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Counseling Theories on Elementary School Students Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 30th, 2020

Abstract

This paper explores the validity of the idea that school-counselors are indeed being in the position to combine the provisions of the methodologically incompatible theories of counseling, while designing a specific counseling-strategy. The provided review of four academic articles (concerned with counseling elementary school students) contains a number of analytical observations, which do support the legitimacy of the paper’s thesis. In the final part of the paper, this thesis is reinstated once again.

Introduction

When it comes to counseling elementary school students, different councilors resort to the methodologically different approaches of addressing the task, while often making a deliberate point in closely observing the chosen approach’s conceptual provisions. After all, due to the ongoing progress in the field of psychology, there are now available a number of the conceptually unique counseling-related methodologies, such as the Person-centered, Psychoanalytical, Gestalt, etc.

Nevertheless, as time goes on, more and more councilors appear to be willing to ‘mix’ the conventions of the seemingly incompatible counseling-theories, within the context of how they go about addressing their professional duties, in regards to the targeted population of elementary school students. We can well hypothesize that this is the direct result of the concerned professionals’ realization that there are many utilitarian undertones to the appropriateness of the application of a particular counseling-method. That is, regardless of what happened to be the conceptual basis of the would-be-deployed counseling therapy, it is namely the measure of its practical usefulness, which reflects the extent of the concerned therapy’s overall discursive legitimacy.

In plain words – there can be no ‘outdated’ and ‘progressive’ approaches to counseling, but only those that do benefit the counseled students (in the sense of helping them to get rid of their life-impending anxieties), and those that do not. In this paper, I will explore that validity of the above-stated at length, while reviewing the selected articles of interest and promoting the idea that there is indeed a certain rationale in expecting that, as time goes on, the earlier mentioned tendency (on the part of educators/councilors) will become increasingly widespread.

Literature-review

One of the articles that may come in especially handy, within the context of validating the earlier mentioned thesis, is A holistic approach for counselors: Embracing multiple intelligences by Rosslyn Booth and Patrick O’Brien. The reason for this is that, throughout the article’s entirety, the authors never cease advocating the so-called ‘holistic’ paradigm of counseling, as such that appears to be both: adjusted to the realities of a post-industrial living, on one hand, and thoroughly consistent with how elementary school students tend to perceive the surrounding social reality and their place in it, on the other.

As it appears from the article, the term ‘holistic’ implies all-encompassiveness. That is, according to Booth and O’Brien, in order for counselors to prove themselves utterly effective, while addressing their professional responsibilities in the setting of an elementary classroom, the individuals in question must be intellectually flexible – in the sense of being able to combine the methodologically different approaches for doing this.

The authors’ rationale, in this respect, is as follows, “Counselors who aspire to use one theoretical approach or a single format with all students, regardless of their issues or the student’s developmental level are limited in outcome possibilities” (2008, p. 81). As an example, Booth and O’Brien refer to the fact that, as the actual realities of counseling elementary school students indicate, there is often a need in subjecting young learners to the simultaneously interpersonal and intrapersonal intervention-strategies.

This, however, represents a certain challenge, because in the formal sense of this word, these types of strategies are associated with the conceptually opposite Behavioral and Psychoanalytical approaches to counseling. Nevertheless, according to the author, the mentioned dichotomy can be happily reconciled if counselors remain thoroughly aware of the fact that the very conceptual essence of counseling presupposes that the concerned practice cannot be dogmatic/inflexible, by definition.

Even though the mentioned article does not contain any empirically obtained quantitative data, in support of the suggestion’s validity (it is a qualitative inquiry, based on the review of the thematically relevant studies/articles), its conclusions are nevertheless discursively legitimate. One of the reasons for this is that they do correlate with what happened to be the educators’ intuitive anxieties, as to what the process of counseling is ought to be all about.

The study Play therapy in elementary schools: A best practice for improving academic achievement by Pedro Blanco and Dee Ray, can also be referred to as such that implies that the effectiveness of a particular counseling-method is positively related to the extent of its functional versatility. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of the Person-centered therapy’s application (in the form of the Child-centered play therapy – CCPT) on the sampled population of 43 elementary school students in the Southwestern U.S.

The therapy’s theoretical premise was concerned with the assumption that, “Use of play in therapy allows school-age children to naturally express emotions and experiences… the counselor in the playroom will accept and reflect the child’s emotional expressions, thereby allowing the child to become more empowered” (2011, p. 236). This simply could not be otherwise, because the practitioners of the Person-centered counseling model believe that the attainment of the state of ‘self-actualization’, on the part of patients, is the necessary precondition for them to be able to regard themselves in a positive light.

This is the reason why the Person-centered therapy’s main objective is to provide the concerned patient with the circumstantially adequate motivational incentives, in order for him or her not to face any emotional restraints, while indulged in the self-expressing activities, such as play. Nevertheless, in the study’s aftermath, the authors concluded that it is not only that the practical application of CCPT helped the sampled participants to excel on the pathway towards self-actualization, but that it also revealed that, contrary to the assumption that the Person-centered model does not quite correlate with the Behavioral one, this is far from being the actual case.

The reason for this is that, during the course of conducting their study, the authors realized that CCPT could be successfully used, as the instrument of prompting children to behave in one way or another, without having to be innately prompted to do so. This, of course, suggests that, in full accordance with the paper’s thesis, school-counselors will indeed be able to benefit from defining the factors of interconnectedness between the presumably disconnected theories of counseling.

