists is unconditional positive regard. It can be characterized by a therapist being accepting, valuing, and positive toward a client regardless of his or her behavior (Allen 1994). This is really one of the strongest assets of client-centered therapy. Much in part, due to its effectiveness in helping clients feel comfortable with themselves and most importantly the therapist. This technique is especially effective in dealing with sensitive issues such as child molestation, spousal abuse, and drug problems (Allen 1994). Clients that display any of these problems may be very defensive or uncomfortable discussing these issues with a therapist. However, once a client understands that they will not be judged negatively by the therapist, they are more likely to share important information. Without this technique, a therapist would have a harder time uncovering the true cause of the problem, since a client may be disguising it in fear of their reaction.

Another great technique to use in combination with genuineness and unconditional positive regard is accurate empathy. This can be described as the therapist’s ability to identify with the client (Allen 1994). In doing this, the therapist is showing the client that they truly understand what they are going through. A therapist can do this by sharing in the emotion a client may be experiencing. For example, during a session a client excitedly says that they have started getting back to work on time. The therapist would reciprocate this excitement back by maybe saying, “That’s really great! You are making progress very quickly!” Not only does this serve as a confidence booster for the client, but it really shows them that the therapist cares about them. This type of response by a therapist can serve as a strong motivating force for further achievement by the client. This is because a client is made aware that they are not alone to face their problems, but now they have the strength of another person to guide them through their journey.

The last technique that is really great with client-centered therapy is the use of active listening. This is when the therapist gives complete and total attention to what a client says or means (Allen 1994). A great way of doing this is by restating or paraphrasing what the client says. By doing this, a client begins to feel that their thoughts and ideas are understood by the therapist. On the flip side of the coin, the therapist can make sure that they understand what the client is trying to say. This definitely helps to make therapy more effective and time efficient by identifying any forms of miscommunication. Not only that, but the client feels like the therapist is invested in their situation. This can help them feel more comfortable with the therapist and therefore more likely to reveal key information.

Other than techniques, there are many concepts of this therapy style that fit my understanding of human nature. I really like how this therapy stresses the importance of becoming a fully functioning person. This best can be described as someone who is willing to open themselves up to new experiences and challenges (Allen 1994). A person who is fully functioning is not afraid to take risks, and is willing to fail along the way. These types of people are also highly motivated and resilient to the external world around them. They are autonomous and find their strength from within, instead of depending and relying on others for strength. It would seem like only a few people would be able to achieve this task, but according to Roger’s anyone can become a fully functioning person.

Along with Roger’s, I believe that anyone has the ability to become a fully functioning person. However, some people get caught up in who they would like to be (idealized self), rather than who they really are (real self) (Allen 1994). This is very easy to do in today’s society filled with certain expectations and ideals. Some ideals found in society today are having a perfect figure, high intelligence, and great interpersonal skills to name a few. With this in mind, many people begin to set standards so high for themselves that they may never achieve them. This is where many dysfunctional behaviors may develop such as anorexia, bulimia, drug abuse, and low self esteem. In effect what happens is the greater the discrepancy between the real self and the idealized self, the more maladjusted and individual will be (Allen 1994). Therefore, the goal of therapy is to help narrow the gap between the two selves.

Another problem that may interfere with an individual becoming a fully functioning person is a concept called conditional positive regard. This is when a person makes their self worth conditional on conforming to parental or social standards (Allen 1994). This concept fits hand in hand with the idea of achieving the idealized self, in that a person is trying to live up to a certain standard. If this standard is not meet, the individual may develop low confidence and self-esteem. It is the goal of the therapist to rid the client of this dysfunctional thought pattern. According to Roger’s this should be done in a non-directive fashion, in which the client is made to feel comfortable by not rushing into anything quickly.

In using a non-directive approach to therapy, the therapist wants the client to figure out their problems for themselves. The role of the therapist is to help the client discover new perspectives of viewing their situation (Allen 1994). This is done by paraphrasing or summarizing what the client has discussed. In doing this, a client may be able to gain new insight by the inferences the therapist makes. The problem with this approach is that it may take too much time to implement. In today’s society that is less appealing, since many people are looking for a quick and cheap fix. Not only is that a factor, but the development of HMO’s has also reduced the number of sessions a therapist can have. With this in mind, a more directive approach towards therapy should be taken.

