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Reflective Essay Assignment

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From the counseling models, contained in the module, identify three main theoretical models in counseling and Egan’s integrative model. Consider and critically analyse which model is most relevant to your client base and justify its use by example. Provide an In depth rationale for your choice of models.

The task of this essay is to choose and critically evaluate three models of counselling and Egan’s Integrative model. In my selection, I will give a definition of each theory, mentioning the major contributors in that field. Additionally, I will evaluate each of the models demonstrating understanding of each. Lastly, I will consider Egan’s integrative model, highlighting the importance of each stage in the process of helping a client. Having evaluated three theoretical models and Egan’s integrative model, I will consider which would be of most relevance to me in my previous career as a graphic/web designer. I will justify that choice giving an example of where this new knowledge of counselling models would be advantageous in a designer/client situation. I will conclude my essay with reflective learning and discuss why I have selected one particular model as the most appropriate. Finally, I will summarise how the counselling models with Egan’s integrative model may have helped modify my approach to working in the graphic/web design industry and how I can develop this knowledge going forward in counsellor/client relationships. I have chosen to look at the following three theoretical models:

•Person Centred (Humanistic)

Behaviourist theory founded by J.B. Watson is defined as Watson, J.B. (2009, p.ix) “Behaviourist psychology has as its goal to be able, given the stimulus, to predict the response or, seeing the reaction to identify the stimulus that called out the reaction” Watson believed behaviours can be measured, trained and changed. Watson was influenced by Ivan Pavlov, considered the founding father of behavioural science. Behaviourists explain behaviour in terms of the stimuli that obtain it and the events that caused people to learn to respond to the stimulus that way. Behaviourists use two processes to explain how people learn: classical conditioning and operant conditioning Classical conditioning: Developed by Pavlov, can be defined as Papalia, D. E., Olds, S. W., & Feldman, R. D. (2007), “A type of learning which based on the association of a stimulus that does not ordinarily elicit a particular response with another stimulus which does elicit the response”. Association is key in classical conditioning, meaning if two stimuli are repeatedly experienced together, they will become associated. Both Watson and Pavlov experimented with stimulus and response ideas. Pavlov’s classical conditioning experiments with dogs are world renowned. These eliminated any stimulus outside his control as he studied the response mechanisms of dogs related to certain sounds associated with food. He noted after time dogs salivated as if food was present when sound was heard. This is highlighted in the figure below.

Pavlov concluded that behaviours are learned from a response to external and internal stimulus. Operant conditioning: B.F. Skinners findings went beyond the stimulus and response ideas of his peers by looking to what follows the response. People learn new behaviours through the consequences of their actions. If behaviour is followed by reinforcement then likelihood of that behaviour being repeated increases (behaviour is strengthened). A consequence can be reinforcing in two ways: either the person gets something good (positive reinforcement) or they avoid something bad (negative reinforcement). Equally, if a behaviour is followed by punishment, then the likelihood of that behaviour being repeated decreases (behavior is weakened). Whereas classical conditioning only allows the person to produce existing responses to new stimulus, operant conditioning allows them to learn new responses.

The pros of this theoretical model are that it is scientifically measurable and observable so data is easy to collect and research. The cons are it does not usually consider human cognitions or emotions; it’s harder to condition someone who is aware and resistant to conditioning. Cognitive theory developed by Aaron Beck, is concerned with behaviour being determined by our thoughts. It describes how our perceptions and thoughts of everyday situations influence our emotional behaviour (feelings). These perceptions can become dysfunctional over time due to social/environmental influences in our lives, leading to stress and low esteem. Cognitive theory can be of particular use in treating depression where such issues are common e.g.

