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The nature of counseling is an intricate combination of personal character and values and theoretical research to create a comprehensive approach to the responsibilities of the profession. This system takes time to develop as the student expands and effectively puts into practice the knowledge of counseling theory. To devise a personal counseling method, a variety of doctrines on human nature must be assessed to find concepts comparable to one’s principles. After an introspective review of personal beliefs, the most appropriate counseling theories are based on self-actualization, independence, and acceptance that come through exploration of the inner perceptions and experiences.
Nature of People
My personal belief is that people are inherently self-centered, and all actions benefit oneself in some way. This does not necessarily imply greed or a deceitful agenda. Human beings live in a society of constant interaction with each other, but the instinct to survive allows people to thrive through mental and emotional selfishness.
Transactional Analysis developed by Eric Berne is a theory that builds upon the Freudian personality states. At the final adult ego state, a person can comprehend and perceive situations that vary from observations (McLeod, 2014). The analysis used in therapy seeks to establish an outcome or state of mind that the patient aims to achieve. Further, using their adult ego and self-introspection, the patient seeks to empower themselves. It should also be noted that TA mostly focuses on human interactions rather than the internal dynamics of a person (Zadeh, Jenkins, & Pepler, 2010).
The Individual in Families and Other Systems
Even though each person is striving to develop and flourish via their own mental and emotional selfishness, the concept of family or the family itself that surrounds the person has a significant impact on them. Family systems theory points out that all parts of a system (a family) are connected, and interactions should be taken into consideration to understand a particular context of a situation a patient is experiencing.
Family systems can influence people both negatively and positively; for example, Karakurt and Silver (2013) notice that sexual abuse in a family or incest is perceived as a betrayal of family roles and ties. A secure relationship helps infants and children adjust their behavior later in life and defines future self-perception as worthy or unworthy of love and support. The system can interact differently; if it encourages and provides support to a person after a traumatic event, there is a higher chance that this social support will mediate the development of PTSD. Negative reactions from a family interaction can result in lower self-esteem, feeling of betrayal, depression, and other adverse effects on mental health.
The attachment theory seems to be the closest to my beliefs; it describes how the relationships between an infant and a caregiver can facilitate or worsen the healthy development of the former. Experiences with the caregiver are then internalized and used as a base for internal working models, which influence the further interpretation of adult relationships (Karakurt & Silver, 2013). Every person experiences the influence of their family interactions (or lack thereof) on their future adult relationships.
Seminal anthropological and linguistics theory can be used to explain how language and culture influence, moderate, and define multicultural interactions. Intercultural communication is different from monocultural one because, in it, persons with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds partake in the act of sociality (Okech, Pimpleton, Vanatta, & Champe, 2015). Problems might emerge (and sometimes they do) when the language of communication is not the first language of all persons who take part in communication; social interactions and expectations related to them might differ considerably among persons with different cultural backgrounds.
Different cultural values and culture-based rules that apply to communication can lead to misunderstandings or even conflicts during multicultural communication. In my opinion, all negative factors that relate to intercultural misunderstandings, such as ethnocentrism, racism, discrimination, stereotypes, etc. are the major reasons why conflicts emerge. The inability to perceive another culture as an equal one, the unwillingness to accept different values that contradict the ones the person has, and prejudiced views of cultures, ethnicities, and languages all negatively affect the process of change on a personal and national level.
One should remember that context and environment can also regulate unfolding communication, making it more or less prone to conflict. Social hierarchy and societal roles can either hinder or encourage the process of change, indicating whether individuals’ different beliefs will collide or adjust to each other during communication. A hidden message expressed in the form of a gesture or a specially used word might go unnoticed by the recipient if they are not familiar with cultural specifics that the other individual has used to transmit the message. Therefore, not only culture but also language are the factors that define the efficiency of multicultural communication.
Wellness and Prevention
There are different ways to maintain wellness (physical and mental one) in a person. As I have noticed, many individuals focus on acquiring a good job or career that will make their life meaningful, improving ties with their family or friends, staying productive, and useful not only to themselves but to the society (the community) as well. Additionally, some also pay attention to the interpersonal boundaries and build relationships in such a way that they make their life more interesting and enjoyable but do not overwhelm them or demand too serious investments, which can potentially drain their inner resources for interaction and communication.
Counseling strategies for prevention of mental health issues can be the following: lifestyle interventions (exercise, giving up smoking and drinking, diets (healthy eating)) and stress management (cognitive-behavior stress management) to address any irrational thought patterns and replace them with rational ones (Min, Chang, & Lee, 2013). Relaxation exercise or meditation-based techniques can also be useful interventions to prevent the emergence or re-emergence of such habits like smoking and drinking that help individuals cope with stress (although in an unhealthy way).