The subtle indication that this already started to happen, can well serve the fact that, as the authors noted: “Play therapy research moved from a focus on intelligence and school achievement in the early years to a concentration on social adjustment in the 1970s and 1980s” (2011, p. 236). That is, ever since some time ago, the Person-centered model of counseling began to be increasingly affected by the provisions of the unmistakably Behavioral one – quite contrary to the fact that this eventual development does not seem to make much of a logical sense.

The validity of the idea that councilors should never cease remaining intellectually open-minded, while in the line of duty, can also be shown in regards to the article Using stories in elementary school counseling: Brief, narrative techniques by Christie Eppler, Jacob Olsen and Lory Hidano. In it, the authors discuss the anticipated effects of subjecting elementary school students to the so-called ‘social stories’, as the instrument of increasing the likelihood of a social adaptation, on the concerned children’s part.

What appears to be rather peculiar, in the respect, is that while being concerned with pursuing the essentially Behavioral agenda of helping children to adequately react to the external stimuli, the proposed strategy heavily draws on the conventions of the Existential counseling-paradigm. The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated, in regards to the authors’ statement that, “Narrative counseling is based on the principle that life events and experiences are organized into stories that can adapt and change” (2009, p. 388).

After all, the mentioned principle reflects the Existentialist assumption that such things as ‘future’ and ‘past’ are nothing but mental constructions, and that people should be primarily concerned with making sense out of happened to be their ongoing experience, at a particular point of time. As Corey noted, “The (Gestalt) approach… focuses on the client’s perceptions of reality… it is grounded in the notion that people are always in the process of becoming, remaking, and rediscovering themselves” (2012, p. 198).

This once again implies that it is indeed possible to make a particular counseling strategy to be equally observant of the postulates of two of more counseling theories that appear to contradict each other – especially when the subjects of a therapeutic intervention are children. One of the main reasons for this is that, due to their extremely limited life-experiences, elementary school students are rarely able to draw a line between what happened to be their sense of self-identity, on one hand, and the de facto quality to how they react to externally induced life-challenges, on the other. What it means is that, while subjecting these students to a particular therapy, counselors may indeed go about acting as the simultaneous representatives of two or more conceptually incompatible schools of counseling.

One will come to a similar conclusion, after having read the article Promoting self-advocacy among minority students in school counseling by Randall Astramovich and Katrina Harris. In it, the authors discuss different aspects of how counselors should go about helping ethnically visible elementary school students to become ever more psychologically empowered, by the mean of endowing the latter with the sense of self-advocacy. It is understood, of course, that this suggestion reflects the assumption that minority students are indeed inclined to experience the sensation of certain inferiority towards their non-minority peers.

While expounding on the subject matter in question, Astramovich and Harris pointed out that, “Oppression within the educational environment can have a profound impact on the success of minority students” (2007, p. 270). This, of course, positions them as the affiliates of the Behavioral counseling-model, because the above-quoted implies that the particulars of one’s existential stance are predetermined objectively by the environmental factors of influence.

However, in the article’s consequential parts, Astramovich and Harris come up with a number of statements, which can be interpreted as the indication of the authors’ adherence to the provisions of specifically the Gestalt school of counseling, such as the following one, “Empowered individuals experience a sense of self-mastery and control over life decisions” (2007, p. 271). This suggestion, of course, implies the sheer subjectivity of the earlier mentioned sensation of being ‘underpowered’, on the part of minority students.

The reason for this is quite apparent. The very notion of ‘self-mastery’ presupposes that one’s psyche can function independently of his or her body – the idea that continues to appeal that the practitioners of the Gestalt counseling-approach even today. Thus, the concerned article can be referred to as being equally observant of the conventions of both of the mentioned methodological approaches to counseling. In its turn, this contributes to the article’s discursive versatility and consequently – to its value of being an asset to school counselors.

Conclusion

I believe that the thematically relevant insights, contained in the provided literature-review, are fully consistent with the paper’s initial thesis. Apparently, the idea that it is namely the measure of a particular counseling-model’s practical usefulness, which should be considered reflective of the extent of its conceptual legitimacy, is not altogether deprived of a rationale. As the saying goes – if something is stupid but works, it is not stupid.

It is understood, of course, that many of the obtained insights in this paper may appear somewhat speculative. This, however, does not make them less valid, in the discursive sense of this word. After all, as it was illustrated in the paper’s previous part, the practice of counselors combining a number of the seemingly incompatible approaches to counseling within a single counseling-strategy, meant to be deployed practically, is a rather commonplace phenomenon. The mentioned situation can be well discussed as having been predetermined by the objective laws of history.

References

Astramovich, R. & Harris, K. (2007). Promoting self-advocacy among minority students in school counseling. Journal of Counseling & Development, 85 (3), 269-276.

Blanco, P. & Ray, D. (2011). Play therapy in elementary schools: A best practice for improving academic achievement. Journal of Counseling and Development: JCD, 89 (2), 235-243.

Booth, R. & O’Brien, P. (2008). An holistic approach for counselors: Embracing multiple intelligences. International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, 30 (2), 79-92.

Corey, G. (2012). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (9th ed.). Belmont: Brooks Cole/Cengage Learning.

Eppler, C., Olsen, J. & Hidano, L. (2009). Using stories in elementary school counseling: Brief, narrative techniques. Professional School Counseling, 12 (5), 387-391.

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