•I am terrible at everything
•No one listens to me
•I have achieved nothing

The aim of this therapy stated by Stewart, William (2005, p.85) is “to get rid of faulty concepts that influence negative thinking” and to begin a process of unlearning the faulty learning. Cognitive therapist Albert Ellis had similar conclusions about his clients’ negative thoughts and beliefs. Ellis’s work is a form of Cognitive Therapy, now referred to as Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), and utilises cognitive and behavioural techniques. Through this therapy the client identifies and disputes irrational beliefs. The goal is to help clients become aware of their thoughts and change how they think about, and respond to, various situations. Combining the best of cognitive and behavioural models, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was developed which is a balanced approach to help clients change thought processes (Cognitive) and responses to these thoughts (Behaviour). Cognitive strategies are used to uncover dysfunctional and maladaptive thinking, based on the idea that ‘how and what one thinks determines how one feels’. The goal of CBT is to identify, challenge and change maladaptive thoughts allowing clients to lead a more positive/productive life. It is clear that Cognitive theorists believe that thoughts, feelings and behaviours overlap. Although REBT and CBT use some behavioural ideas they are based firmly within the cognitive school of thought.

The benefits of cognitive theory are that it is based in the present; it helps reveal dysfunctional/irrational/maladaptive thought processes that may develop in daily lives, seeking to correct them. Weaknesses in this model and therapies are that they can be time consuming. Client level of commitment is paramount to their success. It may not be of use with clients who have more complex mental health issues. Criticisms ofthe therapies are its focus on finding solutions to current problems and not considering that issues  from a client’s past may be responsible for their current dysfunctional thoughts. The person centered model founded by Carl Rodgers focuses on the personal relationship between a counsellor and client. It is a non-directive approach seen as very appealing to many clients, because they are in control over the content and pace of the therapy. It is intended to serve them, after all. The therapist isn’t evaluating them in any way or trying to “figure them out”. Trust and understanding built within this relationship encourages self-realisation, growth, change and enables the client to acknowledge their problems and issues, gaining self understanding. This is what Rodgers termed self-actualisation.

Understanding the difference between Self and Self Concept is important. Self is the Organismic, true person who is motivated, moving towards growth, self fulfillment and independence. Self Concept is the perception we have of ourselves, formed in many ways via many cultural and environmental influences. Mostly self and self concept are in balance but at times they can be at odds which can cause problems, blocking growth. Enhancing a person’s self-concept Rodgers considered three main core conditions essential for effective counselling, creating a climate for change. 1.Congruence: Being genuine and open with clients and ourselves. Rodgers states Mearns, Dave. Thorne, Brian (2007, p.119) “it is the realness of the therapist in the relationship which is the most important element. It is when the therapist is natural and spontaneous that he seems most effective” 2.Empathy: Key to building relationships with clients, enhancing self concept. Defined by Mearns, Dave. Thorne, Brian (2007, p.67) as “A continuing process whereby the counsellor lays aside her own way of experiencing and perceiving reality, preferring to sense and respond to the experiencing and perceptions of her client” This is to be within the clients frame of reference.

Rodgers, Carl (1980, p. 116) states the importance of empathy, as “We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know” 3.Unconditional Positive Regard: Counsellors may not approve of clients’ thoughts/behaviours but must listen non-judgementally. Rodgers, Carl (1980, p.116) states “When the therapist is experiencing a positive, acceptant attitude toward whatever the client is at that moment therapeutic movement or change is likely to occur”. He continues “The therapist prizes the client in a total rather than conditional way” The person centered model can be optimistic in terms of a person’s ability or need to change. It places responsibility on the client to move forward. Not all clients want that responsibility; some feel awkward when implied feelings are discussed. The criticism most often attributed to person centred counselling is that the client maybe intimidated by the warmth of the relationship, therefore doesn’t want to expose parts of themselves that are not considered good!, i.e. it may damage the helping relationship that the client enjoys.

The positive is that when practiced properly, the benefit of a good client/counsellor relationship will be apparent, the client will feel comfortable, opening up and discussing problems. A true environment of change is fostered and some clients may embrace taking control, moving towards their self-actualisation. At all times, the focus is on the client, valuing them and promoting self-expression, awareness and development. Egan’s 3-stage model is considered to be a problem management and opportunity development framework. The model is built round a helping relationship and has similarities with Rodgers Person Centred approach. Emphasis is placed on the quality of the helper/client relationship. Particular attention is paid to Rodgers core conditions of respect, empathy and congruence which are also important in Egan’s 3-stage model. Stage 1 – Exploration: Develop a relationship allowing clients to explore their problems, focusing on specific concerns. Egan, Gerard (2010, 2007, p.7)”Help clients manage their problems in living more effectively and developing unused or underused resources and opportunities more” Stage 2 – Understanding: Help clients see their situation from a new perspective, focusing on what they do to cope more effectively.