In taking a directive approach towards therapy, I tend to lean towards the brief therapy model. This model emphasizes a person’s strengths in order to solve their problems in a quick and efficient matter (Cade & O’Hanlon 1993). Unlike client-centered therapy, the therapist takes on a more dominating role. It is the therapist’s responsibility to guide a path for the client to take. In doing this, unnecessary exploration of unimportant issues can be avoided. This can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to get to the root of the problem. Once the problem has been identified, the client’s strengths can than be used as a means to a solution. This can be done by assigning homework for a client to do between therapy sessions.

I believe that homework is essential in helping an individual overcome their personal struggles. Unfortunately, this is something that Roger’s overlooked when developing his client-centered therapy style. Many times in therapy a client may learn how to correct a behavior, but never know how to apply it to a real world situation. This is where homework comes into play. In assigning homework after every session, the therapist is helping the client gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. This is done by showing them that they can indeed perfect what they learned in therapy. Even if a client is not successful with their homework assignment, they can learn from their mistakes and try again next time. In fact, I think clients should make mistakes in order to see that the world doesn’t come to an end. This in turn will help them grow into a more fully functioning person.

Other than using homework, another concept that I like about brief therapy is called framing interventions. This occurs when a therapist tries to change or alter how a client views a problem (Cade & O’Hanlon 1993). Brief therapists believe that the behaviors that lead people to therapy are caused not by “things or facts” but by the meanings attributed to them. In order to make sense of the world around us, people form a framework or hierarchies of things they have experienced (Cade & O’Hanlon 1993). When faced with a situation they have experienced in the past, an individual uses a prior framework to make sense of it. It is these frames that the therapist wants to change.

I really like the concept of framing interventions because it gets down to the root of the problem. Instead of trying to revisit the past, a therapist tries to find the dysfunctional behavior at hand. In turn, they do not concern themselves with every waking detail of a person’s past life. By avoiding this unnecessary process, greater ground can be made in a smaller amount of time. Not only that, but the concepts clear cut and precise nature can also shorten therapy time. Once the problem behavior has been identified it is just a matter of trial and error in changing a person’s thought patterns.

The last aspect of brief therapy that I really like is the concept of under-responsibility and over-responsibility. Under-responsibility occurs when an individual does not take responsibility for their own actions (Cade & O’Hanlon 1993). This type of person tends to rely heavily on others, and may blame anyone but themselves for their problems. Over-responsibility occurs when and individual not only takes on their own responsibility, but also the responsibility of others (Cade & O’Hanlon 1993). This person can be characterized as being very autonomous, and may blame themselves for their actions and the actions of others. Basically, the therapist’s job is to help these individuals find a happy medium between over and under responsibility through framing interventions (Cade & O’Hanlon 1993).

I believe the use of the prior concept is essential in helping a client solve their problems. If a person does not take responsibility for their own actions, than the effectiveness of therapy greatly decreases. This is because the roots of many problems are caused by the individual themselves, rather than by the people who surround them. Those people, who do blame their actions on others, seem to use it as a defense mechanism to evade their problems. Therefore, I think a major part of therapy is to help a person understand that they are responsible for their own actions. Without this recognition, an individual may never find the answers to their problems.

Throughout this paper, I have tried to accurately portray the foundation of my theoretical orientation. I did this by first discussing the importance of developing a strong client/therapist relationship. In order to do this, I have found that many of the concepts in client-centered therapy best develop this relationship. However, in identifying and solving a client’s problems, I used many of the concepts found in brief therapy. I chose this therapy style due to its directive nature and solution oriented approach towards problem solving. I believe it is much more time efficient and effective, than many of the problem-solving techniques found in client-centered therapy. In conclusion, I find that the combination of client-centered and brief therapy techniques best fits my theoretical orientation at this point in time.

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