Preventive consultations can also facilitate an individual’s willingness to achieve a set goal related to their mental health (e.g. stop drinking or end abusive relationships). During the preventive consultation, patients speak with the counselor about their desired goals, use a timetable to understand what time will be needed to achieve them, and discuss with their counselor possible challenges and barriers that can emerge. With the help of this strategy, the counselor will be able to evaluate an individual’s motivation to achieve the goal and assist them in overcoming any barriers that might challenge the process during its implementation.
The Nature of Problems
Problems and ineffective functioning can be caused by internal and external factors, such as, for example, conflicts with family or friends, illnesses, internal conflicts, inability to accept one’s emotions, traumatic experiences, etc. Serious psychological and physical traumas can lead to mental health illnesses such as depression and anxiety that develop from a person’s traumatic experience (loss of a loved one, life-threatening illness, other encounters that lead to awareness of human mortality).
Such experiences make an individual question their existence (as well as the existence of others), evoke fear of living in them, lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and worsen their quality of life (that can be already challenged by illness). It appears that the existential theory that examines four different dimensions of the life of an individual is suitable to address the problems and difficulties that form in a person after a traumatic event.
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Evaluation of the physical dimensions fosters a counselor’s understanding of the patient’s relationships with the world in a physical sense (Corbett & Milton, 2011). When trauma is examined via social dimension, the counselor can see what cultural and behavioral responses the individual has developed to react to the trauma or cope with it. Trauma can shatter an individual’s psychological dimension, leading to a feeling of an existential loss.
As to the spiritual dimension, traumas can lead both to adverse (loss of meaning, crisis) and positive impacts (appreciation of life’s joys and experiences). The existential therapy implies the individual will have to confront the losses they suffered, express and understand the feelings they have concerning the trauma, and collect some information about themselves and their worldview from their emotions. I believe that existential therapy is capable of addressing and working through all challenges that a traumatic event triggers in a person.
The Process of Change
During the counseling process, the person’s perception of their self, emotions, context, environment, and the situation change, thus resulting in acceptance or ability to cope with an event that previously led to severe inner discrepancies in a person’s worldview or self-perception. The counselor’s role is to express compassion and understanding to the person but remember that the person’s process of problem-solving should be partly independent of the counselor.
At the same time, the counselor is responsible for guiding the counseling process correctly and being flexible to ensure that the person’s needs are met. The therapeutic relationship should be built on mutual respect and attention; the counselor needs to be attentive to emotions the person expresses to address them in time, showing the client that they are heard. Furthermore, the counselor’s questions can help the client view their problem from a different perspective, thus facilitating change.
Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) defines emotional disturbances as discrepancies that are caused by irrational beliefs such as demands, self- or world-downing, etc. that can also be accompanied by low frustration tolerance (Turner & Barker, 2012).
Psychological health is defined by rational beliefs (self- or world-acceptance, preferences, etc.) and high-frustration tolerance. Irrational beliefs can result in dysfunctional behavior and emotional distress, thus leading to higher anxiety and arousal levels in an individual. If REBT is used during the counseling process, it helps the person understand how and why irrational beliefs and other convictions shape their view of an event in a particular way. The significance of REBT is in its ability to identify an event that leads to dysfunctional behavior and irrational beliefs; oftentimes, clients can be unaware of the exact influence of this event on their mental and physical well-being.
Theory in Practice
The technique I find extremely helpful and efficient is actively used in nursing nowadays; the patient-centered approach implies that the care and treatment a medical professional provides also take patient’s personal needs, demands, fears, and goals into consideration. A patient is not a subject that is to be treated; it is a person that requires understanding and attention, struggles with fears and challenges, and wants to be respected and understood.
It appears that a similar approach in counseling is necessary because a counselor’s responsibility is to help not the subject but a personal experience change. The client should not be reduced to their diagnosis because their illness does not define them as a person. The therapist should avoid taking a paternalized attitude to the patient because the patient is an active participant in the therapy and not a passive recipient.
Rogers’ person- or client-centered therapy perfectly aligns with my view of the counseling process. Rogers also points out the uniqueness of each individual and argues that during therapy, each person needs a unique approach as well because we are all different as individuals (Moreira, 2012). It is also important for the therapist (or the counselor) to trust into client’s ability to pursue their aims and not interfere with the process in such a way that might lead to the disempowerment of the client. Being empathic and trying to understand the client’s point is crucial for patient-centered therapy. Without these strategies, the counselor will be unable to comprehend the client’s intentions or emotional associations, thus making the process of change inefficient.
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Min, J., Chang, U., & Lee, C. (2013). Mental health promotion and illness prevention: A challenge for psychiatrists. Psychiatry Investigation, 10(4), 307-316. Web.
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