The counsellor helps the client visualise strengths and resources they might use. Egan, Gerard (2010, 2007, p.9) “Help clients become better at helping themselves in their everyday lives” Stage 3 – Action and evaluation: Help clients consider possible ways to act, considering consequences, plan action, and implement/evaluate action. Egan, Gerard (2010, 2007, p.10)” Help clients develop an action-orientated prevention mentality in their lives” One advantage of this model is its adaptability as it can be practiced with various counselling theories. The client is the focus, moving through the model at their pace. The helping relationship is central as at each stage the relationship is evaluated. The stages, though connected, can be worked independently to achieve separate goals. This is best summed up by Burnard, Philip (2005, p.127) “Egan’s 3-stage model can serve as a useful and practicable map in counselling by bringing structure to the process of counselling” Another advantage is that there is no set time limit to each stage. Even though the model is adaptable, success may be due to the counsellor’s practical experience with the model and theory used.

They could become stuck within the framework and not give proper attention to the client as described by Connor, Mary, Pokora, Julia (2007, p.74) “The coach or mentor may be too conscious of where they are in the framework, rather than going with the flow, and following the client”. In my career as a web designer I have worked on different projects with various clients. The need to discuss, to listen and understand ideas is important. I believe that Rodgers Person Centred theoretical model used in conjunction with Egan’s 3-stage model can be used with great effect and therefore is of most relevance to me. This is because the relationship between client and designer is central to success. Giving one practical example from my experience, a design client insisted they did not need a website. I knew the task at hand would be difficult and went through a process of asking questions about the minimal design brief. There was company literature I could use for the design brief so I did not worry about the client’s lack of commitment to the task. This is where the problem started as my design ideas were rejected leading to stress and lack of confidence on both sides. The working relationship dissolved as did the project.

I believe this project may have had a different outcome given my new knowledge of the Person Centred model and Egan’s 3-stage model. It is clear that the working relationship failed at the first stage of Egan’s model. I would now change my approach, putting greater emphasis on building the relationship with the design client, working within the 3-stage model with the core conditions at centre of each stage. Understanding the client’s frame of reference in my example is also important. I would attempt to understand their reluctance to developing a website and in doing so, build empathy and then better understand the design brief and the client. Use of skills such as active listening, paraphrasing and open ended questions are important. Congruence and Positive Regard would develop from this first stage, building the working relationship therefore meaning stages 2 and 3 can be worked through whilst always being inter-related. A chance to challenge potential blind spots over the client’s reluctance to the project could be explored while goals are set for both client and designer leading to action in stage 3. The figure below highlights the importance of Rodger’s core conditions as it shows they overlap each of the 3 stages of Egan’s integrative model.

Egan’s model gives a framework to help solve problems, common in any project, and develop opportunities. Transferring this knowledge of Rodger’s and Egan’s theoretical models to my career as a web designer, and paying attention to the core conditions, will be a great advantage in building relationships with clients and colleagues. Egan also states the advantage Sutton, Jan, Stewart, William (2002, p.x) “In addition to providing the core conditions counsellors may help clients make decisions, clarify and set goals and to support them with implementing their action” I have chosen the person centred theoretical model in conjunction with Egan’s integrative model as they both made the most sense to me as I try to relate new knowledge and understanding from units one through three, to previous and existing life situations both professional and personal. From a web design background the client relationship is as important as the counselor client relationship. If there are flaws in the client relationship when building websites then it can be difficult to work towards a positive conclusion for both parties.

The new knowledge of person centred counselling and Egan’s integrative model has helped me to re-evaluate past situations I have previously put down to bad experience and perhaps learning little from the experience. Now with this new understanding, I can distinguish that some working relationships have possibly broken down due to lack of empathy between both parties and perhaps not being within the design client’s frame of reference. Egan’s integrative model would also have assited as a framework to observe as it can help with any missed opportunities and problem management that are present in any project. I have come to understand the need for sound knowledge of theory as Nelson Jones, Richard (2006, p.6) states “A theory is a formulation of underlying principles of certain observed phenomena that have been verified to some extent” i.e. a theory seeks to explain why people think, feel and behave in the way that they do. Theory is based on good, verifiable research from which a solid foundation for counselling models grows.

From this comes the understanding of a model which offers a way to practice counselling via a process as stated by Nelson Jones, Richard (2006, p.6) “Theories provide therapists with concepts which allow them to think systematically about human development and the therapeutic process”. The benefit of a model is that it will be a guide to any work I undertake in the future, given that I understand the theories and principles that underpin the model. I stated in my introduction that I would confirm why I chose one model over the others; however this has been challenged in the process of writing this essay. I have now come to understand the need for sound knowledge of all the theoretical models. I can choose one theoretical model to base myself within but I must also be aware of the other models and how they can be of use with various clients and, also importantly, with myself. I believe Egan states this idea of a model working with various theories as he states Egan, Gerard (2010, 2007, p.x)” “the helping model explored here is cognitive, affective and behavioural in character, that is, it deals with the ways people think, the ways they feel and express emotions”.

A strong understanding of various theories can also make a counsellor aware of the differences and complexities of each client, themselves and how they approach each session. This is a journey of lifelong learning, not only through study but also of learning about myself via interaction with clients and peers. This, I believe will help challenge me professionally and personally. I now understand that to be an effective helper I have to be open minded to all theoretical models. In the process of writing this essay I have challenged myself using Carl Rodgers’ ideas trying to reconnect with my inner feeling self and my inner resources. It has been a long time since I have written an essay. Confidence was a problem at the outset. Carl Rogers believed “if the counsellor even for one minute doubted that the client had the resources within themselves, the counselling process was lost.” I doubted my resources at the start especially coming from a non-counselling background. In conclusion this essay has challenged me to look at my own self concept, utilising new knowledge of the theoretical and integrative models. In completing this assignment I believe I have solved problems and developed opportunities for myself.


Burnard, Philip (2005) Three Dimensions of the Counselling Relationship, in, Counselling Skills for Health Professionals. 4thEd. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Ltd. Pp 127 Connor, Mary, Pokora, Julia (2007) Three Dimensions of the Counselling Relationship, in, Coaching and Mentoring at work: Developing Effective Practice. Cheltenham: McGraw-Hill Education. Pp 74 Egan, Gerard (2010, 2007) Introduction to helping, in, The Skilled Helper a Problem-Management and Opportunity-Development Approach to Helping. 9thEd. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. Pp 7-10 Mearns, Dave. Thorne, Brian (2007) Congruence, in, Person-Centred Counselling in Action. 3rdEd. London: Sage Publications Ltd. Pp 119 Mearns, Dave. Thorne, Brian (2007) Empathy, in, Person-Centred Counselling in Action. 3rdEd. London: Sage Publications Ltd. Pp 67 Nelson Jones, Richard (2006) Creating Counselling and Therapy Approaches, in, Theory and Practice of Counselling and Therapy. 4th ed. London: Sage Publishing. Pp 6 Nelson Jones, Richard (2006) Creating Counselling and Therapy Approaches, in, Theory and Practice of Counselling and Therapy. 4th ed. London: Sage Publishing. Pp 15 Papalia, D. E., Olds, S. W., & Feldman, R. D. (2007), Human Development. 10th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill. Rodgers, Carl (1980) Aspects of a person centred Approach, in, A Way of Being. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. Pp 116 Rodgers, Carl (1980) Aspects of a person centred Approach, in, A Way of Being. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. Pp 116 Stewart, William (2005) Cognitive Therapy, in, an A-Z OF Counselling Theory and Practice. 4thEd. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Ltd. Pp 84 Sutton, Jan, Stewart, William (2002) Preface, in, Learning to counsel, How to Develop the Skills to Work Effectively With Others. 2ndEd. Oxford: How to Books Ltd. Pp x Watson, J.B. (2009) Introduction to the transaction edition, in, Behaviourism. 7th ed. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. Pp ix

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